If you’ve been searching for perfect dive bar, a spot where you can sit back, have a quiet conversation and maybe even check out some art or read a book while you’re at it, you can stop searching. I’ve got just the place for you. Let me tell you about The Blue Rider.
I stumbled upon the Blue Rider when it popped up in my research for my book about North Dakota beer. It turns out that this unassuming little building in downtown Minot just might be the oldest wooden building in town that still welcomes customers. It’s well over 100 years old. Minot used to be a pretty wild town, so I’m sure if these walls could talk, they’d recall some shenanigans.
That information got Blue Rider on to my to-call list for the book. But when I called to ask how many craft beers the bar offered, I knew it warranted a visit.
“I don’t know exactly,” she said the manager, surely wondering why this was so important to the eager lady who called her about thirty seconds after she opened the bar. “But to be on the safe side, I’d say, like…75.”
She did clarify that they sometimes have less. The bar’s ordering strategy seems to be to order a few bottles or cans of a huge range of beers. If there was ever a spot to tell a bartender to surprise you, this is it.
There are also several soda options available for those that don’t drink. Despite the deep beer selection, this doesn’t strike me as a place where anyone would bat an eye if you skipped alcohol altogether, a rarity in this part of the world.
When I stopped in to visit a few weeks later, a group was having a spirited discussion in the corner fueled by (from what I could tell, anyway) caffeine only. I never did ask to look too closely to see what beer they were selling that night. I was too busy talking about local punk shows and Minot’s art scene with bartender/musician Maria Cree, who responded to my “surprise me” request by mentally taking in all the beer at her disposal before deciding on a pint of Bell’s Two Hearted, one of my favorite IPAs on the planet. (The woman’s magic.)
Pretty much everyone who works at the Blue Rider is a musician or connected with Minot State University, so I have a feeling conversations like these happen there a lot. The bar is owned by Minot State professor (and one of my favorite North Dakota artists), Walter Piehl. Its name is actually drawn from an artistic movement, Der Blau Reiter, (which means “The Blue Rider”) that changed Expressionism from 1911-1914 and involved another of my favorite artists, Wassily Kandinsky. (I adore a bar that appeals to my passionate nerd-ery.)
Art from other local artists covers every available inch of wall space, right up to the vivid green ceiling. Having beer here could feel like having a beer in a gallery, but it doesn’t. The super laid-back vibe and comfortably cluttered interior make it feel more like having a beer in your eccentric, art-loving uncle’s house.
You take a seat on a mismatched chair, surrounded by the most random assortment of people: groups of old timers, students, artists and everyone in between. Social groups tend to self-seperate these days, so I’m impressed by a place that can disparate groups of people together.
It was pretty mellow on the weeknights that I stopped in, but I’d like to go back when it’s buzzing. I have a feeling that even a super busy night would be mellow, welcoming and introvert-approved.
It’s not often that I come across a place that’s a true original, but the Blue Rider definitely qualifies. If you want to read more about it, you can check out this Bismarck Tribune article.
And definitely drop in the next time you’re in the Magic City. It’s certainly worth a stop.
The Blue Rider
118 1st Avenue SE
What about you?
What do you love about the Blue Rider?
What’s your favorite dive bar? (And I say dive bar with both respect and affection.)
What would your ultimate bar include?
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