Don't let the name fool you. This week's kare11.com Microbrewery of the Week, Mankato Brewery, isn't actually located in Mankato. They brew their beers in North Mankato, just a stone's throw off Highway 169. Beer is in their blood. We spoke with co-founder Tim Tupy whose great-great-great-grandfather opened up the first brewery in New Prague in 1885. Tupy's said his partner, Tony Feuchtenberger, looked into his own lineage and discovered that his great-great-great-grandfather liked to drink beer.
How did your brewery come to be?
We started working on it three years ago. We started making our first beer out on the market in January of this year. We were homebrewers who really enjoyed the craft of making beer by hand and knew that the Mankato area had not had a production brewery since the mid- to late-1960s. From that point, we hired a professional brewery and hired someone to help us on the marketing side.
Our goal was to bring beers to the area that are traditional to the area, easy-drinking beers that we enjoy to drink ourselves and we've accomplished that. We have two beers that are out right now and we continue to work on a couple of new styles that we hope to have out by the end of the year.
How did you name your brewery?
We wanted a name that identified to the region; a name that either you come up with something that means something abstract or something completely different and has a hidden meaning, or something relevant to the brewery or the region. We wanted to make a brewery with a name specific to the region. We went through a lot of names but our goal is really to service the Minnesota market. We don't have plans to go outside Minnesota within the first five years. That doesn't mean that won't change, but in reality, most people within this vicinity know where Mankato is or they've heard of it or they went to college there. We've even been to trade shows and there was a gentleman from, I think, Sweden or something like that and he says, "Oh, I've heard of Mankato." And we said, "Really?" and he says, "Yeah, Little House on the Prairie." So, a lot of people have heard of it and we wanted to really say this is our home.
What's your favorite beer you make?
If I'm looking for something just one or two, I like the Stickum because it's got a lot more complexity going on there. But if it's a "sit back and relax kind of thing" and have a few of them, it's Mankato Original. I kind of go back and forth. Sometime it depends on what kind of food I'm looking to pair it with. After a long day working at the brewery, the Original is perfect because it's very refreshing. If I'm having a beer with my meal and just having one beer, like the Stickum because it's got a lot more malty character going on.
What's your favorite beer someone else makes?
I try so many different beers, so as far as to pick a favorite, that would be really hard to do. Traditionally, I like things that are a little more hoppier, something that's more on the citrus side. That's not something we make here today.
What are your plans for the brewery's future?
We'd like to have about four year-round styles and then start dealing with seasonal beers. Our customers will define what our year-round beers will be and what our seasonals will be.
We do have two more tanks that just showed up [in early July] that we're going to be setting up. That will allow us to increase production and to be able to actually start brewing some of those additional beers we're working on.
What is the best piece of advice someone gave you before you started?
Follow your intuition. Nothing's ever easy. Everything requires a lot of work and a lot of time. The minute you think you got something figured out, something is going to change; you have to constantly be adapting and dealing with change every day. It keeps you on your toes. Being ready for change and able to adapt as quickly as possible is probably the advice we try to follow.
What is the best piece of advice someone you can give homebrewers?
One thing with beer, it's the consistency of the quality. In beer, if it's six days, six months or six years, it has to be the same every time you make that beer. Where wine, if it's a dry year or a wet year, that's part of the thrill of wine. You are given that opportunity every year where it could be different. In beer, profiles of the malts change, the hops will change and in that recipe formulation, you have to be ready for that change. That way, your final product isn't changing based on your raw ingredients that are changing from season to season.
Describe the local craft beer scene in 11 words or less.
High-quality local hand-made beers that will introduce new customers to locally hand-made beer. I know this is more than 11 words but I think some of the struggle is so many people are used to American light lager style beer and they just think that's the way beer is. Once they're opened up to what it could be or can be, it allows people to think "I can have some variety. I can have some options here. And I can have something that's local." Life would be boring if all beer tasted the same.
If you're not drinking beer, what are you drinking?
Mankato Brewing's beers are readily available - both in bottles and on tap - in and around Mankato as well as parts of the Twin Cities metro and down the I-35 corridor. They also sell growlers at their brewery in North Mankato.
More information is available on their website. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter, too.
Previous Microbreweries of the Week:
August Schell Brewing Company
Excelsior Brewing Company
Third Street Brewhouse
Surly Brewing Co.
Steel Toe Brewing
Boom Island Brewing Commpany
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