Nestled in the lower Minnesota River valley and raised up from a small river town trading post, Shakopee is now a growing suburb of the Twin Cities. But it’s a city that has never lost touch with its roots. Two of the city’s longest running businesses were established in the 1930s: Bill’s Toggery, a family run men’s clothing store on Lewis Street; and Rahr Malting, which built its malt manufacturing facility in west Shakopee. The 1930s also marked the end of one of the area’s longest-running businesses, the Strunk/Nyssen Brewery, which had been operating along the Minnesota River since 1854.
Following in the footsteps of that history, Ryan Lindquist and Damon Schuler began homebrewing in 2011 and turned that passion into a business plan for a new brewery in downtown Shakopee. In 2016, they were fortunate enough to find a location, a brew system and experienced Head Brewer Ben Salyards.
Shakopee Brewhall is located in the downtown strip of the Shakopee business district where all the buildings were connected via basement tunnels that were used for hauling liquor during prohibition. Built in the mid-1800s, the brewery building has been a butcher shop, Ben Franklin store, Eagle pet shop and now house a seven barrel brewhouse made up of copper clad mash and boil kettles, five dual-jacketed primary fermenters and nine brite tanks. The taproom serves enthusiastic locals with flagship beers such as Cinco de Shako lager, Highway 101 West Coast IPA and Magic Feather – a peanut butter porter; while also satisfying their bold pioneer spirit with seasonal brews like Fuzzy Logic Milkshake IPA and Voices In My Head Imperial Stout.
Now the CEO, Ryan Lindquist describes the brewery’s philosophy by the company’s logo “Share More Than A Beer.” Lindquist explains, “That message encompasses the Brewhall as a whole. From the finishes and warm-feel within the taproom, to the philanthropic charity events, the taproom team and finally the beer that flows, we build-up the Brewhall with the vision being a community location for beer enthusiasts, families and anyone interested exploring craft beer.”
While brewing and networking with others in the homebrew scene brought great insight into the process and industry, taking the leap of scaling up and delivering a consistent profile of the same beer from batch-to-batch was a facet that only a professional brewer with past production experience could bring. With Ben, the team was complete and had all of the pieces necessary to open a successful brewery.
Perhaps it was this unique background and insight that sparked the idea of a pro-am competition for homebrewers. As Lindquist puts it, “The idea for the ‘Brew at the Brewhall’ event had its genesis with the idea of finding a way for homebrewers to have an opportunity to brew on a production system. With the Brewhall only being sixteen months old, where we started is still very fresh in our minds. With that, we felt it would be an enjoyable experience for a homebrewer to work with a professional brewer to refine a recipe, scale it up and eventually pour it for friends and family.”
Local homebrewer Ryan Ungs won that chance. His recipe for a peach infused milkshake style IPA was selected as the winner by a panel of judges that included local business people and chemists from Rahr Malting. Describing the experience of brewing on a professional system, Ungs says, “It was fun. I learned about brewing on a large scale system and the challenges of making a unique recipe on a new Brewhouse. The recipe mostly stayed the same, since I brewed my beer in the summer I used fresh peaches. We brewed the collaboration in the winter, so used peach puree. The other changes we made were very minor, like rounding grains to the nearest full bag when scaling up the recipe instead of opening and using a partial bag of grain and the temperature and timing on certain hop additions. It’s hard work, lifting the bags into the mill, stirring the mash by hand, and lots of cleaning and sanitizing.”
What did it feel like the day he saw his beer on tap in the brewery? “It was really cool. I had a lot of people that I don’t really talk about beer with reach out and say that they went to try it after seeing my posts on social media. It’s a style that a lot of people like, so I got a lot of positive feedback. I also saw some cans in the liquor store and the liquor store manager mentioned having to order extra because they were selling quickly so that was really cool.”
We asked Mr. Ungs what his advice he would give to homebrewers entering a competition. “Brew what you like, even if it doesn’t fit perfectly within style guidelines. I based this recipe on a commercial beer that I tried from Charles Towne Fermentory. I wanted to emulate that beer so I threw together a recipe and went for it.”
Finally, we asked Ryan Lindquist how is experience working with BSG had been. “BSG and Rahr have been fantastic partners. We are very proud and thankful for the relationship we have with both of these companies. From ordering to pick-up, the customer service is very strong and reliable. Communications is very accurate and consistent. The product catalog from BSG is conducive to our brewing needs and we really enjoy being such a close neighbor! We get occasional visits from employees including a few chemists who come through and provide feedback on the beer we provide. It is always appreciated and we welcome the feedback from this team.”