Photos by Brian Kaufenberg
On May 10, many eager Minnesotans with boats in tow will find themselves in Big Lake, parked in bumper-to-bumper traffic on U.S. Highway 10 on their way north for fishing opener. On May 15, they’ll find themselves in lined up in Big Lake for another opener—Lupulin Brewing’s grand opening.
Founded by Jeff Zierdt and Matt Schiller, Lupulin Brewing is Big Lake’s first brewery and taproom. The duo began building a business plan back in 2012 and leased the 3,000-square-foot space last spring.
Since then, buzz has been building around town as Schiller and Zierdt worked with Boser Construction to transform the empty warehouse into a 100-person taproom and 10-barrel brewhouse, complete with three 10-barrel fermenters and a brite tank.
Zierdt has ruminated on starting a brewery since the late 1980s. He was working as an engineer at a paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, when the first craft-beer boom was just taking flight. He toyed with the idea at the time, but it took a move back to his home state of Minnesota in 2005 and a chance meeting with Schiller at a BYOB Homebrewers Club meeting in 2011 for the idea to take root.
The two bonded over their ties to Wisconsin Rapids: Zierdt had worked there for 20 years; Schiller grew up there and moved to Minnesota in 1998, where he’s spent the last eight years manufacturing custom-automated machines.
The pair soon started homebrewing together and, after a few years, came to a fork in the road. “Either you keep it a hobby, or you make the hobby work for you,” says Schiller, who is the head brewer at Lupulin. Fortunately for Big Lake residents, the path they chose led to Lupulin Brewing, named for the resin in hops that lends beer its distinctive bitter and aromatic characteristics.
Inside the entrance of the brewery, a “yellow brick road” of hop cones leads into the barn-like taproom built from lumber sourced from a Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, sawmill. “Our whole concept was creating that ‘up North,’ kind of a Swedish or Scandinavian feel,” Zierdt says.
Adding to the Swedish ethos of the brewery is Zierdt’s son, Aaron, who majored in Scandinavian studies at Gustavus Adolphus College and recently apprenticed at a 12-barrel brewery in Stockholm. Aaron now serves as Schiller’s assistant brewer.
At the back of the space is the milling room and compact brewhouse, separated from the taproom by a wide, wooden drink rail with a graphic depiction of the brewing process. “We’re hoping in the near future to secure another 1,000 feet—at least—back here,” says Schiller, pointing to the metal garage door at the back of the brewhouse.
“Our expandability is something that a lot of people don’t realize when they walk into [the brewery], but then you open the door up for them,” says Zierdt, as Schiller lifts the overhead door to reveal a nearly 15,000-square-foot empty warehouse. “We don’t have to move; we can expand.”
As far as what that expansion might include: “The end game is at least a 30-barrel [system] back here,” Schiller says. “Really, our goal is to do a lot of farmhouse-type stuff.” Even before they upgrade systems, though, he plans to utilize some of the warehouse space for barrel aging.
For now, the brewery will rotate through many classic American and Belgian craft-beer styles. At the May 15 grand opening, patrons will be able to sample Lupulin Black American Stout, Resin Rapture IPA, and Belgian Blonde—the brewery’s only year-round beer—in pints and growlers.
UPDATE: May 14, 2015
Lupulin Brewing announced that it will release Blissful Ignorance #1, the first in a series of one-off double IPAs. Blissful Ignorance #1 is a 9% ABV DIPA brewed with “copious amounts of el dorado and meridian hops” and then dry-hopped twice. According to their press release, you can expect flavors and aromas “of tropical fruits like mango, along with flavors of watermelon and stone fruits. There is just enough biscuity malt sweetness to carry the beer, but the hops are the main event on this one.”
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Brewers: Matt Schiller (head brewer), Aaron Zierdt (assistant brewer)
Beer: Lupulin Black Stout, Belgian Blonde, Resin Rapture IPA, and rotating selection
Visit: 570 Humboldt Dr, Ste 107, Big Lake, MN
Hours: Thu: 4–9pm, Fri: 4–11pm, Sat: 2–11pm