Rochester’s ascendency in medical care with Mayo Clinic began in 1889. 125 years later, the city may become known for something else—craft beer.
“I think it’s going to create a better image for Rochester,” says Austin Jevne, head brewer of the soon-to-open Forager Brewing Company. “Most people consider Rochester to be this place you go to to see somebody at Mayo Clinic. So I’m really, really excited for the next couple of years as far as the beer scene goes.”
Kinney Creek Brewery, the city’s first taproom, started the beer renaissance in 2012. Grand Rounds Brewpub—the city’s first brewpub in 20 years—ushered its firsts guests in on April 15, 2015. Both Forager and LTS (Life’s Too Short) Brewing Company are slated to open taprooms by August and June, respectively.
Kinney Creek’s owner and head brewer, Donovan Seitz, helped pave the way for this brewery boom.
“We ran into the issue of running into problems they might not know,” Seitz says of working with the city when opening his brewery. “It makes it hard being the first one as there is no template,” he continues, but that hard work paid off.
“Donovan at Kinney Creek did help pave the way for us by pushing Rochester’s city council to adopt Minnesota’s laws pertaining to microbreweries and taprooms, so that was already in place for us,” LTS head brewer and founder Brandon Schulz explains. “I worked with the city clerk’s office and Donovan last year to update the city codes after the last legislative session allowed taprooms to be open on Sundays.”
Schulz, however, did have to face his own “bumps in the road” to transform an auto maintenance shop into brewing space—the perfect place for bringing in equipment, as well as shipping and receiving beer.
“It took some significant explaining to convince people we weren’t going to be doing auto maintenance in the building, simply because we didn’t want to remove the garage doors or the sunken service pit in the floor,” Schulz explains. “In the end, I’m glad we fought to keep these features of our building, but it really shouldn’t have had to be this hard to make the common sense decisions we have had to fight for.”
Jevne has felt the effects of each victory.
“Dealing with the city, because of Kinney Creek, Life’s Too Short, and Grand Rounds, I think they’re starting to understand this process and there’s some sort of formula for them,” Jevne says. “Rochester is really actually changing and evolving to become more brewery friendly.”
Though there will always be new issues to tackle (Kinney Creek is hard at work figuring out how to outfit its building for more bathrooms), Rochester’s brewery boom is pressing forward.
Even better—none of the brewers considers the others to be rivals; instead, they all offer something unique for craft beer fans.
For example, Forager will feature food from rotating chefs (giving off a food truck vibe) and an artisan market. Grand Rounds features breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, while locals can find Kinney Creek beer in stores, and soon LTS.
As proof of the comradery, Schulz has already helped head Grand Rounds brewer Steve Finnie before the brewpub’s opening by giving him some gypsum (used to soften hard water being used for brewing) when he unexpectedly ran out.
“I’ll gladly help out Steve when he needs an ingredient or to borrow some equipment, and I know he will reciprocate next time I’m in a pinch,” Schulz says.
“At 12:30 in the morning he came and dropped some off,” Finnie laughs.
“It’s in its infancy right now, but we’ll grow a lot closer as a community of brewers as we get everything running and going smoothly,” Jevne adds. “I just want the beer scene here to be great and really highly respected.”
Rochester city clerk Aaron Reeves is happy to welcome new breweries into town.
“We’re obviously excited,” he says. “We like to see new restaurants, new breweries come to town. It definitely adds to our business climate and makes it more desirable for our downtown and outlying areas to have them as destinations. It helps the community as a whole.”
And each brewer agrees on one thing: the city needs more craft beer.
“Rochester needs a brewpub; there’s a lot of people here who love craft beer and they go to the Cities for it,” Finnie says. But above all else, he says “the beer has to be good.”
Not bad for a city synonymous with health care.
Rochester Taprooms and Brewpub
LTS Brewing Company
Taproom opening June 2015.
Beer selection: Six regular beers on tap, including a kölsch, Belgian blonde, IPA, pale ale, brown ale, and oatmeal stout, with a Scottish ale and saison to come.
Forager Brewing Company
Taproom opening late July or early August 2015.
Beer selection: American strong ale, hefeweizen, imperial chocolate coffee stout, session IPA, Belgian tripel or blonde, and possibly a sour ale.
Grand Rounds Brewpub
Brewpub open Monday–Saturday, 11am–11pm; Sunday, 10:30am–2:30pm
Beer selection: Hop Bollocks Session IPA, Freedom Scotch Ale, Hawaii 507 Coconut Stout, KA Minnesota-Kolsch, a rotating cask ale, and three guest taps.
Kinney Creek Brewing Company
Taproom open Sunday–Tuesday, 12-6pm; Wednesday, 12–8pm; Thursday–Saturday, 12pm–12am.
Beer selection: Smoked Porter, Opener IPA, Darca-Doo Imperial Stout, Timber English Brown, Black Ice IPA, and more, in addition to a rotating selection of seasonal beers.