Within three days of launch, Mankato Brewery had already sold 30-barrels of beer. That’s 930 gallons, the entire capacity of one of the brewery’s three fermentation tanks. The rapid sales took them by surprise. When I visited on Thursday, January 12th they had only one sixth-barrel keg left in the cooler and had ramped up their brewing schedule as much as possible. After only a week in business, they are already shopping for more tanks. It’s a good problem for a new brewery to have.
I first talked to Mankato Brewery co-founder Tim Tupy for a June 2010 article on The Heavy Table food blog. At that time Tupy and his partner Tony Feuchtenberger were just getting started. Their website was mostly a space-filler. They had yet to nail down a space. And their search for a brewer was just beginning. They needed someone willing to build the brewery and the brand from the ground up, and willing to relocate to Mankato. As it happens, Mike Miziorko, then a brewer at Summit, was looking for just such an opportunity. He read the Heavy Table article and picked up the phone to call Tupy. In July of last year he celebrated his last day at Summit and headed south to join the team.
The three view themselves as the legs of a three-legged stool. Each one brings a different talent to the partnership. Tupy is an entrepreneur with marketing experience and deep connections in the civic life of Mankato. Feuchtenberger’s background is in production and operations management. Miziorko is the man who makes the beer. Of his switch from Summit’s 220-hectolieter, fully-automated system to the much-smaller and totally-manual 15-barrel brewery at Mankato Miziorko says, “This is brewing. This is what I went to school for. I’m much closer to the beer.” He’s enjoying the ability to put his stamp on the thing from build-out to beers.
Tupy began considering the idea of opening a brewery a few years ago. He’s active in several civic organizations, which makes him well connected to what’s happening in Mankato. He saw a demand. People still had a connection to the old Mankato Brewing Company that closed in the 1960s. Kato beer signs and t-shirts were a common sight. His entrepreneurial spirit – he’s already opened two other businesses – said “let’s go.” He approached his homebrewing buddy Feuchtenberger and the two began to plan. A public brew day at the Brau Brothers brewery in nearby Lucan, Minnesota sealed their resolve. Within three months they had the basics together and started their search for a brewer.
Mankato Brewery launched on January 5th with their flagship beer Mankato Original. Original is a classic Kölsch-style beer. The crisp, lager-like ale has bready malt flavor and subtle fruitiness in the nose. Spicy hops and moderate bitterness keep it balanced but leave it light and delicate. In talking about the beer, Miziorko, who’s college major was German, quotes and old German saying that the “first beer should ask for the third.” My first-hand experience says that the third goes down just as easily as the first.
Miziorko appreciates the subtle complexity of German beer styles. To him they are beers with both depth and drinkability. “I’m a beer drinker,” he says. “I want to be able to enjoy more than one.” He has spent a good deal of time in Germany and admires the sense of community and tradition that surrounds beer there. Beer is a staple of life; it’s food. He says that beer drinking there is less about the beer and more about the time spent drinking it. “That’s Gemūtlichkeit.”
Mankato Brewery is only distributing in Mankato and St. Peter. If you want the beer, you’ll have to go there to get it. There are plans to introduce other year-round beers and a few seasonals, but those will have to wait until they can keep up with demand for Original.