Wednesday, January 23, 2013
You heard it first here folks: A new local brewery rises from the frozen landscape to burn brightly upon the steel grey horizon! Enki Brewing will be a new production brewery located in Victoria, Minnesota. They will be the closest brewery to where I live and this makes me very happy! Way too many breweries have been opening in Northeast Minneapolis or in St. Paul and not enough out West, leaving us to feel unloved and forgotten by the brewing community.
Enki is a long time dream of Dan Norton and John Hayes, two fellows who met while both working at Nike many years ago. Both men are avid homebrewers and have finally taken the plunge to start their own business and finally work for themselves. The current plan is to move into the historic Victoria Creamery, building a production brewery and tasting room into the existing structure. Being such an old building, there will certainly be some changes necessitated by local and state laws regarding breweries, but this will hopefully not cause any unnecessary delays in their schedule. The fermentors and brewing equipment have already been purchased and a head brewer has been hired, so this looks like it will really happen soon! The goal is to be serving fresh local beer by this Summer, both at the tap room and on draft at local drinking establishments. They are also aiming to have a patio area off of the tasting room for outdoor seating during the warmer months. Being in the depth of the Minnesota winter I find it difficult to remember that we do get some nice weather here.
I met with Dan Monday at my bar where we discussed these plans as well as the local beer scene over some homebrews. Dan is a very friendly sort of guy who knows more sports trivia than I'll ever comprehend, and seems very excited to be taking this next step in his career. The partners and their brewer have already been at work this past week brewing up some smaller scale test batches to come up with their flagship beer. From the sounds of it this may be a kolsch, a refreshing and lighter style with subtle fruity notes that should appeal to beer geeks as well as those who are still nervous about drinking anything with color or hops in it. Not a bad idea for a good craft cross-over beer for our more conservative area. They hope to do at least one lager since Dan is a huge fan of them after living in Germany for several years, but since these tend to take longer to ferment and clear it may be tougher to start with one.
When asked about the name of the brewery Dan revealed that Enki was the Sumerian Goddess of running water, as well as being an anagram for Nike, where the two partners began their dream of this brewery. The logo is pretty wicked as well, and I've put in my order for a hat already!
It seems that they are willing to embrace the Jack Of All Brews club and involve us in beer releases or tastings and possibly even eventually brew one of our homebrew recipes commercially! I'm very excited about the ability to be involved in these things and I know a lot of our members will be as well. I'm sure that Enki will need volunteers to help out at the brewery and with events and hope that we can assist with those things. Dan and John also plan to make it to some JAB meetings which should be a great way for them to get acquainted with a bunch of the local beer fans.
I think these guys have a good goal and plan and seem fun and down to earth. I have every hope that they will succeed and make a stellar local beer that I don't have to drive 45 minutes to have on tap. As with any new brewery in this time of rapid craft beer growth they have a lot of hurdles to jump over before they can succeed: local laws and inspections; local tastes in beer; learning a new brewing system; getting beers into bars and restaurants; learning how to use the local water; and potential for hop and grain shortages. I wish them lots of luck and will do everything I can to help their plan!
Addendum: As of June 2013 Enki Brewing is open for business! If you are coming to this blog entry late, I have a review of the brewery here. Feel free to check it out--and to check out the brewery itself!