Back in January of this year I had the fortune to meet up with Dan Norton to discuss his upcoming scheme of opening a brewery in either Victoria or Waconia. I posted the results and their cool logo in this blog and have been impressed with how many hits I continue to get on that posting. In fact that post has the most hits of any I have written in the past two years! Since January I have had a chance to hang out with Dan, his partner in crime John Hayes, and brewmaster Jason Davis several times. I feel privileged to have been included in some of the planning and unrolling of the brewery and have been thrilled at their involvement with Jack Of All Brews. I think this will be a great long term partnership for all of us!
Enki Brewing is housed within the circa 1917 historic Creamery Building in Victoria (West of Chanhassen on HWY 5.) I posted a mid-construction update a ways back that includes some pictures of the massive demolition and remodel required to get the building up to code for a modern age: check it out here. Since then, they have continued to work long hours getting the place in shape to open for the Summer months.
|Dan in front of the newly installed brewery prior to the opening|
I stopped by the brewery on the night of their first batch, an evening fraught difficulty due to equipment issues, but giving them good experience on the new brew system. When they initially told me that the goal was to open in June or July I thought they were insane...especially after seeing some other new breweries take well over a year to get going. But in mid-June they quietly unrolled their first beer on a small local audience and have continued to have the tap room open for business! At the time of this writing they are open Thursday and Friday from 4-10, Saturday Noon-10 and every other Wednesday for Victoria's classic car night.
Recently I have been traveling a lot (see my extensive notes on the Oregon beer scene and discussion drinking with geeks in previous entries) and actually missed the opening for the brewery. I'm happy to say that I finally had a chance to get out there this Wednesday during the classic car night event. The difference between the previous visits and today is extensive! They have put in a small bar with tap connections directly to large serving tanks in a cooler behind the bar. A door opens from the tap room to an outdoor Biergarten area that I think they will need to enlarge to make room for crowds. The location is fantastic: right in the middle of the quaint downtown area and walking distance from School of the Wise and Floyd's for those who want some food after visiting the tap room.
|John and Kent manning the bar!|
At this writing, they had two beers on tap with more planned for the future. Their first is called Citric Journey and is really not a beer that fits a current style. By color I'd call it an American Amber, but the flavor profile is much more malty and toasty than that, ending with an almost roasted note. Hops are present and contribute some bitterness and aroma, but this is not a very hoppy beer overall. Clocking in at around 7% ABV it really goes down smoothly and the alcohol is very subtle. For a first outing, I think this beer is a great start! The second beer was just released this weekend and is an unusual Auburn Kolsch. There was some issue with the filter not working right and the beer is a bit more cloudy than they wanted, but it does not affect the flavor at all. A red kolsch is an interesting idea and one I have never seen before. To me it lacks some of the fruity yeast character I expect in a kolsch and has a hint of roast that makes this taste more like an Irish red. Don't get me wrong I like it, but I think it could do with a bit of tweaking to get the character they are looking for. Overall for the first two beers to come out of the brewery, these guys are putting out interesting and very drinkable beers. Their next is going to be a golden ale with the goal of having at least four beers on tap at a time. Based on this visit, I'm excited to try more.
Compared to where Enki started, there has been much change to the brewery building, but it has kept some of the old feel including the rough walls, open timbers, reclaimed stained glass and the weird gargoyle faces on the side of the building. The only issue I see with the place is that they may get popular enough to run out of space! But that is a good problem to have for a brewery. I'm very pleased with the tap room, the beers and the vibe here. I'll admit I can't be a totally unbiased observer since I have known these guys for a while, but I try to be honest with myself and my readers. Visit the brewery and tell me what you think! Check them out on the Web, and Facebook. Tell them I sent you!