Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tim Roets To Open Jordan Brewery!

This past year I broke the news of Enki brewing on this blog and have continued to follow their progress over time.  Now I have a second bit of big news for my readers!  Jack of All Brews member and award winning homebrewer Tim Roets is going Pro! Tim is in the process of opening a nanobrewery inside the 150 year old sandstone walls of the Historic Jordan Brewery in Jordan, MN!  He was kind enough to give me first dibs on scooping the story, so here goes:

Seriously, did they even have cameras back then?

The Jordan Brewery is on the Historic Registry and has a long and storied past--a perfect place to put in a new working brewery!  From Doug Hoverson's Land of Amber Waters (the definitive history book of brewing in Minnesota,) I was able to dig up a bit of information on the brewery.  The larger of two breweries in the city of Jordan, the brewery itself was opened in 1866 by Frank Nicolin and Sebastian Gehring, soon becoming the largest brewery between the Twin Cities and New Ulm.  There were several ownership changes over time resulting in upgraded facilities like a bottling line and creation of an extensive network of caves carved into the stone bluff behind the brewery.  In 1902 Peter Hilgers took over the brewery, adding electricity and further expanding the distribution of the beer.  He was known to visit his local accounts to make sure that the quality was to his taste, often using a horse-drawn beer sleigh during his travels.
Modern day!

During Prohibition the brewery was converted to a chicken hatchery, but returned as a brewery in 1934.  Distribution reached across Minnesota and seven other states at this time!  There were several more ownership changes with the brewery eventually being purchased by Mankato Brewing Company to expand their production, but was closed shortly after.  Jordan beers continued to be produced in Mankato for a while and even bottled in Chicago for a short period.  After closing down the building returned to a chicken hatchery until damaged by fire.  In the 1990's the building was renovated by Gail Andersen into apartments and retail space.  Which brings us up to our current time-line!

Let me give a bit of background on Tim Roets.  I met Tim only two years ago when he won Best Of Show at Byggvir's Big Beer Cup (I was running the Renaissance Festival homebrew competition that year.)  I had Tim out to my basement bar to claim his prizes and immediately felt that I had discovered an old friend.  I am still shocked that we have only known each other for such a short period since it feels like I've known him for a decade or more!  Tim has been brewing since the early 1980's--in fact he has shown me a newspaper article he wrote on homebrewing back then.

A celebratory toast to Tim's new venture!

He has had many careers in his life so far, ranging from newspaper reporter/critic,  furniture/design pro, retail consultant, stay-at-home dad, and soon, professional brewer.  Throughout it all he has continued to return to his hobby of homebrewing, continually experimenting with new techniques and flavors.  He has made lagers, ales, sour beers, ciders, and even meads.  He started putting his concoctions into competitions a few years ago in order to get feedback from beer judges, and quickly discovered that he was raking in the medals for doing so.  He has won multiple medals at the Upper Mississippi Mash Out (one of the biggest competitions in the nation) including the taking home the coveted Eis-Anything trophy for two years running.  He's won two Minnesota State Fair blue ribbons (among others), and recently had a whopping five beers make it to the second round of the National Homebrewer's Competition in Philadelphia (the biggest homebrew competition in the world.)  

He is a bit melancholy that this is the last year he will be able to compete, but he can always play with the big boys and try to win some GABF medals...and ironically, the GABF Pro-Am will be his last homebrew contest.  A catalyst for his going pro, Tim's prize for his repeat Byggvir BOS in 2012 gave him a chance to scale up his homebrewed Kolsch at Town Hall Brewery with Mike Hoops, then travel with him as they enter it in the big show in Denver this October!  As Tim always says...great reason to enter homebrew contests!  That beer will be on tap soon, likely for the Byggvir awards at the end of August. (Check HERE for details on the brew day.)

How to describe Tim?  In a word: Intensity!  But that alone doesn't do him justice.  He is a man who has been in sales much of his life and knows how to talk to people.  His excitement about a subject is infectious and nearly palpable.  He does nothing by half-degrees.  When he grills, he doesn't throw a couple burgers on, he spends all day smoking a huge pork shoulder on Jamaican pimento wood and serving up jerked pork and chicken for 30 people.  When he makes a mead he isn't content to take what he gets--he tinkers with it, blending, fruiting, spicing to get a plethora of unique one-off beverages.  This intensity and single-mindedness will serve him well in his future career.  Tim is gregarious and inclusive--one of the most giving and people I know!  When he jumped in and took over as Secretary of Jack Of All Brews he promptly injected some of his energy into our group and pushed us to try some new things.  Infectious I tell you! 

Only two days ago Tim dropped this bomb on me.  He has been quietly working on this plan over the past month, not wanting to publicise it until he was sure things would work out... and if you know Tim, quiet isn't easy for him!  In fact I was thinking that something was wrong since he had been so under the radar over the past month or so!  Last night he invited Sj and myself out to the brewery for a tour.  He cracked open a bottle of Steel Toe Lunker to commemorate the visit, as the idea was hatched--Jason had no idea--in Steel Toe's taproom just weeks prior with fellow Jabber and Jordanian Jeff Malek.  A fine Minnesota brew to sip while wandering about the prestigious old place.

At this point in the game, Tim will occupy the first floor of the building and has been working on cleaning up the brew space.  The property has been well cared for by the current owner and isn't requiring as much infrastructure investment as I thought it would.  Nearly the entire place has 30 inch thick sandstone brick walls hewn from the excavation of the caves.with some smaller clay brick dressing around doorways and fireplace.  A huge old chimney starts on the ground floor and towers over the building itself.Tim is currently sourcing tile for the brewhouse floor and getting ready to install drainage.  He'll be working with the city and the landlord in the next few weeks with a goal of beginning the application process by the end of August--an outside chance there could be beer brewing in '13!  He has been working with lighting and color palattes as well, in order to furnish the space and accentuate the incredible architectural details of the building.

He literally shines when discussing his ideas for renovating the old building and restoring it to its proper glory.  He hopes to upgrade the doors and install stained glass windows, as well as put in a bar for the tasting room side of things.  He feels that this opportunity to work with such a piece of history is his primary calling, and making beer here again after more than 60 years is simply a bonus!  He showed us the entry to cave system, filled with a waist deep crystal clear water that remains a steady 42-48 degrees year round.  While pumping the caves dry would be a losing battle, there is talk of building a deck above and lighting to display the cave system...perhaps even putting it to its original use: lagering beer!

Let us talk beer, you and I.  As mentioned before, Tim is a fantastic brewer.  His initial brewing goals are modest.  He wants to start with a small 2-4 barrel system he is designing with the help of perennial JAB award winner Wayne Doucette, with the aim of making a constantly rotating small batch line-up of beers.  For his style and personality I think this the right tack.  Having to produce a huge quantity of a flagship beer would quickly take a lot of the joy from the brewing process for him.  He has room to expand in the future if needed, especially if he can make use of those lagering caves.  I'm hoping he will eventually branch out and make ciders and meads, since they are one of his personal strengths--but walk before you run!  While brewing on the property before licencing goes through is not an option, Tim has taken some of the local water back home to Chaska and brewed a few batches with it already to familiarize himself with its properties.  He had me sample a classic German Alt that is young but already bursting with noble hop and melanoidin flavors.  While he leads the renovation at the brewery, Tim also plans to refine his recipes with the Jordan water and experiment with small conical fermenters/yeast culturing offsite in Jeff Malek's basement brewhouse down the road.

The new Jordan Brewery will be a small family business, aimed at supplying the locals with fresh locally made beer.  Tim has opened well over 50 retail businesses in his career, and his wife Steff Sanders brings her financial and legal experience to the table.  Together, they bring considerable business acumen to the venture.  Tim's sons Dylan and P.J. will be lending their young backs and experience in food/beverage service, and stepchildren Jack and Izzy will be soda tasters--truly a family affair.

Tim is currently putting his beloved BMW 3-series up for a quick--it screams to over 150 mph and is priced well below Blue Book to move, he'll tell you!--to help fund the process.  (He'll want to buy it back from you after he sells his first 500 barrels!) A Kickstarter campaign to help fund the taproom and furnishings will take place in the coming month or so.  I'll provide details and links when the Kickstarter is live, and plan on supporting him there as well.

I'm still a bit shocked that my friend is taking this plunge, but I think it will be a great venture for him and his family over the next few years.  This process will bring renewal and business to the city of Jordan and I'm excited about the move back to pre-prohibition days of most small towns having their own brewery (Victoria, Shakopee, Minnetonka, etc.) I can't wait to see how all this pans out! 

UPDATE!  Since I still get a lot of folks checking out this now historical page, I thought I would add a link to Tim's brewery website so people can follow his progress.  Check it out HERE.


Brady said...

This is just Fantastic! Congrats Tim, we all know this brewery is going to be awesome. Can't wait to have a beer or 5 there. Cheers!

Nathan A. Warden said...

Awesome! Any chance of reviving the old Jordan Beer recipe?

Anonymous said...

What good news, so glad this is coming to Jordan. My dad and uncle are pictured in the old photo, having worked at the brewery in the 1930's. Good luck and thanks for choosing this beautiful historic site. Welcome to Jordan!
Kathy Pekarna Colling