Progress: Craft brewing craze comes to Crosslake
CROSSLAKE—Another local brewery is bellying up to the bar in the Brainerd lakes area this summer.
The 14 Lakes Craft Brewing Company started brewing beer at the end of July with the plan to open the doors by Labor Day. The company's name is an homage to the nearby Whitefish Chain of Lakes, which contains 14 lakes.
The idea to start the brewery came about as a combination of friendly advice and a good opportunity, founder Steve Guttormson said. Guttormson owns the building, and the previous tenant vacated the space where the brewery is. There's a lot of breweries in the area, he said, and he thought a brewery could work well in the space.
Guttormson began working with the city of Crosslake on making sure a brewery fit within local regulations. He started planning the brewery in December 2015. It took a while to get federal and state licenses approved, he said, but the approval process went smoothly.
Through a friend of a friend, Guttormson met brewer Dan Trombley, who has been brewing beer at home for a while. Trombley got started with homebrewing after helping a cousin brew beer using an extract kit, he said.
"This doesn't seem so hard," Trombley said. "With an extract kit, if you know how to make mac and cheese, you can brew beer."
His cousin ended up moving to Hawaii, Trombley said, and when he left, he left his brewing equipment with Trombley.
"It never felt like a hobby, it felt like something different," Trombley said. "The passion was there."
Other breweries let Trombley shadow them when they're brewing, Guttormson said, which has been helpful. Trombley has never brewed on a scale like this before, so seeing how it's done has provided great experience.
Trombley visited Talking Waters Brewing Company in Montevideo, where he couldn't stop asking questions, Trombley said. They let him take a turn stirring mash in a brewing kettle using an oversized paddle. Eventually, they asked Trombley if he needed a break from stirring.
"No, don't take me out," Trombley said. "It was a fantastic day."
Guttormson has introduced himself at the other area breweries, he said, and the brewers have been friendly and helpful. Chuck Martin, brewer at Roundhouse Brewery, has been especially helpful, Trombley said.
"Every single brewer I've talked to has been nothing but helpful," Trombley said. "I don't know what I'd do without them."
A lot of the help from other brewers comes in the form of little things, Guttormson said, like asking them where they get their glassware.
Trombley attended a three-day class in Portland, Ore., on how to use the brewing equipment. The brewing system is a five-barrel system with 10-barrel tanks, so the brewery can brew double batches of beer. This equates to 310 gallons of beer per batch.
"We're thinking we're going to be real busy this summer," Guttormson said. "We wanted to have enough capacity to try and meet the demand."
The plan is to open with three different beers, Trombley said, because there are three available fermenters. There will probably be a blonde ale and a pale ale as well as an amber or a brown ale.
"I'm leaning more toward the brown (ale)," Trombley said. "It seems like people are asking for a lot of stouts and porters."
There hasn't been much thought put into beer names yet, but Guttormson said they could use local landmarks or lake names. The brewery name came from a brainstorming session with friends, he said. Logjam was another option, he said, but 14 Lakes felt like a better fit.
"14 Lakes represents the community and what's going on right around this spot," Guttormson said.
Someone suggested hanging black and white photos of the community in the taproom, Guttormson said. There are plans for a large mural of the Whitefish Chain as well, he said.
The brewery will start by selling 64-ounce growlers, Guttormson said, and may look into smaller-sized growlers as well as "crowlers," which are growler-sized cans. The plan is to start with taproom sales before thinking about distribution, he said. There will be sample flights available at the taproom as well. The brewery includes a large outdoor patio with outdoor games and a fire pit, and will be dog-friendly.
To start, Guttormson will keep his day job delivering food for Arnie's Meats and Seafoods, which his father started. Trombley and assistant brewer Johnny Durham both work at Clow Stamping Company. They love everything about brewing, and Durham said it's not a chore to do it.
"There's always room for experimentation in this," Trombley said. "It's fun to just see what else you can come up with."
• Business: 14 Lakes Brewery.
• City: Crosslake.
• Number of employees: Four.
• Interesting fact: Owner Steve Guttormson's dog Oliver is the mascot for the dog-friendly 14 Lakes Craft Brewing Company.