Coming soon: Utepils Brewing Co.

The soft open is underway at Utepils Brewing Co., with the grand opening slated for Feb. 18. Photo by Michelle Bruch
The soft open is underway at Utepils Brewing Co., with the grand opening slated for Feb. 18. Photo by Michelle Bruch

With the hefeweizen on tap and an old piece of the Fruen Mill refashioned into a bonfire pit, Utepils is ready to open the doors for its grand opening Feb. 18.

Utepils is prepared for big business, opening with the state’s sixth largest brewhouse out of Minnesota’s 120-plus breweries. When optimized, the brewhouse could brew up to six batches of beer per day. Seventy-nine pilings reaching 105 feet into the ground support the immense weight of the two-story tanks above.

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“We’re trying to avoid the pitfalls of a lot of small startups,” said Dan Justesen, president of Utepils Brewing Co. “We decided to go big. With this engine, we can keep adding capacity and never be overwhelmed.”

They have created the Alt 1848, which is a Dusseldorf-style brown ale; a Kölsch-style brew; a signature Pilsner featuring Czech-grown barley and hops (after sampling it off the fermenters, Justesen promises it will be “amazing”); an IPA featuring hops directly imported from the U.S. and Europe; and a hefeweizen that Justesen described as “light, bright, fresh and should be drank young.”

“You can’t get beer like this here from very many places,” he said. “The best is from Germany, and it has a long shipping process.”

The brewery is relying on energy-efficient equipment built by Esau & Hueber in Bavaria as well as tanks built in Bavaria by the three-generation family business Gresser Manf. The brewing process is automated, allowing brewmaster Eric Harper to control the technology from a bank of computers.

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Spring water comes from the old wells used for 50 years by the Glenwood-Inglewood bottling plant. The water is available for sampling upon entry from a repurposed European “lauter grant” — the spigots were historically used by brewers to gauge runoff quality — now available for filling water bottles and rinsing steins. The concept was modeled after Europe’s public water fountains, and it’s located near a recreation of Regensburg’s city clock tower in Germany.

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Artist Sean Gray, who designs poster art for bands, created wall murals for each of the beers.

The copper top of an old brewing kettle from Dusseldorf shines over the bar, another homage to brewing history.

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“My wife wanted one,” Justesen said. “It took me 14 years, but I got it.”

The brewery raised $1.2 million in equity crowdfunding, and all of the core staff members are part owners.

“It’s nice knowing this is your baby too,” said Kelsey Bomgaars, taproom manager.

Bomgaars said she’s tried to create a warm and cozy feel, bringing greenery inside and plants to each of the tables.

There will be food trucks onsite, but the brewery welcomes people to bring their own food, or even order a pizza delivery.

“There are 14 ball fields within a half mile,” Justesen said. “We’re going to be their bar.”

Nonalcoholic options include a Blackeye cold press on tap, a root beer by Vine Park Brewing Co. in St. Paul, Prohibition kombucha on tap and Tree Fort sodas.

Full renovation of the 11,000-square-foot beer garden, with views of the creek, will come in future years after the property owners build a berm to prevent flooding from Bassett Creek. They’re envisioning space for hammocks and picnics on a patio that will quadruple the size of the taproom.

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The meaning of the Norwegian word Utepils (pronounced ooh-ta-pilz), is the first beer enjoyed in the sunshine in the spring.

“There are certain things that are true now that were true 200 years ago,” Justesen said. “People like to hang out with friends and drink great beer.”

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