Rob Miller had been homebrewing for 10 years. He'd long dreamt of a running a neighborhood brewery -- not one that pumps out case after case and is then shipped away via distributor, but one that held the comforts of a corner bar. However, the law wasn't on his side. Instead, he took another job, waited it out, and the taproom bill eventually passed. Fast forward a couple years, and Northeast Minneapolis is home to the new taproom-only brewery Dangerous Man Brewing Co. With a capacity of only 91 thirsty souls and no plans to expand, Miller is manning the operation and promises up to 15 taps onsite, always in rotation and always small batch.
Hot Dish caught up with the busy entrepreneur to talk about the brewery's beer focus, the concept of the taproom, and where he draws the line between brewing for himself and brewing as a businessman.
Hot Dish: You focus mainly on ales. What about the style appeals to you?
Rob Miller: [We focus on ale] because, for one, they take half the time as lagers. Second, most of my favorite styles of beer fall under the ale category. We made a Black Lager that I really like and we will continue to release lagers, just a lot less frequent than the ales.
HD: You've already released Toasted Hemp Ale, Coconut Milk Stout, and Chocolate Milk Stout. Would you say that you're interested in hybrid beer styles?
Miller: I guess you could say that. We want to keep a very diverse beer menu for our customers. It seems that people are very interested to try new beer styles or variations of older styles, so we will cater to them.
HD: How do you balance brewing between your personal tastes and interests versus the community demand?
Miller: For me, I love all styles, and I love to brew all styles. We try to always have a light beer, dark beer, hoppy beer, and a strong beer on tap. I like to brew all different styles all the time; but when the customers demand a beer, we brew it. We didn't expect to brew the Cream Ale as much as we have. This has been a style that surprised us in terms of popularity.
HD: What has been the biggest surprise so far?
Miller: The biggest surprise has been how much beer we are selling at the taproom. We thought we would have a lot more focus to fill growlers, but instead we are selling more pints at the brewery.
HD: Your focus is on variety and small rotation. Because the Chocolate Milk Stout has been so popular, do you feel an obligation to keep it in stock as you rotate the rest? Does a flagship beer interfere with your plans of small-batch rotations? Miller: The Chocolate Milk Stout has been very popular. Because so many people have heard about it and want to try it, we have been brewing it regularly. If we don't have it, people complain because they have heard so much about it. We plan to keep it on tap about 90 percent of the time.
HD: What about the taproom appeals to you, as compared with a more traditional production brewery?
Miller: I never dreamed of owning a large production brewery. I always wanted to bring a neighborhood meeting place to the city where I was raised. I love Minneapolis and wanted to bring something unique to it. When I dreamed of owning a brewery, I dreamed of brewing small batches and serving the beers right from the tanks to the customers. When I spoke with large production breweries, I learned quickly how much work you put into cleaning and filling kegs and I really never had the urge to go big like that.
HD: How important is food to the taproom experience? You encourage patrons to bring their own.
Miller: I believe food is a small part of the taproom. I knew I didn't want to open a restaurant or brewpub, which includes food. Instead, I thought it would be cool to open a brewery in a neighborhood that already had a bunch of awesome restaurant options. We don't serve food but we encourage people to bring in any food they want. We have menus available of neighboring restaurants. People have really started to get the idea and we have been seeing a ton of food being brought in.
HD: Did you always plan to open in Northeast? Do you live there?
Miller: Initially, I was looking all over Minneapolis. It didn't take me long to discover that I wanted to be in Northeast. I loved the vibe and the small feel. Then I discovered this building that we are in now and the search was over. I knew instantly that I wanted this building and I would do anything to get it.
I do not live in Northeast, my family and I live in North Minneapolis. I was born and raised in South Minneapolis and I have an overall love of the city.
HD: How do you feel having your face on the logo? What happens if you decide to shave?
Miller: It has been pretty awesome to be the face of the business. I think people like to know the owner/brewer of certain establishments. I like that when I'm here at the brewery, people know it's me and like to come and introduce themselves. I do plan to shave sometime in the near future, and I'm not worried about it a bit. The good thing is the beard will grow back.