Head brewer, Dustin Brau, talks craft brewing in Minnesota
Photo courtesy of Brau Brothers Brewing Co.
At a recent tasting event held at the Roseville location of Cellar's Wine & Spirits, Brau Brothers Brewing Co. head brewer, Dustin Brau, talked to an audience of craft beer enthusiasts while offering up samples of several varieties of their craft brewed beers. We had the opportunity to catch up with Brau about his family business and the expanding craft beer boom in the Twin Cities.
The Hot Dish: How did Brau Brothers get its start?
Dustin Brau: We started out as home-brewers. This would've been in the mid-nineties, so I graduated with a hotel and restaurant degree and our deal was that we were going to put a little tiny tap room or a little tiny brew system in a restaurant in Lucan, MN to lure people. That's how we were going to get people to drive from Marshall, Red Wood Falls, and other surrounding areas. At the time that was a pretty novel idea, especially in such a little town and then it just kind of took off from there.
HD: You recently upgraded and moved the brewery from Lucan to Marshall. What are your production capabilities now that you have a bigger space?
DB: We took a step back last year. We were up over 3,500 barrels, but we went back down to under 3,000 last year because we were down for about four or five months. This year I'd like to do somewhere around 5,500 barrels, maybe 6,000 if we can really push things. You know, it's hard to convince a distributor to triple their sales in a year, so we need to baby step it.
HD: How many different beers are you currently brewing?
DB: At any one time, we have six year round and the goal is to keep a seasonal or one-off beer going at all times. It's something we haven't been very good at, but we just haven't had the capacity to do that. So now the hope is, let's do six seasonals a year and let's get a couple of barrel released beers out per year and that's kind of our target.
HD: As the Minnesota craft beer scene continues to grow, what kinds of things are going on out there that really pique your interest?
DB: I think the variety is awesome! What's happening then is that all these new breweries are creating all these new craft beer drinkers and that helps me, it's helps Schell's, it helps Summit, and it helps all of these brand new breweries with these new facilities converting people from drinking something that they've drunk for twenty years to trying something new. The variety still kind of blows my mind. The other nice thing is that, well, that's in a macro sense, but in the micro sense, it's nice to build a community of brewers because now we have places to cultivate talent within the industry. We can train people, not just in production, but on the administrative side, and the marketing side. All these new breweries need warm bodies and they need talent and we're starting produce some pretty good talent.
HD: But do you see at any time in the near or distant future, reaching a point of market saturation in the Minnesota craft beer industry?
DB: I suppose theoretically there has to be a point of market saturation, but it's such a wild guess right now to say where that's going. If we can get a certain percentage of the population drinking craft beer every year, I think we could be surprised at how many breweries that can support.
HD: Do you think that the regulated production limits will help sustain the craft brewing industry into the future?
DB: I think it will, but I'll be interested to see what the laws and the limits look like in 20 years.
HD: You guys are also making your own sodas in your tap room. Have you ever thought about breaking out into the soda market?
DB: We've been asked to, so of course we're tempted to. We just keg it right now for the taproom. If we were to bottle it, or can it, or package it, we'd have to take it a little more seriously in terms of capital input, but it's fun!
HD: All right, last question, if we were to break into your home refrigerator, what kind of guilty pleasure beer might we find in there?
DB: I always drink Minnesota beers first, but I'm kind of a sucker for Stella. If I need a light beer that's got just a hint of flavor, I like those European import style lagers. It's probably a phase I'm going through, but I like it and don't be too surprised if we do something along those lines sometime soon.
To learn more about Brau Brother's Brewing Co. visit braubeer.com.