Eastlake Craft Brewery celebrates 5 years of under-the-radar success

Eastlake Craft Brewery in the Midtown Global Market is celebrating its fifth anniversary this evening.

Eastlake Craft Brewery in the Midtown Global Market is celebrating its fifth anniversary this evening. Star Tribune

Midtown Global Market was open half a decade before Eastlake Craft Brewing moved in, but it’s hard to imagine the open-air marketplace without its flagship brewery.

Opening in 2014, Eastlake became a landmark hangout at Midtown, turning a five-stall corner location that was once a jeweler into one of south Minneapolis’ few craft beer destinations. In the years since, far more breweries have appeared south of Elliot Park, and Eastlake isn’t even the only market brewery in the Twin Cities anymore

They’re not the brewery that gets people lined up for limited releases. Their seven-barrel system ranks them among the smallest breweries in Minnesota, so hype doesn’t do them much good. But as Eastlake celebrates their fifth anniversary, one thing is undeniable: They never quite get the credit they deserve.

“I don’t think we chase the trends or use the gimmicks as much as we could,” says owner/brewer Ryan Pitman. “We just want to make the beer we want to make.”

Eastlake has never won a Kind of a Big Deal award from the Growler. No local publication, City Pages included, has named them to a Best of the Twin Cities. They did find a place on our 40 Best Beers list earlier this year… at no. 39 (Nicolette Mauler). There’s been some recognition in the form of a 2018 GABF silver medal (Kirby Pucker) and an international design award two years earlier.

But for the most part, people drive down Lake Street and have no idea that there’s top-class beer being made inside the building. Pitman sees this as the brewery’s greatest strength.

“We have the benefit of having 95% of our beer come out of the taproom,” the proud underdog says. “We have a face-to-face conversation with almost everyone who buys our beer, and we can see what people are responding to.”

Eastlake owner Ryan Pitman in his element.

Eastlake owner Ryan Pitman in his element. Jerard Fagerberg

Being underrated won’t keep Eastlake from showing off, though, and the brewery has been celebrating five years at Midtown Global Market with some of the most ambitious beers in their history. On Wednesday, they released the fifth edition of Tsathoggua, an 11% ABV imperial stout that’s basically the beermaker’s Surly Darkness. 

Unlike Darkness, you can’t snag Tsathoggua at any outstate Haskell’s, but the fact that only 60 cases exist isn’t what makes it special. It’s Eastlake’s impeccable ability to preempt trends that carries this unusual winter warmer. Tsathoggua is hopped with the ancient Norwegian kveik yeast, which the brewery originally fell in love with while making their trend-leading hazy IPA Sun Dogs. Eastlake is the first local brewery to take the strain and make it the backbone of an imperial stout, creating a dark, enviable fruitiness.

“It’s got a lot of Belgian influence and a lot of fruit in there that you’re not gonna find in other stouts,” Pitman says. “We like the fruit, we like the hops. We can’t hide from that, so we tend to introduce it in our beers.”

Tsathoggua is a marquee beer, but Eastlake is really showcasing their understated prowess at their fifth anniversary party tonight, when they’ll release their two ringers. First is Wine Barrel Mixed-Culture Red Sour, the first in the brewery’s long-gestating Barrel Reserve series. Its a mixed-culture Flemish sour ale that was barrel-aged for 30 months directly outside their taproom on the floor of the Midtown Global Market. 

Their biggest flex, though, is the two-year barrel-aged variant of Tsathoggua. Sitting at 13% ABV and vintaged in port wine barrels, this version of Tsathoggua is exquisite. It’s Eastlake's first big-ticket beer (retailing for $25 per 750 mL bottle), but it’s worth every cent. Who knew a seven-barrel hideaway in south Minneapolis’ beer void could master marmalade and marshmallow in such equal measures?

But in true Eastlake fashion, they close out on a humble, relatable note. The closer to their anniversary lineup is a fan favorite winter amber named Southpaw. An easy-drinking crowd-pleaser, it’s the exact type of beer that might make you forget how much punch Eastlake can pack. But it’s also the type of beer that’s helped them sustain their success so long.

“My mission is to pay my bills and make delicious beer,” Pitman says. “I’m very proud to be able to pour beer here, so I think it’s working out.”

Eastlake Craft Brewery
920 E. Lake St. #123, Minneapolis