In some ways, the nascent Minnesota brew scene already feels a bit "been there, done that." Insight Brewing aims to change that perspective. Head brewer Ilan Klages-Mundt traveled the world, apprenticing and volunteering at breweries such as Fuller's (England), Kiuchi (Japan), and Fanø and Søgaards Bryghus (Denmark) to gain knowledge about the different ways beer can be brewed. His experience is decidedly global, and he and co-owners Brian Berge, Kevin Hilliard, and Eric Schmidt aim to transfer that knowledge from the fermenter to the pint glass right here in Minnesota.
The four are taking a risk, opening the largest start-up brewery in the state with a capacity of up to 40,000 barrels (or one-and-a-half-Surlys) though, of course, they're starting much smaller than that number in terms of actual production. The four recently started work on their brewery site just off Highway 280 on East Hennepin in Minneapolis. Their beers will pull from traditional styles, ranging from a 2.8 ABV session beer to barrel-aged and experimental styles much higher in alcohol.
Insight is also offering a Passport Club in limited supply. Members will pay $1,000 and receive $4,000 of beer in return. Shares can be split among groups and spent as shareholders see fit.
The overall goal of the company is to provide great beer to the community, of course, but with an additional insight into the wider world of brewing. Hot Dish met over some samples to discuss just what that entails as the brewery prepares for a fall opening.
Hot Dish: You've tried to set Insight apart by adopting a worldly perspective on brewing. How does that translate to your brewing style?
Ilan Klages-Mundt: I think I would say that we have traditional beers, but also some with a twist. For example, we have a beer called Lamb and Flag, an English premium bitter. I learned how to brew the style while working at Fuller's Brewery in London and, after falling in love with the complexity and nuances that come from such a low alcohol beer, I knew I had to replicate the traditional style for Insight.
We [also] have a beer called The Yuzu. It is a lightly hopped American pale ale brewed with Japanese yuzu fruit. While working in Japan, yuzu was used in many dishes. I could never find a true comparison of the unique flavors that I got out of the yuzu. Since I had a yuzu tree in my backyard, I decided I would brew up a batch of citrusy pale ale and add just enough yuzu fruit to add to the complexity of the hops, but not overpower them. In doing so, I created an incredibly unique and exciting flavor that I have not seen in any other beer to date.
You've also played around some with blending wine grapes and beer ingredients. Tell us more about that.
We have a beer that is really pushing the limits of what beer is, or can be: Saison de Blanc. It's blended with the sauvignon blanc wine grape, which adds a slightly sweet, grassy, and champagne-like character to the already fruity and spicy saison. Clocking in at 8.3% alcohol, this beer still has a delicate balance of flavors and finishes fairly dry.
You're starting out with a large facility. How much do you aim to produce in the beginning? What will you do with all of that space?
We are starting with a 19,300-square-foot building, and we will have a 5,400 bbl capacity right off the bat. Now, while we may have the capacity, I am not sure we will begin brewing that volume on day one. The reason we chose the size of building and brewing system that we did was because we watched too many other breweries in the area hit their capacity too soon and we did not want to run into the same wall. The growth of craft beer in Minnesota actually makes us the fastest growing state by volume, and we wanted to make sure that we were prepared for that growth if we were to encounter it. With our extra space, we will gladly use it as storage for now, but the size of our building should allow us to grow up to 40,000 bbls annually.
Tell us about your taproom.
The size of our taproom will be 3,000 square feet, one of the biggest in the state. We designed it in a way to create the experience of being in a brewery, but also feeling the comfort of a nice pub. I call it "comfortable industrial."
You chose a location close to other breweries. How important is proximity to other breweries in choosing a site?
While I like being close to other breweries, I didn't choose our location only for that reason. We were pretty strict when it came to building requirements because we needed a facility that would allow us to make beers the way we needed to make them. One requirement was that we had to be using Minneapolis water, because it is very low in mineral content and is some of the most pure water in the United States for a municipality. We also knew that we needed a building that was zoned to be a brewery, but was also close to residential neighborhoods.I do think the community of breweries in Minneapolis only helps to expand the market for everyone. As more people learn about great beer, the more people we have drinking that beer.