It's been a good few months since a new brewery opened in the metro area, so the timing was just perfect for Lake Monster Brewing to come to the surface a few weeks ago. The company is operating with a slightly different model than most of our local breweries.
"Our initial intention was to open a physical brewery in Minneapolis or St. Paul," says co-founder Matt Zanetti. "But our head brewer Matt Lange is currently living in Madison so we decided to do contract brewing out of Black River Falls. We kind of go back and forth but the product is still completely ours."
Lake Monster is still planning to open a physical brewery sometime next year, but they have a lot going on in the meantime. The Hot Dish caught up with the Matt of Lake Monster to talk brewing philosophy, their local brewing idols, and where their beer is available right now.
Hot Dish: Who are your key players and how did you all come together to start this brewery?
Matt Zanetti: Lake Monster is myself and my brother-in-law Jeremy Maynor and then Matt Lange is our head brewer. I have a background in real estate, Jeremy has his MBA in marketing and is our CFO. The seed really just started from a general passion for craft beer but then after the Surly Bill was passed we were extra inspired. We wanted to capitalize on that new law. Then a friend of a friend introduced us to Matt Lange.
HD: What's your background in brewing?
Matt Lange: I got started homebrewing with my college roommates. I entered some contests, won a few contests, and then started really spending money and time on it. I graduated with an English literature degree in the middle of a recession and frankly getting into beer seemed more feasible than trying to write for a living. From there I became an assistant brewer at Ale Asylum in Madison. I left there to make an attempt at starting my own distillery, which just did not work. The timing was perfect when I got put in touch with Matt and Jeremy. We all just synced. We work very well together.
HD: What is Lake Monster's brewing style and brewing philosophy?
ML: We are not super super traditional European, but I wouldn't say we are on the other side of the spectrum either, with like rose hips and apricots and peppercorns. We're somewhere in the middle: Traditional in terms of style but with unique twists in a few of the ingredients we use.
When I was at Ale Asylum I got comfortable with the large scale operation. Ale Asylum is actually bigger than Sand Creek where we are brewing now. I can still source my own ingredients, recipes, and make sure everything is the way I want it. Fulton started out doing some contract stuff with Sand Creek and we always say if we could follow their trajectory we would be very happy.
HD: What's the story behind the name?
MZ: That was a result of a long, weird brainstorming session. We had about 150 names on the list at one point, and this was the one that said the most about Minnesota while still being fun, you know? Jeff Nelson, our artist who did the labels, really liked it too. We gave him a couple name ideas and he ran with this one and we really liked the art.
HD: What beers are you launching with and where are your beers available now?
ML: We have a Pilsner called Calhoun Claw, which is a really traditional Czech pilsner but made with a lot of American sterling hops, so the aroma and flavor are different. Then there's the Empty Rowboat IPA. We make that using Meridian and Crystal hops so there's a twist with that one too.
MZ: Right now we are on tap at Alary's in St. Paul, Pig Ate My Pizza, Champp's Ridgedale, and Old Chicago in Eden Prairie. My whole life is driving around and bringing people beer to taste and hope they'll put our stuff on tap, so I am hoping to grow that list soon.
By the end of the month we are hoping to get eight or ten bars on board. Bottles are a little more complicated to get completed so we probably wont be in stores until end of October or November.