Mankato Brewery's Tim Tupy talks about the new Center Street Series
Tupy has gone from home brewer to co-founder of a three-year-old company
Mankato Brewery is a newcomer on the rapidly growing Minnesota scene. Geographically separated from many of the other recent startups, the North Mankato-based brewery primarily serves southern Minnesota, with distribution reaching north toward the Mississippi River. The brewery is working to extend its metro reach, but they also must balance demand in the local markets as they expand.
Continuing an ongoing discussion with brewers about the state of the local brew scene, the Hot Dish talked with co-owner Tim Tupy about getting his brewery, the first Mankato brewery since 1967, off the ground. Our discussion came on the afternoon after Mankato released its Center Street Series beer #1, an Amber Ale that is going over well.
Hot Dish: How did the release with Center Street #1 go last night?
Tim Tupy: It went really well. It seemed to be well received.
HD: You're planning to do the Center Street series four times per year, kind of seasonally starting next year?
Tupy: We have two more yet that we're going to be doing before the end of this year. An IPA style, and then we'll do this other one that we haven't announced. That will be right at Thanksgiving. The idea is to get three out very quickly and just have some fun with it. That way people will be anticipating quarterly next year.
HD: Are these draught only?
Tupy: For right now they are, just because we're trying to do this as quickly as we can and not having to split a lot of energy into six-packs and that, but we are working on a sample pack to get out for the holiday.
That will be our Mankato Original, our Stickum, and then one of our Center Street Series so we can plan on giving a sample pack with bottles. That way we wouldn't have to do the six-pack carrier for it, which in some aspects, going into development and printing everything, it costs more than what goes into the bottle of beer. So if we can do a special carrier for 12 bottles as a box, that's the easiest and quickest and cheapest route for us to go to get Center Street in the bottles. Putting it in the bottles isn't hard, it's all the other stuff.
The Mankato brew crew: (left to right) Livia Lastine (market manager), Tony Feuchtenberger (co-founder), Bobby Blasey (head brewer), Tim Tupy (co-founder)
HD: How has the transition gone from being a home brewer to doing it on a more commercial scale?
Tupy: I feel that I couldn't have done it without the right team. The decision that Tony and I made was that we knew that we needed to bring someone in that understood the art and the science of brewing where he could do that consistency. There are things that we can do to help out--and I've done brew days myself--but a lot of it is under guidance or direction.
It's important to make sure that you have somebody that actually has a degree in brewing science as far as a team. When things are going good, that's great, but if you run into problems or situations or something you have to deal with, you need somebody that can really analyze the situation quickly and be confident in their decision. From our perspective, everybody has their role, and that's kind of how we do it.
The transition itself, I think, went great because we had the right team. I would say surround yourself with people who have skills that you either don't have or you need.
HD: As a brewer and business owner, how do you balance between what you like to drink personally versus what you know is marketable. Have you wanted to make anything really out there and had second thoughts about it?
Tupy: That's where we have the Center Street beer. It won't follow any specific tradition or be based on regional styles of beers. One to the next, you could have extreme differences. That's the idea: having fun with that. We will still continue to do the two German-style beers and then with the Center Streets, depending how they go maybe a month down the road in January after we have these three out and we're working on #4, we could look and say, "You know, that #3 went over well, and we'll bring it back next holiday again." Or maybe the amber ale that we did now, maybe that one will be there year round. I think we'll continue to try to build support based on different profiles of what we're looking for in beers, but that doesn't mean ... We're still going to make beers that we enjoy drinking, but you're not going to make everybody happy with every kind you make.
HD: Is the Center Street series the project of [brewmaster] Bobby Blasey, or is it the entire staff?
Tupy: We'll all do our own home brew or small-batch type stuff and get together ... What's better, A or B? We kind of go through different approaches.
HD: I had a couple questions about the rest of the staff. How did you get involved with Tony for the founding process?
Tupy: We had home brewed together, and my wife also owns Liv Aveda Spa, and his wife is our general manager there. We have about 50 employees at that business, and one of the days we were home brewing I was like, "Hey, what do you think about the idea of opening a brewery." That was three years ago.
[Tony's] background is more production/operation, and my background is more IT-type, computer science, and finance.
HD: Minnesota has seen a lot of growth in the amount of breweries in the last five years, especially the last one or two. How do you view the state of the local industry?
Tupy: I think it's great. All we're doing is increasing the demand by creating more awareness. [Beers] still don't compare with walking down the wine aisle and how much you have there.
In Minnesota, some other states are ahead of us as far as the current adopting and embracing of local and handcrafted beers. If you want to order them, for example, a lot of places you go to you're not going to find large, domestic beers on tap. If you want that beer they maybe have it in a bottle, but everything is all local, all craft breweries on tap. I think in Minnesota that's the direction that we'll be going, but we still have a ways to go before we get there. To be looking: Are there certain places that crave craft beer more than others, maybe based on the percentage of their tap lines that are designated to local and handcrafted beer and the regional microbrewery? I think you'll see a lot more of that. Even 1 percent growth in the market is everything. We still have plenty of room for growth.
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