Over the last five-plus years, the craft brewery movement has grown exponentially in Minnesota. The Associated Press says licensing records show two-thirds of Minnesota breweries have opened just since 2010. So, we decided to help you – and your livers – keep up with the taproom trend by stopping by some of these Twin Cities brewhouses. This time, we’re heading to northwestern Minnesota. Next up, Disgruntled Brewing, where “Grumpy is good.”
For former drywall business owner turned brewmaster Brett Doebbling, being disgruntled has always pushed him to do better.
In other words, just being good isn’t quite good enough. And for those who enjoy craft beer and can’t seem to find their fix in central Minnesota, this is great news.
Doebbling’s experience with drinking beer, like many others, started quite humbly. That is, until a popular Minnesota beer hit his taste buds.
“Growing up in central Minnesota here, I was a big Coors Light drinker and I kinda graduated to New Castle, and Stella and European lagers and whatnot – and then I had my first Surly Furious. And I was blown away that there was beer like this out there,” he said.
And that’s when his mother kindled the fire.
“Next thing you know my mom bought me a Mr. Beer kit from Herberger’s and I made the worst India Pale Ale anybody’s ever tasted (laughs), but it sparked the interest, you know? Next thing you know I’m cutting kegs apart and welding in hot water heater elements,” he said.
It didn’t take long for his brewing to take on some outside interest, too.
“Before you know it, I finally have the process down and start winning beer competitions and the investors kind of started calling. It’s been quite the progress, actually,” he said.
Fast forward six years since the idea began and on Feb. 7, 2016, the always-not-quite-satisfied brewmaster opened Disguntled Brewing’s taproom to the thirsty masses.
So, for more on the brewery, check out the interview with Doebbling below!
Tell me more about why being “disgruntled” or “grumpy” a good thing for brewing?
I think it really describes me to a T. I worked for and owned my own drywall business for about 15 years before this thing all took off. I always called myself the “disgruntled employee.” I always thought I could better myself.
I sat at home for the first two years thinking of names for my little garage brewery I had. I initially came up with the Disgruntled Brewing Company and it just kind of stuck. Then we hired a marketing group out of Brainerd — RedHouseMedia – and he loved it. It’s kind of close to Surly, but he said we’re going a different direction.
I see you brew a plethora of styles, are there any beers that are off-limits? Are there any styles you like brewing?
Belgian ales are one style I kind of stayed away from, otherwise we’re all over. I mean, you name it.
I’m a huge imperial stout guy. I love doing barrel aging and whatnot. I’m also a huge hop head, India Pale Ales. Within the last three years or so, I’ve been getting into these kettle sours and quick souring. I like ’em, it’s not something I’d drink all night, but it’s something you can start the night with …
So, what’s the philosophy behind your beers?
Oh, our big thing is having fresh beer here. Living in central Minnesota, anytime you go to a bar or liquor store, you can’t really get fresh beer. Even Surly Furious, by the time I get it at the store, they’re a month or two months old, and the beer has totally changed!
So, that’s kind of my big thing. I wanted to bring people the fresh beer taste. I absolutely love it and hope they do, too.
How’d you decide on this location?
When we first started out, we were contemplating about which city to decide. And we went and talked to the EDA here in Perham and within 24 hours, they were bending over backwards for us.
We were initially going to build out by the highway, so you could see us from Highway 10, but from a growth point of view, it made more sense for us to come back (more toward downtown Perham).
What would you tell a home-brewer wanting to get into the business?
Get every piece of literature you can. Study. Study. Study. Spend your nights on ProBrewer.com. And try to find someone you can talk to, bounce ideas off of, get information off of. I was able to politely ask Junkyard and Jack Pine… just having those guys was crucial; otherwise it’s a lot of trial and error. It really hurts a startup if you have to dump a big batch.
It’s a well-known fact that water is the most important aspect of beer – what kind of water do you use and can you use the city’s?
Water is my most crucial ingredient here. Water and yeast. When I home brewed, I’d get reverse osmosis water and then I would blend it with filtered tap water from my city.
Well, as soon as I got all the tanks in place and started calibrating the system, running water through it … after boiling 250 gallons, I noticed there was an inch of white slime on the bottom of the tanks – calcium carbonate and permanent hardness . I just came to find out that I can’t use the city water here.
So, we actually installed a really nice RO water system. I use full RO water and build to each style. Every style basically has a different water profile.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure beer?
East coast IPAs …
Lastly, what’s does the future have in store for Disgruntled?
My No. 1 goal right now is to get the beer to top-notch quality. I never brewed commercially before. I’m basically a home brewery. I never even helped a brewery. I didn’t sleep for the three months leading up to my first batch. The beer came out phenomenal, but I still think that it’s about 90 percent to where it should be. I’m still tidying up my process.
No. 1 is the quality and if we’re fortunate to get some money, to slowly expand and get it out there a little farther.