Over the last five 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. For the next brewery, Tap Talk chatting with brewer Aaron Herman from Minneapolis’ beloved Town Hall Brewery.
Before breweries began popping up on every corner, before craft beer became a beverage of choice, before the Surly Bill, Minnesota had a stake in the beer community.READ MORE: Vikings RT Brian O'Neill Replaces Bucs' Tristan Wirfs In Pro Bowl
From Grain Belt to Schell’s to Summit, Minnesota has a long tradition of brewing.
Minneapolis’ Town Hall Brewery has been a part of that tradition for 19 years.
And lead brewer Aaron Herman has been a part of Town Hall’s landscape for four.
Like many brewers, Herman’s crafting began at home.
In 2006, he moved to Minnesota after finishing college in California. An avid disc golfer, he took up with a league and many of his teammates were already interested in the hobby of homebrewing.
“It was all really, really interesting to me but I had no idea what they were talking about,” Herman said. “[But in October 2010] I moved into a house that had a nice big space so I picked up the hobby.”
Herman said, like all homebrewers, his dream was to own his own brewery one day.
As he began to determine how he would accomplish this goal, he knew the first step was to get a job that had something to do with beer.
“The very first door I knocked on was Vine Park Brewing Company in St. Paul,” he said. “It just so happened that [Andy Gage] was looking for an assistant brewer to run his 3-barrel system.”
So, Herman brewed at Vine Park for six months.
Then, in early February 2012, Town Hall’s head brewer Mike Hoops had a serendipitous meeting with Herman at Vine Park.
Hoops and the team at Town Hall had askedGage to use his bottle fillers. When they arrived, Gage decided Herman should be brewing a few batches. Herman later found out that Town Hall was hiring.
Town Hall was indeed looking for a new assistant, but had stopped accepting resumes. However, Hoops let Herman submit a resume and ended up bringing him in for an interview.
“[We] had the initial interview, [then he] brought me in for a working interview,” Herman said. “I became one of three finalists and, then, the rest as they say is kind of history.”
Herman started off washing kegs, filling growlers and learning by watching other brewers at work. But just months into his new position, two former lead brewers left to help start their own breweries – LynLake and Bent Paddle – so Herman stepped into the position.
With just a few months under his belt, he became the lead brewer. Now, four years later, he still holds the position and still feels he has things to learn and room to grow.
Follow them: on Twitter at @THBrewery, on Facebook at Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, or visit their website online.
Owners: Pete Rifakes
Brewers: Michael Hoops and Aaron Herman
Location: 1430 Washington Avenue S.
Hours: Monday – Wednesday: 11 to 1 a.m., Thursday – Saturday: 11 to 2 a.m. Sunday: 11 – 12 a.m.
Unlike many breweries that Minnesotans may be familiar with, Town Hall Brewery is a brew pub. Can you explain how that differs from other local spots?READ MORE: Vikings Reportedly Hire Kwesi Adofo-Mensah As GM
Herman: We’re licensed as a brew pub as opposed to, pretty much all [other] tap rooms, [which] are licensed as distribution breweries. As far as true brew pubs are concerned, we’re not allowed to distribute. So, we can’t bottle or can or sell kegs to a distributor for sale – so like at Republic for example or at a liquor store. The only way for a brew pub to increase their production is to open up other restaurants under the same ownership umbrella. So, we’re essentially self-distributing to ourselves.
So, that’s why people can have your beer at Town Hall Lanes and Town Hall Tap! Tell me, what is the biggest difference, aside from the licensing, between brew pubs and distribution breweries?
Herman: Probably just the sheer volume. Again, brew pubs being limited by how much they are physically able to sell over the counter, which pales in comparison [with] what you’d be able to sell to a distributor. The only way we can sell beer is if people come in and drink it. We can’t bring beer to the people.
So when the Surly Bill came into being, how did that affect Town Hall, if at all?
Herman: We still can’t distribute, so that bill unfortunately did nothing for brew pubs. But interest in craft beer definitely has blown up I think, in part, because of the Surly Bill.
Many people are concerned that following the Surly Bill there have been too many breweries opening up and that eventually the bubble will burst. How do you feel the Surly Bill affected the Twin Cities brewing scene?
Herman: Since the Surly Bill was passed, of course, that’s when all these taprooms started popping up. So, if anything, it’s good for craft beer in general without question I’d say. I think more and more people are getting into craft beer. I do feel that our market base’s palate is still maturing, because there is definitely a variety of quality out there. I don’t think we’ll get to a point where we’re saturated because I don’t think there is ever going to be too many breweries, but [what] I do think will happen is we’ll reach somewhat of a tipping point as far as quality is concerned. I think, and I don’t wish any ill will on anyone, but I think that we’ll start to see quality improve and as that consumer base palate matures they’ll just stop patronizing the places that they feel don’t have as high of quality.
Since you mentioned quality, let’s talk a little bit about yours! Tell me about the beer. What are the year-round brews you offer?
*Listen to Herman discuss the six house beers at Town Hall Brewery.
There are quite a few tap lines at Town Hall, so I have to believe you have a few rotating beers to fill those. Tell me a little bit about your seasonals.
Herman: We have a total of 12 seasonals that are always on tap, two of which are on nitro. We call the nitro beers seasonal, but sometimes they can be a house beer just placed on nitro for a limited time.
*Listen to Herman discuss some of the other the seasonal beers on tap.
Also, I see that you also have “guest” beers on your lines. What are “guest” beers?
Herman: They can be national or local beer from other brewers. We have a Surly on right now, a New Belgium [too]. We also have three sours that we try to keep on at all times as well. Then, we have two guest nitro beers for a total of five nitro beers. This is so we can offer nitro flights. In addition to the guest beer, we carry 10 ciders at all times.
Wow! That is a lot of different types of beer and cider! What a great selection! So, being that you are connected to a restaurant, does Chef Matt Lepisto ever ask you to create a specific beer?
Herman: We kind of view ourselves as somewhat of an independently functioning entity from the restaurant. By and large we’re going to create the recipes independently from the kitchen. I think Matt is a lot more nimble in creating dishes around the beer that I’m putting out than I [am] around [what he is putting out.] I can’t actually recall a time that we tried to create a specific beer for him. However, this is something we can do and do more of for catering. (Events@townhallbrewery.com)
That’s great that you get to have that collaboration when you’re looking for it, but that both the restaurant and the brewery stand on their own. So, owners Pete and Scot got the name Town Hall from their middle school baseball team – West Middleton Town. Tell me, what does Town Hall mean to you?
Herman: When I think of Town Hall, I think of a family sort of feel with the staff and the regulars who come in. It’s a really comfortable, very relaxed atmosphere. Being a brewer at Town Hall I feel that I, for lack of putting it another way, get a lot of respect from the brewing community. It’s very humbling. If I meet someone new in the brewing community it’s always “Oh, you’re at Town Hall? That’s amazing. I love their beer.” It’s always nothing but praise. It’s very humbling. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of.
It sounds like although it came from a different inspiration the name really embodies a meeting place for a community. Finally, how would you describe Town Hall Brewery in one word?MORE NEWS: The Great Northern