By Cole Premo

We’re helping you – and your livers – keep up with the taproom trend by stopping by some of the Minnesota brewhouses. For the next brewery, Tap Talk is taking a trip to central Minnesota and visiting Foxhole Brewhouse in Willmar.

Ryan Fuchs is not scared of getting a little heat for (slightly) nudging his customers to try different craft brew styles.

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In fact, as the co-owner and head brewer of a brewery in Willmar — a central Minnesota town of roughly 20,000 — he feels it’s his job to educate and introduce residents to different flavors and aromas.

“You want to introduce new styles to people, otherwise they’ll get kind of complacent in what they want to drink,” Fuchs said. “If you just brew the same-old-same-old, you get stuck in a rut. And I just don’t want that to happen. You wanna keep giving them new choices, new flavors.

It’s a big job to take on, especially for a brewery located in a town that hasn’t seen a brewery since 1899.

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

So, the craft beer is relatively new to the area, but it’s also pretty new to Fuchs.

“Oh my gosh, I think it’s been a little over 5 years now. My first home brew was in February of 2012. So, it really hasn’t even been that long,” Fuchs said.

What followed that first batch, however, was an intense drive to learn and understand all things craft beer. From there, small batches turned into large batches and large home brews transitioned into a craft brewery now known as Foxhole Brewing.

So, what’s with the name? Well, it was born when Fuchs and his wife, Liv, would host big home brew tasting parties.

“My wife nicknamed our house the Foxhole, because our last name is Fuchs, which in German, means fox. So, she kind of coined that term and we ran with that,” he said.

For more on the brewery, its beers and background, check out the interview with Ryan Fuchs below!

Liz and Ryan Fuchs (credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

Liz and Ryan Fuchs (credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

First off, when did you guys open and how has everything been since then?

Late August of 2015. It’s been really busy and it’s been a blast.

Awesome! So, tell me about the spark that made all of this happen!

The whole spark was me and my wife started drinking darker beers… what did it for me is Surly Furious. Had it on tap in Rochester. Back then Furious was cloudy and hoppy as heck, not it’s all filtered and everything, so it’s not quite the same. Then, a friend of ours, who’s a homebrewer, told us we could make our own beer! He hooked us up with Midwest Supplies and we got a starter kit. I did about four extract kits and then switched to all grain.

(credit: Foxhole Brewery)

(credit: Foxhole Brewery)

How did you make the switch from home brewing to commercial brewing?

At first, you’re just learning and getting your stride making those first batches. Then you get better and let more and more friends try it. I couldn’t keep up with 5-gallon batches, so I switched to a 10-gallon system. Then, I started entering competitions and did really well in those.

Then, we started doing big home brew tasting parties. We’d go through 15, 20 gallons of beer in one night. That’s where the name was born.

I spent a brew day at Indeed. The process is generally the same. Seeing it all happen, I was like, “I can do this.” Then I had to think about what I wanted for here, running a business plan and you just had to rough estimate it. Willmar is only a town of 20,000 people. So, it’s not northeast Minneapolis! (laughs) So, that took a little bit of time and finding the property. We found a spot right next door to the Barn Theater. There were a few nonprofits that were trying to develop the business and they contacted us. We got that all worked out, and built up, and here we are!

How do you feel about being the first brewery in Willmar since the late 1800s?

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I can hardly find any information on that spot (William Gilger Brewery). I only found this old brewery book. It was located where the Kandiyohi County Fair is located now, right next to the waterfront. I wish there was a little bit more information, so we could do some recreations of some of their old beers, but I can’t find any information!

Now for the big question: What’s your overall philosophy when it comes to beer?

My wheelhouse is definitely lighter styles and IPAs. That’s my kind of passion. I really enjoy making Blondes.
IPAs are just comfortable for me. I brewed a lot more of those home brewing than I did maltier styles. Some of the maltier styles, they’re the ones I have to experiment with on a smaller batch, because getting those flavors to balance out perfectly is critical. Whereas IPAs are all about the hops.

You want to introduce new styles to people, otherwise they’ll get kind of complacent in what they want to drink. I’ve personally let some of our popular styles drop off, which makes customers try something different, some different flavors. Sometimes I get in trouble, a little heat for it. But we have a little bit of job to education people, too. If you just brew the same-old-same-old, you get stuck in a rut. And I just don’t want that to happen. You wanna keep giving them new choices, new flavors.

But if they want to fall back to their old favorite, that’s fine, too.

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

What are your main flagship beers and could you describe them?

The English cream ale, which is called the Double J. It’s actually a friend of ours at a concrete business. He wanted us to design a beer for his workers who are Busch Light drinkers (laughs). He wanted something comparable that they could drink (laughs)!

Our main flagship beer is definitely our Foxbite IPA … I wouldn’t call it west coast, I like calling it a Midwest. It’s got more of a maltier backbone than a west coast.

Our Cardinal Red, which is a double red IPA. Definitely some more residual sweetness in there.

And then our Pecan Porter. It’s one of our more common dark beers you’ll see on. It’s just a nice, very drinkable porter. Just a shade under 5 percent alcohol.

Are there any styles that you really want to brew but haven’t yet?

I’ve actually been goofing around with gose. There’s been an explosion of gose. I really enjoy the slightly tart, crisp finish with them. A really nice summer beer. That’s actually one of the ones I’ll do a small batch of.

Then, I’m gonna monkey around with a chocolate peanut butter brown ale. That’s one that we really haven’t tried. Everybody rages about Dangerous Man’s peanut butter porter, and people tell me to do that, and I’m like.. “ok, fine.”

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

Are there styles you refuse to brew?

Our pumpkin ale is one of our favorites in-house, but honestly it’s one of the biggest pain-in-the-butt to make – using all of that pumpkin in the mash. It’s the most disgusting … and I’m glad I only have to do it once a year. It’s awful and turns everything orange. Takes extra cleaning and extra time, that’s for darn sure.

As for styles I wouldn’t brew, I don’t think so.. I haven’t touched on sours yet just because I don’t have a lot of room in here right now. Not quite ready to commit to it. They don’t sell the best out here either way.

Lastly, what’s next for Foxhole?

One of the IPA styles I really want to try is the East Coast IPA where it has a real juicy mouth-feel and a real cloudy-looking beer. We’ll see how it goes and all you can do is try!

And we’re hoping to get hooked up with Bernick’s start doing a little bit more distribution with them. Hopefully in the near future, people may start seeing our beers out a bit more in that direction, St. Cloud and whatnot.

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(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)

(credit: Foxhole Brewhouse)