Over the last five or so 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 week, we're featuring Lake Monster Brewing in St. Paul.
Add Lake Monster Brewing to the ever expanding list of brewery/taprooms in the Twin Cities!
The brewery -- located right off Interstate 94 at 550 Vandalia St. in St. Paul -- celebrated its long-awaited grand opening on Dec. 4.
The brewery is the brainchild of Matt Zanetti, who decided to get back into the family business, "making booze." But instead of wine (his father was a former vineyard manager), Zanetti chose beer.
After all, beer is better suited for the Minnesota climate.
"I saw the burgeoning beer scene and so four springs ago, my dad and I put in 90 hop plants," Zanetti said.
That's when the seeds of Lake Monster were literally planted.
Zanetti teamed up with his brother-in-law Jeremy Maynor, who runs the business side of things, and brewmaster Matt Lange, who of course engineers all of the brewery's delicious beers.
And they chose a great spot. The brewery's location/space is impressive. The inside area is quite large with the brewery in full view of the taproom. The warehouse area the brewery is housed in is undergoing a major revitalization, too, so expect more from this area in the future.
Now, Lake Monster's dream is realized, and their taps – which strive to offer unique versions of classic beer styles – are flowing!
For more on Lake Monster, check out the interview below with Zanetti and Lange below!
Firstly, what's up with the name? Are there any specific lakes in mind?
Lange: 10,000 of them! We're making a lot of beers… 10,000 beers. (laughs) No.
Zanetti: I had a list of 80-90 names. Then a good friend of Jeremy's, our partner's, is a local area artist and illustrator. And he pretty much started the work. His name's Jeff Nelson, and started doodling and came up with a couple of cool names and good artwork behind them. This (the beer designs) is all him.
I realized I was overthinking it. We don't need to take ourselves too seriously. I just wanted our company to be fun. Let's come up with a nice, fun name and make some good beer!
What are your goals for the space?
Zanetti: I'm not saying I want it completely family-oriented, but very welcoming gathering spot to enjoy some fantastic beer. We've got a whole sundry of different ideas for events, gatherings and such.
You seemed to have found a spot right smack dab between St. Paul and Minneapolis -- How did you decide on this location? What do you love about it?
Zanetti: It's perfect. It's right off of 94 and we've got over an acre of parking (laughs).
Lange: We're almost half-way between each downtown. It's easy to get to. And you may have heard of the stadium (Minnesota United) that's going in up the road. We're looking to collaborate.
Lange, I've read that you are an award-winning homebrewer – so, what's it like making the transition from home-brewing to eventually being in charge of large brewing operation?
Lange: Well, it's great. I worked at a brewery in Madison, Wisconsin in between. Ale Asylum. Great brewery. So I'm not going straight to it.
The fundamentals are the same but you're on a bigger scale. It's good to have a base of knowledge on how the chemistry works – recipe/formulation. Home-brewing is great for that.
When you step it up, you need to know how all the chemicals work. You need to know the pumps, the big tanks. This system has a couple quirks that I've been figuring out.
There are people who've gone from home-brewing to a big system and I'm glad I didn't do that.
So, what's the philosophy being Lake Monster's beers?
Lange: You know, I haven't met a brew style I don't like. It's kind of all across the map. As far as philosophy, I just like to put my own spin on traditional styles. So, I don't necessarily brew right down the line.
For the session ale, it's a pale ale, but it's almost a cross between an American IPA and an English bitters. Real low alcohol, but with tones of flavor.
I like to do a good mix of ales and lagers. I don't think there is enough good lagers out there. Good craft lagers are few and far between.
For the most part, I like German lagers and hoppy ales. So, that's kinda what I'm making. (laughs)
So what will be your recurring taps?
Lange: The Pilsner and the IPA are year-round. We're thinking we'll probably add a third one.
Zanetti: Matt's being kind of ambiguous (laughs). We will add a third and a fourth seasonal, so we'll always have four.
Lange: I'd like to do a Bach in the spring, (for) summer we've talked about a Belgian wheat beer …Octoberfest in the fall and maybe a stout in the winter. And the cool thing about the tap room is that it's sort of the built in R&D department. We can find out what people are into … gauge people's interest in certain stuff.
Are there any beers you prefer not brewing due to the difficulty/non-interest?
Lange: Nothing's too difficult! (laughs) Honestly, I'm not a fan of pumpkin beer.
I don't think I'll ever make a maibock. Whenever I drink a maibock, it's heavy, it's kinda sweet. I'd rather have a doppelbock. There's much more going on.
Zanetti: But we want to make things that people want to drink, too. Maybe we'll make a pumpkin beer, but Matt and I may not drink much of it! (laughs)
Lange: The spicing will be very modest if I have to make a pumpkin beer. Very mellow. You can find your own way to do it!
Simply put – why beer?
Lange: Because it's the greatest thing that mankind has been able to figure out to make. I mean, quite simply.
Zanetti: All we've said from the beginning is if we can just make a decent living. And when I say decent, I mean modest. I don't need a lot. If you can do that making a quality product locally and have a cool environment and atmosphere at which to do it, that's the dream.
One more and it's a fun one! If you had to choose a theme song for your brewery/taproom, which song would it be?
Zanetti: Rainbow Connection sung by Kermit the Frog! (laughs)
Lange: Monster Mash is pretty easy. Mash as in mash beer. And monster, lake monster. But it only works for a couple days out of the year because of Halloween ... (laughs)
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