Nightlife: Old brewpub tries new tricks

  • Article by: MICHAEL RIETMULDER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2012 - 4:01 PM

After 13 years of brewing mostly German-style beers, Herkimer is poised to offer bolder, hoppier new formulations.

Blake Richardson

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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By current Twin Cities' beer standards, the 13-year-old brewpub Herkimer Pub and Brewery is like one of the scene's grandfathers. Sure, they've got a few interesting stories to tell, but do you really want to hear them for the thousandth time when new breweries are sprouting up biweekly?

Since 1999, the Uptown brewpub has dealt strictly in traditional German styles -- largely lagers and ales. But that's about to change.

After more than a decade in the beer biz, owner and head brewer Blake Richardson is planning an overhaul of his tap roster, and its Bavarian bedrock could shatter like a geriatric hip.

"I think the general consensus in the American brewing scene is that there should be no limitations in what any one brewery can make," Richardson said. "We were pretty committed to the German tradition of brewing for quite a long time. It just seemed the timing was right to break from that and go along with the new traditions of American craft brewers."

Whoa, hold your hasenpfeffer there, Hans. The Deutschland love won't completely dissolve. Richardson hasn't ruled out keeping some current faves in rotation, like his Kolsch or the popular Alt, which recently received a recipe tweaking, and some of the newcomers sound more Munich than Minnesota. But the Lyn-Lake bastion's itinerary now includes a Baltic porter and a Belgian IPA, and Richardson plans to begin producing four or five new styles in the next month, expanding his tap total to eight in-house handles, plus four guest taps early next year.

One newbie Richardson rolled out last week is his Tomorrow Doppel Pils. A double pilsner? German enough, but there's a twist: an unabashed, American-style hop frenzy. "We overnighted 40 pounds of El Dorado hops and we brewed with them the next day," he said of a process that beer junkies know as wet hopping, generally reserved for IPAs.

The result is a light-bodied beer with a boldness that Herkimer's lineup has been lacking. Even though Tomorrow is only available for a limited time, it shows Richardson's openness to hybrid recipes. One of the Belgian-curious brewer's favorite new blends is a kottbusser, a traditional but seldom-found German style he brews with saosin yeast. "We're just not going to shackle ourselves in any sense of the word," he said.

Richardson's Germanic jailbreak comes at a time when the local landscape has changed drastically. If Grandpa can conjure more fresh stories as compelling as the doppel pils, belly up and listen -- however many times he wants to tell them.

Herkimer Pub and Brewery, 2922 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-821-0101

Doubling down at Summit

Herkimer isn't the only old-timer making some changes. On Friday Summit Brewing Co. is breaking ground on a cellar expansion that will double its capacity. The planned addition of 7,600 square feet and a dozen 600-barrel fermentation tanks marks the biggest expansion of its St. Paul brewery, with a June completion date eyed. Having twice as much Summit in the world seems cause for celebration, so a groundbreaking ceremony with a toast from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman will be held 5 p.m. Friday during taproom hours (3-8 p.m.). The first 100 beer buyers will receive a commemorative stein.

910 Montreal Circle, St. Paul. www.summitbrewing.com

300 Beers 

Tickets for the fourth annual Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival ($35-$45), to be held Jan. 26 at the St. Paul farmers market in Lowertown, went on sale Thursday. The perennially sold-out event features more than 300 beers for the sampling, a homebrew competition, live music and more.

290 E. 5th St., St. Paul. www.thebeerdabbler.com)

Michael Rietmulder is a Minneapolis writer.

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