By current Twin Cities beer standards, 13-year-old brewpubs like the Herkimer Pub and Brewery are the scene's grandfathers. Sure, they have 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 also on the Lyn-Lake bastion's itinerary are a Baltic porter and a Belgian IPA, and Richardson plans to begin production on four or five new styles in the next month and expand his tap total to eight in-house handles, plus four guest taps in 2013.
One newbie that 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 beer junkies known as wet-hopping.
While wet hops are generally reserved for IPAs, the result is a light-bodied beer with a boldness 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, then we'll belly up and listen -- however many times he wants to tell them.