Fancy beer fanciers will have a reason to rejoice come summertime.

That's when lifelong friends Jon Erickson and Josh Hebzynski hope to open the Angry Inch Brewery, a craft beer taproom in downtown Lakeville. They'll take over the old Ace Hardware building at 20841 Holyoke Av., which has been largely vacant for the past four years.

The plan right now is to offer nine beers. Six will be on tap year-round: their flagship, award-winning Daddy's Honey Pot; a heavy gravity French saison; Angry Inch pale ale; Easy Amber; an Irish red; and Four Horsemen, an IPA. A seventh, like Solar Eclipse, a Belgian white pale ale, will rotate every six months; an eighth will change every two months, and a ninth will be "whatever Josh and I are experimenting with," Erickson said last week.

The taproom won't serve food, but guests can bring in their own or walk next door and get takeout from Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill, a food-truck business opening its first sedentary spot in the other half of the 6,400-square-foot building. Each business will have its own outdoor patio.

Both businesses have signed leases with Metro Equity Management; now the Angry Inch is working on licenses.

The Angry Inch Brewery will be the first craft beer taproom in Lakeville, thanks to an ordinance change by the city in January. It joins the Badger Hill taproom in Shakopee, which opened in January, as the only two exclusively beer taprooms in Scott and Dakota counties.

Erickson and Hebzynski considered locations in Eagan and Burnsville. Then, last August, they co-sponsored a golf tournament, took over one of the holes and served three beers. There, they ran into a fellow from Metro Equity Management, who sampled and loved their beer and told them about the old hardware building.

"We both learned never to cross something off our list without thinking about it really hard," Erickson said. "My dad lives in Lakeville. We love the city, love the people and thought, 'Hey, we could make it work down here.' "

Friends who brew

The friends, both 33, met in their kindergarten classroom in Fridley and have been best buddies ever since. Erickson was working as a Volkswagen mechanic when a co-worker gave him a home-brewing kit.

"So, coldest day of the year, 17 below outside, we decided we were going to brew our first batch of beer and just fell in love with it," Erickson said. That was in January 2011 and their passion for brewing has only grown since.

It was last summer that the two, after taking home a couple of gold medals in competitions, decided it was time to open a brewery. For both, it's their first attempt at a small business.

"If you don't love what you're doing, it's not worth doing no matter what you're being paid," Erickson said. "We're looking forward to sharing that with people."

The men still brew their beer in Erickson's garage and have periodic tastings that have grown from friends and neighbors to friends of friends of friends and so on. The next one is March 21.

Lakeville Mayor Matt Little plans to be there.

"We are really excited for two reasons," Little said of the brewery. "It's our first brew pub, and No. 2, they chose to locate in downtown. We're excited that it will bring something new to downtown."

By June, Erickson said, they hope to begin brewing in the new location, and by Pan-O-Prog Days over the July 4 weekend, they hope to open the doors.

Down the road, they hope to distribute to bars and restaurants. About 20 bars have expressed an interest in having Angry Inch beer on tap, Erickson said.

Erickson plans to quit his job at the St. Paul branch of the Northern Brewer, a home-brewing supply company, and work at the Angry Inch full-time. Hebzynski will keep his job as an assistant manager at Home Depot and work at the brewery part-time, for now.

They'll continue experimenting with new brews. But one won't be repeated, Erickson said.

"We tried once making a watermelon wheat beer," he said. "It was a great idea, just not so great on the execution.

"You have successes and you have failures," Erickson said. "The watermelon was definitely a failure."

He hopes Angry Inch Brewery will be the opposite, a huge success.

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284