Minot locals bring their expertise of sour beer to the public
Downtown Minot welcomes a new business to the scene, Atypical Brewery and Barrelworks. The idea to open the brewery began with two of the owners, Nick Holwegner and Eric Johnson, about a year ago. Holwegner, co-founder of SRB (Souris River Brewing), has a background in chemistry and biology and is one of the head brewers at Atypical. Holwegner’s co-head brewer, Johnson, also has a background in chemistry and has been a science teacher for nine years.
Both men have science backgrounds in biology and/or chemistry and a passion for craft beer. Having been brewing for years, they are making their idea come to life, bringing Central Avenue a unique new business. Johnson has been home brewing for multiple years, winning awards for his creations.
“Right now, we kind of do a little bit of everything. The goal is kind of to eventually specialize in barrel-aged sour beers. That was kind of my passion as a home brewer,” Johnson expressed. “I have unique cultures that I’ve taken care of for several years and reused over and over. It’s one of the unique things about sour beers, the cultures will change over time, but you can keep using them, essentially forever.”
Johnson said, “the beer tells you when it’s ready and tastes like its finished,” taking any time from six months to six years after entering the barrel.
Part of the idea behind barrel-aging is that while the beer sits in the barrel, it ages and the barrel allows in small amounts of oxygen, which can be good for the beer; however, too much oxygen can turn the product into vinegar. The process gives the beer complexity and keeps the yeast partially active.
When it comes to making the brews, deciding on a general style is the first step, then the brewers follow a loose set of criteria the beer should fall into. They decide whether they want the brews on the higher or lower end of the alcohol range, and also how sweet, dry, or bitter they want it.
“Even like something like a stout can be sweet or dry; it can be all sorts of things. Ours kind of falls in the medium sweetness range, not too sweet. It has kind of a nice coffee flavor, little bit of chocolate, so per each style you kind of figure out which particular flavors within that style you want to hit,” Johnson explained.
Since the brewers have gained experience over time, they are knowledgeable when it comes to the different aspects of the brew.
“There’s lots of things you can tweak. On the fermentation end, the temperature that you keep the yeast at will give you different flavors, and then there’s probably hundreds of different varieties of yeast. There’s kind of infinite possibilities,” Johnson explained.
“We know what grains will do what and give what certain attributes, which hops we would like to smell as far as aroma, flavor, and taste. Yeast is a huge part, too. I don’t think many people know that yeast is a huge part of the flavor of the beer,” Holwegner added.
With an opening set in the near future, the brewery is at an exciting point in the business venture.
“Getting the first batches going, creating flavors, profiles, seeing a quality finished product, you can ask Eric the same thing, but that’s kind of my favorite obviously; and seeing it come together,” Holwegner expressed.
“The whole reason I got into brewing, personally, is because you can make exactly what you like and it’s fun when you get the product that you’re looking for and then other people like it as well, it’s kind of rewarding,” Johnson added.
Shorty after the idea came about, Holwegner and Johnson began taking steps forward on the business end, they partnered with Brady Dixon and Dylan Davis. Dixon, owner and operator of BAD Creations custom woodworking, a company that operates on the same property as the brewery, provided the layout blueprints for Atypical and is the general contractor for the new business. Davis, owner and operator of Absolute Home Inspections, provided the property —both serve as silent owners.
The name Atypical was Holwegner’s idea after seeing it on a friend’s online profile. After tossing around multiple ideas, it became the perfect fit for the unique shape of the building that would become the home for brewery. What used to be a cottage-looking gas station built in 1929, serves as the A-frame building that became the foundation for Atypical. Construction began in the building in December 2017.
“It’s an iconic place that everyone knows or adores or has a story about — we just loved the spot,” Holwegner said. “It just kind of worked out because there’s not a lot of barrel-aged sour breweries in general and there’s zero in North Dakota, so, in that sense, it’s atypical. We wanted to make atypical beers, not your typical brews, and the fact that it’s an A-frame, this cool looking cottagey A-frame, it just all came together.”
Although the Brewery is not yet open to serve, they began hosting outdoor events this past fall. Come spring, they plan to continue with a variety of events throughout the summer and build a permanent stage in the courtyard. They plan for their first outdoor event of 2019 to be the grand opening party.
In conjunction with the events, Atypical began pouring and distributing their beer in the community. Feedback thus far has been very positive and their consumers are honest in their opinions on the brews.
“All in all, there’s a sense that we’re making quality product. At least whether you like a certain style or not, at least it’s quality beer. That’s the feedback we’re getting right now,” Holwegner said. “People are excited and they keep telling us to get open, so we’re trying.”