Shakopee is now a two-brewery town.
More accurately, it’s now home to two breweries of vastly different scope. Shakopee got itsindustrial destination brewery in Badger Hill back in 2014. Now, with the grand opening of Shakopee Brewhall, there's a walk-in tavern in the heart of downtown.
“I wanted to be on the downtown strip,” Shakopee CEO and co-owner Ryan Lindquist says. “Nothing against industrial parks, but I really wanted to be just what this is -- an old building, and reaping the rewards of the historical surroundings around us.”
After two weeks of soft opens, Shakopee Brewhall held its grand opening this past weekend. From here on out, they’ll be open Wednesday through Sunday, with seven beers currently on tap.
Wedged between Turtle’s Bar & Grill and Arnie’s, Shakopee Brewhall didn’t set out to compete with Badger Hill or other breweries south of the river. Instead, Lindquist and co-owner Damon Schuler focused on creating an enticing storefront that could attract neighborhood Coors Light drinkers and supplement their evenings with some craft beer education.
Walking into Shakopee’s stone storefront, it feels more like a pre-Prohibition saloon than a brewery. An exposed brick wall runs all the way to the back, with tungsten lights giving the room a warm, vintage feel. Hung on the walls across from the bar are black-and-white shots of post-industrial Shakopee, allowing bar-goers to participate in the history of the Scott County bedroom community. Big multi-party tables pepper the taproom as an invitation to share the present simultaneously.
“We want that community aspect,” Lindquist says. “That’s what we’re trying to play to. We didn’t want 30 round, 12-inch tables.”
The building itself was built in the late 1800s, when downtown First Avenue was established. Their storefront at 124 First Ave. E. spent four decades as the home of the much-maligned pet shop Eagle Pet Center, which closed in 2013 after years of complaints about the welfare of the animals -- a history Lindquist calls “a really sad story.” The space sat vacant for four years before Lindquist and Schuler -- longtime Shakopee residents and friends from the homebrewing circuit -- decided they’d finally make the jump and open a brewery.
Lindquist and Schuler recruited former Herkimer head brewer Ben Salyards to take the reins on their brewhouse. Lindquist had met Salyards while the latter was moonlighting at Midwest Supplies, and the two immediately had a strong rapport. When Lindquist and Schuler solidified their plans to move forward in late 2015, they sent Salyards a LinkedIn message. It took him six months to get back to the co-founders, but by the time he logged into LinkedIn and replied, he was in the right spot to help them take their vision forward.
“Back then, I was only an assistant brewer, but of course I wanted to take over a brewery,” Salyards says. “It’s a good thing he wasn’t ready that second, because I wasn’t ready to take over a brewery.”
Despite Salyards’s humility, Lindquist has incredible faith in the 34-year-old brewer. His deep respect for historical brewing traditions, emphasis on approachability, and gamut-spanning experience at the Herkimer have made him the ideal candidate for introducing downtown Shakopee to what craft beer has to offer.
“We always had a belief and an expectation that we could get to this level with a few critical pieces,” Lindquist says. “One was finding a brewer we felt we could work with and were confident in. Ben's it.”
Salyards knows Shakopee Brewhall’s early success will hinge on conversion experiences, so he’s leading the brewery’s offerings with some low-concept craft beers that’ll keep taphounds interested. Most notable is the Shakopee Light -- a crisp, lightly hopped American lager -- and Shakopee Red -- a sweet red ale that hat-tips Shakopee High School’s home colors. Both are easy-drinkin’ fare for late adopters, but Salyards’ proficiency shows in the sheer breadth of styles that make it onto Shakopee’s taplist. They also boast a brown ale, IPA, double IPA, Oktoberfest, and, Salyards’ personal favorite, a banana-clove saison named Holmes Landing.
Of all these beers, though, there’s still no clear flagship.
“I would even go as far as to say I don’t know if we have a specific beer identity in mind,” Salyards says. “But I know that we want to service the area around us.”
Salyards hopes to make some older styles down the road, and he’d love to get his hands on old Shakopee Brewing recipes to reinterpret (much like they do at Red Wing Brewery), but for now, he’s letting the whim of the crowd lead the way -- something that Badger Hill’s Broc and Brit Krekelberg urged them to do to guarantee long-term success in Shakopee.
“One of my favorite lines they ever gave us was, ‘Don’t assume you know what your flagships are.’ They told us to let the customers dictate that instead,” Lindquist says. “It’s a very common question that comes from the customer, ‘What are your flagships gonna be?’ Our answer is, ‘You tell us.’”
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