Getting the spent grains ready to head to the farm

Getting the spent grains ready to head to the farm

The birthday gift that (partly) inspired the beer

The birthday gift that (partly) inspired the beer

Nathan Steigman


December 2018.

CW: How did you find out about our home brew tap?

I joined other award-winning home brewers in donating my talents and batches of beer for this past summer's nonprofit beer tasting event known as Brew For Good. We all put our best mash paddle forward to create unique styles of beer on a home brew scale to raise money for nonprofit organizations. We were also judged in a competition for our entries. Ultimately the experts at Clockwerks chose mine as a beer that stood out. I won the big prize in this upscale opportunity for Minnehaha Malt and was able to spend a day at Clockwerks brewing the beer as a result. The introduction has been phenomenal and I am thankful.

CW: How does it feel to brew your beer for patrons of Clockwerks?

Kind of like being Willy Wonka in a way. I love that I can share this with more than my immediate friends and family. I'm used to making and sharing a few pints, and growlers, but barrels? That's pretty amazing. And at a place that is central to area fans of craft beer, it's a unique honor. I'm very happy to have the opportunity for feedback, working with a master brewer and his crew and honing my talent. I appreciate the day to day hard work that goes into Clockwerks to make a brewery that delivers on its craft.

CW: How did you start home brewing?

It has a small start back years ago at Virginia Tech, but without the luxury of convenient brewing supply stores that are omnipresent now. I took a great semester long horticulture class on wine, but this was decades before their pilot plant brewery and any beer making was available. With limited education, my brewer/bandmate friend Kevin used to make these "stouts" and while they were not bad, not much else in variety was available. This was a state where the King of Beers pretty much ruled bars and liquor stores, so essentially making bathtub beer in the humble dark ages of limited access is what was the norm.

And, no craft brew taprooms. I paused any notions of true brewing and went to grad school at UW-Superior. Flash forward to 2012 and I start to try my hand at kits and some noteworthy gifts to my hobby from my wife, entered my first national competition and got some great detailed feedback and certificates. Like orchid fever, the bug to make better beer caught on. I invested in better equipment, navigated the learning chaos of failure and successful batches, engaged in more competitions and joined a great homebrewing club, the Minnesota Homebrewers Association aka MHBA. The education continues.

CW: We're thrilled to have Minnehaha Malt on tap. Tell us more about your inspiration.

The name is somewhat loosely based on one of my family's outdoor favorite spots, the street name where I live, and a birthday gift from my sister-in-law. With two young kids, we highly value all our outdoor experiences and several parks throughout the Twin Cities make this a great place to live. We also feel water is a highly valuable resource that we truly respect and need to protect. Our appreciation for the Minneapolis Parks system, especially Minnehaha Falls, is big. Respectfully the "Minnehaha" name in Dakota language for "waterfall" or "rapid water" is intended as an homage.

I have admiration for what the persistence in change means for this living landmark. I strove to emulate the hue and effervescent quality of that rushing water we've seen naturally leaping over into creating my beer. I chose the hops and malt and additions to make a sweet surprising earthy expression to complement that idea.

The milestone birthday gift was a huge glass promotion bottle with "Minnehaha Malt" written on the label and makes me smile whenever I see it.

CW: Where did the recipe come from? 

I've experimented with a few different malts in combination over the past few years and some newbies that I've sampled as prizes from some of the competitions. The combination of the 2-row and specialty malts just made sense. I've been an avid fan and grower of my own hops in the Cascade and Nugget variety, but the proprietary El Dorado hop has been a favorite of mine as a fruit and aroma expression. I think it worked well with the sweetness of orange and a jolly rancher punch. 

CW: Tell us about your brewing process.

It starts with thinking about the type and style of beer I want and then selecting the right grains and yeasts and adjuncts. I consider the advice of John Palmer and others and anything new I am going to test. When I brew, I've made sure everything is thoroughly sanitized from kettle to glass. I like to use filtered Saint Paul water and RO or distilled water at times. I take at least a 24-hour post boil volume on my desired boil volume (gallons of water I'll be using) to reduce and somewhat precipitate out levels from the chloramine that is added in the local source. I take the usual readings and measure out the potential IBUs from Hops, Gravity and other details. Rehydrate yeast with stirrers and get yeast starters ready to pitch. Then when the flame out is done and the wort is transferred, it's pretty much hurry-up-and-wait. 

If I haven't had enjoyed a beer by this time, there's something terribly wrong. This process has been modified nicely with the addition of two great kids and good friends whenever possible. 

CW: Any beer inspirations?

How much time do you have? :)

I am very fond of the Altbier and Boho Rye had at Clockwerks. I also appreciate Pryes, Indeed, Bent Paddle, Bent Brewstillery, Hammerheart and gluten-free ingenuity at Burning Bros. Surely, the total list is more extensive than that. Before coming to the Twin Cities, I was greatly inspired by much of what I was exposed to from living in Duluth with Fitger's and later Saint Paul's Great Waters and Town Hall in Minneapolis. The tremendously rich history of Schell's Brewing certainly comes to mind. There's no Saint Paul without a Summit Brewing. Surly's Omar and Todd striving to "make the beer they wanted to drink" is also a vivid statement. But the story of Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery making beer that sourced unique off-center ingredients for beer is a lesson to me, as pushing the boundaries of what a defined style can be is curiously part of growth in any homebrewing.

CW: What's your favorite beer?

When it comes to food I'm a conservative pescatarian, but with beer I am pretty much an omnivore. 

I find myself gravitating at times to hop-juiced beers, IPAs, English styles and Scottish Heavies and then barrel-aged flavors. I like a soft Abbey Ale in doses and refreshing Pilsner, Witbier or session ale that I can have just enough in pints without getting overpowered. 

I've been a fan of Zombie Dust and Pseudo Sue for the pale ales. And, I do appreciate sours, and fruit and hot pepper beers. There's just so many choices and the innovation is striking. What's not fun to try? We live in interesting times for craft beer.

CW: What do you think of home brewing as a hobby?

I love my hobby, but it would not be possible without friends to share it with and new challenges to see through. I know that anyone can do it with a few basic pieces of equipment, proper sanitizing ethics, a good recipe and good ingredients. The passion brewing brings forth in discovery is what drives me to make better beer that I can be happy to drink with others. Beneficial trends are truly a source of hope in this hobby. Cheers!

Join us December 15 for the Minnehaha Malt release party.