It’s pronounced “Ooh-ta-pilz,” and it’s a Norwegian word for the first beer enjoyed outdoors in the sunshine after a long, cold winter. While Minnesotans are still several weeks from that kind of Utepils moment, the thrill of warm sun and tasty beer is in the air at Utepils Brewery. The highly anticipated facility will open its Fernweh Taproom to the public next month, with a grand opening February 18,.
“I don’t think I’ll sit outdoors for that first beer when we open, but I might step outside for a sip or two. It depends on the weather,” owner Dan Justesen said.
When the brewery opens, it will probably feel like an Utepils moment for him. Remodeling of the building that contains the taproom, brewhouse and business operations began in April 2016, following a first-of-its-kind public fundraising effort. The results are eye-popping: the day it opens, Utepils will be the sixth-largest brewhouse in the state.
“Our plan was to build our brewhouse at a size that meets what we’ll need in the future,” explained Justesen. “We didn’t want to be in a constant state of upgrading our brewhouse or our equipment, so we built the upgrade.”
Utepils Brewing’s Fernweh Taproom
It worked. The upgrade is impressive. The brewing equipment, a maze of stainless steel pipes, mash and lauter tuns, a kettle, and six giant, two-story fermenting tanks was custom designed and imported from Bavaria. The tanks were purchased from a family that’s spent three generations fabricating equipment for breweries. The brewhouse also boasts the first-ever North American installation of the energy-saving Vario Boil system — which helps cut their energy use by almost 75 percent. Award-winning brewmaster Eric Harper manages all of it using traditional skills, like smell and taste, as well as modern technology. His control center looks like the flight deck of a science-fiction spaceship.
Even the tile on the floor of the brewhouse was a subject of intense discussion among Utepils’ partners. “After all the brewing equipment is in place, you can’t just go back and replace the floor,” explained Justesen. “We wanted the best equipment we could buy on the best floor we could find, all to make the best beer we can.” As a result, the floor tiles were imported from Bavaria as well.
The brewery and taproom have been designed to suggest an old European town, with many of the interior finishings sampled from Regensburg, Germany. One wall of the brewhouse is painted green in homage to the historic Wurstkuchl tavern in Regensburg and eventually will have windows and doors added to complete the effect. The grain mill and delivery equipment is contained in a structure designed to look like the city’s clock tower.
On opening day, Utepils will have all five of their European-style beers on tap for customers to enjoy: Pils Czech-style Pilsner, Alt 1848 Altbier, Glocal IPA, Ewald the Golden Hefeweizen and Copacetic, a light blond Kölsch-style. The brewery also serves non-alcoholic drinks, and the Gastrotruck food truck will be on hand to feed hungry guests. Utepils also has an open-door policy for people to order food delivery to the taproom.
“We want our guests to come in and hang out with us. Even if they just grab a glass of glacial spring water piped to our antique lauter grant,” added Justesen, referring to an impressive copper water feature near the entry, available for guests to fill water bottles or rinse out beer steins. The event will also feature live musical acts, including local favorites The Eddies.
The brewery will be open starting Saturday, February 18, from noon to 11:00 p,m. Regular operating hours will be noon until 10:00 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon until 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6:00 p.m. Sundays. A unique creek-side beer garden will open when the weather and the city permit, at which point enjoying an Utepils moment — a great beer in the sunshine with friends — will be easier than ever.
Grand Opening Music Lineup
- 12:00-2:00 PM Doug Otto & The Getaways
- 2:30-4:30 PM George Marich Trio
- 5:00-7:00 PM The Eddies
- 8:00-8:45 PM Sabyre Ray
- 9:00-9:45 PM Dead Man Trio
- 10:00-10:45 PM Sex Rays