There’s this old supperclub that’s been sitting on the edge of Long Lake, just past Wayzata where the 394 turns into a two-lane road, since forever. It was lastly known as Billy’s Lighthouse (before that The Hanson House in the '70s, and before that The Firefly, I think) when it closed in 2006. And after 9 years of slumber, it’s about to get a new life.
Local restaurateur and chef Burt Joseph plans to move his Birch’s Restaurant to the location, expanding and rebranding it to become Birch’s on the Lake Brewhouse & Supperclub. In its current spot, Birch’s is a hometown gathering spot where people come to see Joseph and get stone crab claws on special, a great glass of wine, and some legendary cast-iron buttermilk fried chicken. In its new iteration, Birch’s will be a two level operation with a finer menu and event space upstairs and a more loungy, casual menu below.
Joseph has partnered with Brennan Greene, a local brewer who has just moved back from St. Louis where he was deeply rooted in the craft beer scene. Spending most of his time with Schlafly, which is Missouri’s largest locally-owned independent brewery (basically, their Summit), Greene was the main brewer for the research pilot brewery. As Head Brewer he was involved in makimore than 60 different styles of beer each year and was credited as expanding the brewery’s repertoire into sours, barrel-aging, and other specialty beers. After eight years, and thousands of batches of beer, he decided to come home and give partnership a whirl.
Birch’s brewery will feature lots of innovative and experimental brews, all sold exclusively on the property. Greene told me, “We won’t really have the typical list of year-round beers, but we will always have certain styles. On tap there will always be a light, a hoppy, a sour, a cider, and a coffee. So one month you might find a coffee chocolate blonde ale, and the next it might a coffee stout.” There will be eight taps on the lower level, five focused on the core styles, with the remaining three as specialties. “I don’t really think we’ll do firkins, because the whole model of the brewery is experimental.” So the whole lower level will be open brewery, taproom with eatery, and of course, lakeside patio deck.
The beer will carry a bit over into the food. Think popovers using spent grains, beer in batters, braising and the like, but the casual lower level will likely have a $20 check average, “and that includes a $5 tap” say both Greene and Joseph. Upstairs will feel more like a north woods supperclub with fireplaces, warm tones, and a finer menu expanding on what Joseph is doing right now, “You know seasonally we do stone crab claws on Thursdays, I’d love to do prime rib on Fridays, more steaks and oysters and the like, but of course we’re keeping the fried chicken.” Plans include space events and catering on the upper level. Joseph has brought on Pat Weber to help consult and bring the whole thing together.
“We’re super excited to use the lake as much as possible. The Long Lake Rowing Club will continue to use our parking lot and lake access and we can’t wait to help sponsor regattas. During winter we want to put on a boot hockey tournament or something, maybe make an ice bar out there, who knows!”
Work has begun and the partners are hoping for a late summer/early fall opening.