South Minneapolis, do you want a beer garden with outdoor movies? Beer thrill-seekers, do you want to meet Minneapolis’ first “coolship” brewer? Big wooden tank lovers, do you want big wooden tanks to gawk at? Well all of you gather around, and the rest of you listen in too because this is pretty interesting: Wild Mind Artisan Ales is coming.
Wild Mind is the product of 28-year-old Mat Waddell, a former mechanical engineer who has volunteered over the years at breweries including Freehouse, Blacklist, and Capital Brewery, and is in the process of converting a warehouse down near Lyndale at Crosstown into a giant 96 seat brewery with a 2,000-square-foot beer garden. (Where exactly? You know the Cub Foods you can see near the northwest junction of I-35 and Crosstown? It’s about five blocks southwest of there, north of Richfield, and east of the huge Bachmann’s on Lyndale.)
“Brewing all started as a hobby,” Waddell told me, when I went to tour the space and taste his homebrew. “Then I got way too addicted to it. And I started falling in love with a lot of styles of ale I couldn’t get around here too easily, those more rustic farmhouse sours, and barrel-aged, barrel-fermented ales. I got really into yeast cultures and how to harvest yeast, I started harvesting it everywhere from my parents house, to my backyard, to fruit orchards up north.” One thing led to another and Waddell began brewing beer with his own strains of yeast and other good bacteria he gathered in his travels. If construction goes according to schedule, this June we will see the opening of Wild Mind, which will focus on sour and barrel-fermented ales, as well as “coolship” ales.
What’s a coolship ale? Okay. Most of the beer we drink today is fermented using commercially purchased tried-and-true varieties of yeast. (Beer, of course, is what happens when microorganisms such as yeast and good bacteria eat the sugar in a soup of grains, called wort, and turn that sugar into alcohol and flavor. Hops come in as a finishing spice and preservative.) While most beer is fermented using off-the-shelf, purchased yeast, a whole lot of brewers have begun feeling that there are more interesting and unique flavors to be had by getting your own yeast.
Minnesota brewers including Fair State, Schell's, and forthcoming Oude Oak have been really interested in exploring new and local flavors with new and local yeast and bacteria, but Waddell is doing something I think we’ve never seen done in Minnesota before. There's a way of exposing wort to open air in a large, shallow vessel called a coolship, (the word is the English version of the Dutch-Flemish koelschip) which lets the wort catch whatever yeast and bacteria float by. After a day or so, the wort is moved along to a traditional fermenting vessel, and, some time later, you get something new.
“It’s a funhouse style of beer,” says Waddell. “You end up strictly with whatever is in the air—whatever it picks up is whatever it picks up. Minnesota is a really interesting place to do this, I’ve had awesome success doing it.” Now the tough news: These coolship ales take years to make, so they will not be what Wild Mind opens with.
What will they open with? I tasted some of Wild Mind’s home brews, and got a small sense of what’s coming. He let me taste a Saison which he says will be very similar to something he opens with, it was light and lovely, all lemon and tangerine scents with a pretty, gossamer texture and a clean, oat-biscuit finish. I tried one of his coolship beers, “It’s 100% backyard” he told me; it was a dark gold, and had an unusual burnt lemon and roast eggplant scent.
I tried one of his sours which is aged on fruit (cranberries and apple) and it was brightly fragrant—but he said atypical, because it was too young to drink. We tried another one which he said was too young to drink, a hard cider; it was fresh, lively and promising. Waddell says that he has connections to local apple growers and that eventually Wild Mind will make something like cider—somehow working around the Minneapolis laws characterizing cider as wine and thusly needing a different license. Waddell also let me try a phenomenally dark and concentrated bourbon-aged Russian Imperial Stout which was like Godiva chocolate liqueur—so rich and delicious I could hardly believe chocolate wasn’t dissolved into it—and offering intense notes of coffee. I told him if he can produce that in large volume, he’ll have the entire world of dessert beer lovers in the palm of his hand.
Even if he can’t, Wild Mind is going to be one to watch. The brewery will have dozens of ales aging in all sorts of wooden vessels—both large and small, some from France, some from Napa Valley, some from Kentucky. “About 70% of the beer I produce will be touching oak at some point,” and he expects to age some of his ales in wood for as long as three years. When the taproom opens to the public, you’ll be able to see a great number of these wooden vessels through the taproom’s wall-sized glass windows.
Speaking of taprooms, the taproom is going to be huge with garage-sized doors opening onto a central 2,000-square-foot courtyard planted with trees and lawn for lawn bowling. Waddell plans to project movies on one of the courtyard’s interior walls, and he has built it up to allow for food-trucks—it’s going to be a party. A coolship, oak-aged, wild-yeast-and-bacteria party the likes of which super south Minneapolis has never seen before. Are you ready for some wild, wild drinking? It’s coming. Probably before the 4th of July.
Wild Mind Artisan Ales, 6031 Pillsbury Ave., Mpls.