In a time when breweries are pushing the envelope, creating and redefining beer styles with flavors, high alcohol content, dryness, sweetness, etc., I was intrigued by Torg Brewery, who brews good approachable craft beer. You can see it in their mission statement. Most breweries have a story and/or a mission, but most of them don’t state it so eloquently.
With a focus on creating that perfect balance between malt and hops to craft a truly friendly, quaffable beer, it is Torg Brewery’s pleasure to serve our patrons the rich complexity and marvelous flavors that water, grain, hops, and yeast combine to create.
So what does Torg Brewery have to do with the environment of beer? The brewery in Spring Lake Park, MN, 10 miles north of Minneapolis, is owned and operated by Debbie and Dave Torgersen. Dave is an Environmental Scientist who I’ve known for years through our work. In the past few years, Dave and I began to talk beer whenever we were together. I even got to sample their home brews a few years back in the earlier stages of Torg Brewery. I interviewed Debbie and Dave about their beer, going from home brewer to opening their brewery and tap room, and their environmental background. There always a good story in the environment of beer.
Brewing Approachable Craft Beer
Debbie: When I hear people say, “Oh, I just don’t like beer” a lot of time it is just because they haven’t met the right style yet. As home brewers, our favorite compliments were those from people who attested they didn’t like beer or never drank anything but Michelob Light, yet they wanted another pint of our Scottish Ale, or Stout, or Dunkelweizen.
There are so many flavors and nuances to beer, so many rich stories and traditions behind them, as a brewer I feel really compelled to introduce these experiences to people. I had so much joy discovering them myself! Intensely flavored beers are wonderful and take a great deal of artistry to create, but for people who have never wandered far afield from a traditional American lager, a smokey porter or double IPA might not be the place to start.
I want to craft beers that highlight the traditions and processes of a style; showcase the interplay of water, malt, hops, and yeast married together; and present a stepping stone, a threshold, a new door to walk through for the craft beer novice.
Inspiration to Start Brewing Beer
Debbie: Well, for a start, it sounded like a whole lot of fun. We had friends who were really excited about their brewing experiences and their excitement was contagious. And we were intrigued about recreating beers that we had enjoyed abroad or had shared with friends that were not readily available off the shelf. It was an interest we both had, and, as a couple that often times had to be separated for extended periods of time due to Dave’s deployments and job travels, we had always tried to find new ways to keep “dating” – lining up two beers to brew on Saturday ensured we’d be in the kitchen together all day.
Your History with Beer
Dave: Beer had been part of our social lives for many years. Coveting Canadian brews (MooseHead). Traveling abroad had introduced us to some great regional beer styles; breaking down the wall the “beer” was always a light lager. Guinness draught is really the pivotal beer.
Your Favorite Beers
Debbie: Well, I am a malty beer lover – a rich oatmeal stout or Scottish Ale, but I also really enjoy hefeweizen, saison, or witbeir.
Your Favorite Beer Names
Dave: Beer names are crazy fun. My favorite has not been release yet, so that stays close to the vest. As for the current offerings,
- Bearded Preacher’s Wife (IPA)
- General En’Yu Endo (APA)
- Eyed Dew Ewe (Saison)
- Brigid’s Bathwater (Dry Irish Stout)
- Squirrel Nutkin (English Brown Ale)
- Guilty Marder (Dunkelweizen)
Did a passion for beer come from a connection to your environmental work?
Dave: No. I am afraid not. Beer had been part of our social lives for many years. Traveling abroad had introduced us to some great regional beer styles.
Does your background give you a scientific approach to brewing?
Dave: Brewing seems to have two main spheres: (1) production – the act of brewing consistent batches and (2) recipe development – the act of creation. My skill stack (Environmental Science, Chemistry, Medical Microbiology) is strongly analytics and process focused, thus enhanced a brewery’s productions side.
Callouses from navigating the environmental regulatory landscape truly aide in the new challenge of a startup brewery, as did my G3 and engineering background in the Army.
Blending Environmental Consciousness into the Brewery
Dave: We certainly plan and look at process improvement with purpose and agenda to get the most of the time, material, and equipment at hand. Those efficiencies do get environmental benefits, but it is more habit that conscience campaign. And the broad experience of an environmental scientists career has provided insight to solutions and alternatives which make a brewery more environmentally friendly
Debbie: I don’t know if we are “consciously environmental” in our approach, but we certainly take to heart the idea of being good stewards – of the environment, of our profession, and of our community. As we were playing with logo and slogan ideas, Dave once quipped “We served our country for 30 years, now let us serve you.” And that wasn’t just tongue in cheek. We feel truly blessed to be given the opportunity to make good beer and share it with great people. That’s an awesome job description! So we feel some responsibility comes alongside that good fortune.
For me, good stewardship means responsible use of our raw ingredients – whether that be incorporating partigyle brewing to maximize efficiency in our mash grains and minimizing waste water or sourcing our spent grains to local farmers. Supporting and giving back to the brewing community that has been so supportive and encouraging throughout our start-up is a given as we move forward. And good stewardship in our community is actively supporting local businesses, community members, and causes that our near and dear to our hearts – military men and women, first responders, and of course their families who serve alongside them.
Where to find Torg Brewery
Minneapolis has a good beer culture. Make sure you put Torg Brewery on your to do list as you sample the beers around the Twin Cities. Stop in, have a General En’Yu Endo APA, and say ‘Hi’ to Debbie and Dave for me.