There are two commonalities across most craft breweries: a love of beer and a love of community.
Red Wing Brewery was founded in 2011 with exactly that in mind, showcasing its historic location off Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River while drawing attention to craft beer — and Red Wing’s local legends. The brewpub, which complements its house-made drafts with a pizza kitchen, reflects that beer is just one element of a larger entity: the community.
“Red Wing is a very beautiful and historical city, and we wanted to open a place whose ambiance would showcase these attributes,” explains co-owner Scott Kolby. With Mississippi River sightseers already passing through the town, the brewpub was intended to enhance that experience while paying homage to Red Wing’s past.
As such, the brewery doesn’t just brew the creations of Kolby and his brewing partner William Norman, but also a Remmler’s Royal Brew that is based on an 1896 recipe from Red Wing’s long-defunct Remmler Brewery.
Tourism helps, but it’s neither the lifeline nor the identity of the brewpub.
“The main reason why we have been so successful,” Kolby said, “is because of the support from people right here in Red Wing.” Ingredients are locally sourced whenever possible, with the pizza dough coming from Hanisch Bakery, for example.
Kolby chose to focus on a pizza menu because it pairs well with different beer styles, as different toppings create different experiences. That said, Kolby isn’t interested in high-end plate-and-beverage pairings anyway.
“It doesn’t matter what propriety says is a correct food and beverage pairing; what matters is what you personally enjoy,” he said. “Sometimes I will enjoy a spicy pizza with an IPA, and at other times I will enjoy that same pizza with a stout.”
As a brewpub (compared to a production brewery such as Kinney Creek), Red Wing’s beers are available onsite only — that means a Rochester beer fan has to travel to get it, much as the newly opened Grand Rounds beer is only available inside its establishment.
Rather than view this as a problem, Kolby embraces it. “I don’t think we are disadvantaged by not being on liquor store shelves,” he points out. “I think it makes us more of a destination because people can only get Red Wing beer directly from the brewery. People seek us out.”
Again, the identity is tied to place, and nothing emphasizes that more than bringing the customer inside a physical location. Kolby wants his customers to enjoy the beer, but instead of remembering how refreshing that Red Wing Premium Kolsch or Jordan Creek IPA was, his customers should associate it with the experience of hiking Barn Bluff, visiting the Pottery Museum, or shopping and checking out the downtown sights.
It takes that rounded experience to truly get a taste of the city, and that can’t be reproduced in a bottle or can.