Talking Waters wins two medals in the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s Brewers Cup
Phil Zachman and Nick Patton celebrate a win for their Talking Waters brewery in downtown Montevideo when they received news on Nov. 18 that two of their brews had been honored in the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s annual Brewers Cup. Talking Waters is now in its fifth year of existence. The business started in 2014 when home brewer Nick Patton spoke to another local home brewer, John Skogrund, about the idea of opening a brewery. The conversations casually continued until Skogrund retired and his friend Phil Zachman, owner of Jake’s Pizza, joined in with the idea of buying the building next to Jake’s downtown area. In late 2014, Zachman was able to buy the building, and the trio began meeting regularly about the business, developing the plans, and starting work on the building. “We were hoping to open later in 2015, but we waited for government licenses to slow us down,” says Zachman.
While waiting for licensing, the three began working out test batches, brewing at Patton’s home, and hosting tasting events on the Java River to see what interested the local market most, before opening in July 2016 being a taproom brewhouse . “We had two fermenters downstairs. Our brewhouse was half the size it is today, ”he says. “We started handing out a small amount of kegs to promote our taproom and tried to stay within sixty miles in the hopes that someone would try something at a restaurant and then come to our taproom. “It didn’t take long for the group to realize that the path to growth is to do more sales farther away. With this idea in mind, the start of the COVID pandemic led to increased production of off-sale products. “We had made some canned food with the St. Paul mobile canning factory,” explains Patton. “During COVID we bought a used canning line, so most of our beer is now bottled in-house.” At this point, Talking Waters is able to offer 25 oz cans, 25 oz crowlers and 16 oz cans in addition to ribbons, growlers. “We’re probably closer to 50% distribution and 50% taproom sales now,” says Patton. The ability to purchase cans locally has also enhanced their ability to distribute to nearly 100 locations now, including liquor stores, bars and restaurants in the St. Cloud, Alexandria and Marshall metropolitan area. Talking Waters distributes all of its products itself, using a distribution manager and a small van to make deliveries a few times a week.
This has also increased the visibility of the product that draws visitors into the taproom area. “We get a lot of travelers on the weekends who get through. Lots of people from Minneapolis and St. Paul come to try our beer. And it’s nice that we’re close to the state park and casino, ”says Patton. Zachman adds that the increasing popularity of breweries in the area is helping to attract tourists who wish to travel between them to sample Minnesota-made beers. Zachman also attributes her success to his social media marketing and organic growth. “We’ve grown of course,” he says. Patton adds, “When it comes to smaller breweries in West Minnesota, I don’t think many of them have that big a deal, and that’s a necessity for us. We’re in a much smaller community. We’re still a tiny little brewery connected to every single part of the process. We’re not working on a system that is super advanced or high tech. We’re still moving pumps and hoses. “
The products have also changed over time. Talking Waters now produces ten beers that can be tapped on tap at any time. Three of these are the core line that is constantly on the market including Farmer’s Tan, Square Nail IPA, and their Reality Czech Pils. “From then on, the other seven lines rotate quite a lot. We will be bringing back other beers a couple of times a year. We always try to have a sour beer on tap, a darker beer, and then we always play around with our lagers and IPAs, ”says Patton. They plan to launch a gluten-free seltzer soon, as well as their holiday line-up, and find inspiration for new techniques and ingredients by closely following articles and podcasts in industry magazines. Talking Waters also aims to interact with the community as much as possible and work with companies for events and beers alike. “We recently brewed a beer that contained freshly roasted Cup A Joe coffee beans. It’s a chocolate affogato, that’s kind of a coffee, chocolate-vanilla porter, ”says Patton. “We’ve partnered with Java River a couple of times.” Talking Waters also partnered with La Plazita to offer taco Tuesdays one night a month. “We’re trying to reach out to people and involve them,” says Zachman. One Wednesday each month, Talking Waters hosts a pay-it-forward event called Community Pint Night that helps engage people from all walks of life to support various area organizations. The next Community Pint Night will benefit the Santa Anonymous organization in Chippewa County. For entertainment, they also offer trivia nights twice a month and discounts for teachers every Tuesday. The Taproom line-up also includes a number of branded items on offer these days.
Talking Waters partner John Skogrund recently officially went out of business. The Brewers Cup Award, shared by Zachman and Patton for their creations, was won after a blind tasting competition in which over 450 beers from 85 breweries across the state competed for the titles. “We got in two years ago, and then there was a year off because of COVID,” explains Patton. “So two years ago we won silver for our Mango Wheat and bronze for our Zoomer Red.” Talking Waters was awarded the gold medal for their festival beer in the pale lager category this year. “Festbier is our version of the lighter version of what an Oktoberfest could be. Lots of people are used to a Martsen that’s a bit darker in color, a bit more residual sweetness, and some kind of caramel or toasted note that comes through, ”says Patton. They also received a bronze medal for their Reality Czech in the Czech Lager category. “Reality Czech is even lighter in color than Festbier, with a slightly lower alcohol content and a bit more bitter, but a bit sweeter. When someone comes in and wants a beer that tastes like beer, we urge them, ”says Patton. The men also received an award last summer and won the Brewers Cup at the Alexandria Craft Beer Tour. “We hope to be able to participate in more beer competitions,” says Patton. “We’re more confident about our beers.”