Brewer Profile: Matt Schwandt of Bauhaus Brew Labs

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Matt Schwandt // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Technically, it’s a quiet week at Bauhaus Brew Labs. New equipment is being installed, which means no beer is being brewed. But there are still new food trucks to vet, floors to scrub, and promo videos to film. A forklift beeps loudly as it inches forward, then back, then forward again. Bright yellow pallets of Wonderstuff, Stargrazer, Wagon Party, and Sky-Five! cans tower over the fermenters; one stray bump and the whole column could topple. It may be a quiet week in theory, but really, there’s no such thing.

Bauhaus co-owner and head brewer Matt Schwandt sits down at one of the taproom’s communal tables and pushes up his sleeves. Decked out in Bauhaus gear, it’s clear he’s done this before. Many times. Even though Bauhaus has only been open since July 2014, Matt’s a relative veteran in Minnesota’s beer scene given the onslaught of new breweries opening nearly every week of every month. But whatever self-importance the head brewer of a brewery as successful as Bauhaus might be tempted to claim is left untouched by Matt. Leaning forward, he’s engaged and approachable, soft spoken yet confident.

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Matt Schwandt in the Bauhaus taproom // Photo by Aaron Davidson

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Photo by Aaron Davidson

First, the basics. Matt grew up in Golden Valley, Minnesota, the eldest of three boys: Matt, Mark, and Mike. (“Thanks, Mom,” Matt jokes of the alliterative names, motioning to the loft where his mom is currently folding T-shirts.) He got his undergraduate degree in business from Belmont University in Nashville, where he met his now-wife, Lydia Haines, who was also studying business.

It was music, not school, that drew Matt and Lydia to Nashville. Matt played lead guitar in his alt-rock band, Lume; Lydia was pursuing songwriting and singing. Ultimately, neither got the big break they were looking for.

After working for a couple years for a music promoter, Matt switched gears and got a job at Boscos Restaurant & Brewing Company, Tennessee’s first brewpub, in 1998. Boscos was one of just a few places in the area making craft beer. Matt was hooked.

“Boscos got me interested in beer; I got a huge craft beer education working there,” he says, referring to the time spent with owner Chuck Skypeck and head brewer Fred Scheer, “a Munich-raised German guy who made phenomenal beer. I really didn’t want to drink anything but small-batch craft beer after that.”

In 2005, Matt and Lydia moved back to Minnesota (Lydia was from Edina originally), got married, and started thinking about what was next. They considered moving to Los Angeles to give their music careers another go, something many of their Nashville friends had done, but decided against it. Instead, they ditched their business degrees and changed careers, both following in the footsteps of their fathers: Lydia to be a doctor; Matt, a lawyer.

Lydia’s medical career was put on hold when she got pregnant with her and Matt’s first child. (They now have two kids, Sam and Lily.) Matt graduated at the top of his class in 2009 from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as he thought it might be. He tried to find his niche as a lawyer—first as an assistant attorney general, then in the private sector at a couple different firms—but after four years, he’d had enough.

“Still to this day, I don’t know why I went to law school,” Matt says, shrugging. “Because my dad went, I guess? But it ended up that the same thing that happened to him happened to me: after a few years, we were both done with it.”

Matt was homebrewing with Lydia’s father, Howard Haines, ever since moving back to Minnesota and it occurred to him that it was beer—not business, not law—that he’d always been interested in pursuing. What’s more, he’d long had the entrepreneurial bug. He decided to make yet another career change, but this time, it had to be permanent—something that would constantly challenge and engage him, that incorporated multiple areas of his life, and that he loved. Something like opening a brewery.

Next page: Building Bauhaus

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Ellen Burkhardt About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.

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