Photos by Aaron Davidson
“There’s something about barrels that is just so romantic,” doted Dangerous Man’s ‘creative director and list maker’ Sarah Bonvallet as she reminisced about the excitement her partner Rob Miller and the rest of the Dangerous Man brewers exuded about the next chapter for one of NE Minneapolis’ favorite breweries. “I feel like [a barrel aging program] is such a natural progression for the Dangerous Man brewers because of the mystery factor,” she said.
“We always wanted to do it,” says the Dangerous Man himself, Rob Miller. “It was a matter of logistically getting it done.” Having taken over some additional space in the basement of their small brewery, housed in a former bank in Northeast Minneapolis, they turned to logistical issues like sealing the floor, building a keg cooler, and starting to acquire barrels for the purpose of aging beer.
In the early days of Dangerous Man Brewing Company they didn’t have the luxury of experimenting too much. “At first it was just about trying to keep the taps flowing, keeping beer in the tanks,” says Miller on a morning visit to the new Dangerous Man barrel cellar. “Once we kind of dialed things in, got the brewing schedule dialed in, and had a little extra tank space, we starting [planning the barrel-aging program] a little over a year ago.”
By spring of 2014 Dangerous Man had beer in a barrel—an Imperial Coconut Milk Stout in Cruzan Rum barrels. “That was the first ‘for sure’ barrel we had to do,” exclaimed brewer John Leingang.
That beer—and three others that have spent months in wood—have since been bottled by the crew at Dangerous Man and will be released for purchase in the Dangerous Man taproom today and tomorrow as part of their 2nd anniversary celebration. If past interest of Dangerous Man’s offerings is any indication, a bottle of these very limited beers might be a tough get, but don’t fret. According to Miller, the plan is to continue to expand this program. “We’re increasing the amount of barrels, so the next release we’re going to do twice as many of each kind. Instead of two barrels of each, we’ll have four.”
This is the first time Dangerous Man will be offering their beer in 750ml bottles, and although it added another layer of complexity to the release, the decision was easy to make considering the special nature of the barrel-aged series.
Staying true to their bootstrapping roots, Dangerous Man even built their own bottle filler from scratch. Brewer, and master handyman, Keigan Knee modeled his design from a filler he recently inspected at a local cidery. After sourcing a used food cart off of Craigslist and making a couple trips to the discount stainless shop down the street, Keigan himself welded together the machine that single-handledly bottled all 1,600 bottles of Dangerous Man’s first bottle release, prompting bossman Miller to boast, “I mean this shit is just baller.”
There is currently beer aging in 18 barrels from Duluth Barrel Works, Rocky Mountain Barrel Co., and Speyside Cooperage in the new basement cellar, with four more literally on the way. They figure they can double their barrel capacity within the current space, though they have not ruled out the possibility of expanding the program to off-site storage in the future. The focus now is continuing to deliver on quality and guest experience.
“Whatever we do next really has to carry the heart and soul of Dangerous Man,” affirmed Bonvallet. “It’s much more than what we can do, it’s more like what should we do.”
New equipment, including the keg cooler, new bottling line, and a new 20 bbl fermenter (coming very soon), will double the brewhouse’s fermentation capacity, allow the crew at Dangerous Man to better stay on top of the production of their flagship beers, and should allow their abundant creativity to flow into other areas. Though expanding the barrel-aging program is the top priority right now, the increased tank space also has the guys thinking about experimenting in other realms like session ales and lagers.
So what got bottled, and how can you get your hands on these very limited releases?
Today (Wednesday, January 21, 2015), Dangerous Man will release the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Hemp Ale and a Tequila Barrel Imperial Cream Ale.
Tomorrow (Thursday, January 22, 2015) they will release the Rum Barrel Imperial Coconut Milk Stout and the a Cabernet Barrel Belgian Tripel.
See more beautiful photos from our visit to Dangerous Man: