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Iron Exchange Tavern & Brewery is now open, and brewing, in Maple Plain. Just about 20 minutes down 394 and highway 12 from downtown Minneapolis, the brewpub is the culmination of many years of homebrewing.
When co-owners Mary and Todd Murley had their children, Todd quit his job in the computer world to raise the kids. “I’ve been staying home with the kids for 21 years,” Todd says. In that time, he started getting serious about homebrewing as a hobby, and came to “just love brewing beer.”
Now that the kids are older, it’s time for the next venture. “I’ve always wanted to get back in the workforce,” Todd says, “but something that I wanted to do, not something that I went to school for or whatever.” With his experience, opening a brewpub was a natural choice.
The couple opted for a brewpub license instead of a production brewery license because it allows Iron Exchange to serve spirits, wine, and guest beers in addition to their own house-brewed beers. Production breweries cannot serve wine, spirits, or beer made at other breweries.
As Charles Awad, creative director at Patmos Design and creative and marketing consultant to Iron Exchange, explains, this means spreading the love to places like Bent Brewstillery and Falling Knife that have helped them on their way to opening. It also means the less adventurous beer drinkers, or those looking for a classic, can get something on tap. About 60 percent of their outside beers are craft beers, but, Awad says, “we have our Guinness, we have our Hamm’s, we have our Coors Light.”
Holding a brewpub license also means that Iron Exchange can’t distribute its beer anywhere but their own location. But that doesn’t worry Todd, who can focus less on sales and more on his beer. Without outside demands to meet, he can brew a wider variety of beers in smaller yields, which means Iron Exchange will have a selection ranging from heavy stouts and hoppy IPAs to lighter ales.
Over the next couple weeks, Iron Exchange plans to roll out its first two or three beers, before getting up to six or eight varieties for their grand opening on the weekend of January 24.
But, like the 21 years Todd worked up to being a full-fledged brewer, Iron Exchange has made the most of the time since it opened in mid-December without its own beers on tap.
“We can also shine a light on some of the other things we do here,” says Awad.
“Many are a play on classics,” he says of the cocktail options. The options are filled with unique ingredients, but, Awad explains, “We didn’t want to be so far off the wall as to alienate people that don’t have any experience with more forward-thinking cocktails.” They are especially proud to offer a traditional old fashioned as well as a Wisconsin old fashioned, which is garnished with a fruit salad.
The same can be said of the food. It’s mostly traditional comfort food but with a little twist. Instead of standard pizza, they’ve gone with Detroit-style, and chef Aric Miech, who makes everything from scratch, plans to add homemade sausages in the coming weeks.
With a dedicated chef, dedicated bartenders, and Todd as a dedicated brewer, Awad points out that “all those things have equal import,” so it is not just a brewpub for beer lovers.
On top of that, they’ll provide some entertainment. “I’m a big fan of live music, so that’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Todd. They have already had acoustic and jazz shows on the stage inside, and they plan to use their big lawn for all-day events once the snow melts. Awad suggests they might even have “beer education seminars” at some point down the road.
Twenty-one years after Todd quit his job, he and Mary are just about ready to share their beer with the world. “It’s been a long road,” Todd says, “but we’re kind of there.”
Brewer: Todd Murley
Beers: Hoppy Red Ale, English Pale Ale, West Coast IPA, Blonde Ale, Single Malt/Single Hop Ale using Great Western malt and Citra hops, Brown Porter, Cream Ale, Oatmeal Stout
Address: 1500 Howard Ave, Maple Plain
Hours: Mon–Wed, 3pm–10pm; Thur 3pm–11pm; Fri–Sat, 11am–12am; Sun, 11am–10pm
Opened: December 13, 2019. Grand Opening celebration January, 24, 2020
Maltwerks is a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. Maltwerks maintains close relationships with local farmers so brewers know exactly what barley was used and the characteristics they can expect. Maltwerks is a partner in globally sourced commodities and carries a wide variety of spices and botanicals for diversity in craft brewing.