Angry Hog Brewery & Taproom may be new to residents of Austin, but its location is anything but.
The building for a long time was home to Jimmy’s Fish and Seafood and Fine Meats, which sold its products in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. According to Angry Hog’s co-owners and brewers, Joe Bower and Kevin Jones, most people in Austin know where the brewery is due to their familiarity with Jimmy’s. A truck detailed with a Jimmy’s logo still sits outside the brewery, helping to further this association, but perhaps not for too much longer: the owners are thinking about buying it and using it in parades—after repainting it with the Angry Hog name, of course.
It’s this sort of small-town intimacy that led Bower to leave the Twin Cities after living there 25 years and return home to open Austin’s first brewery with his brother and sister-in-law, Kevin and Jill. “The city was very receptive and started putting things in place to make it happen for us,” Bower says.
Austin is best known for Hormel Foods, and Hormel is best known for producing bacon and, everyone’s favorite, Spam. “If you hang around the town at all, you just see livestock trailers full of hogs,” Bower says. Instead of avoiding the city’s notorious ties with the meat-production plant, the brewery owners decided to use it, tongue-in-cheek, for the brewery’s name. “Any of the hogs that are coming into this town, if they knew what their destiny truly was, I’m sure there wouldn’t be one that was happy about it.”
Some of Angry Hog’s beers harken to Hormel, too, such as Muddy Snout oatmeal stout and Dirty Pig black IPA. Jimmy’s BB Gun, a brown ale, is a shout-out to the venue’s former life as a seafood shop and the collection of BB guns that used to adorn the walls. An IPA named Shut Up, Kevin!, has already begun a taproom tradition: when someone orders it, the staff rings a bell and everyone yells, “Shut up, Kevin!”
“In here it’s rough,” Bower says, motioning to the taproom space. “As we like to say, we’re a little rough, a little loud, and sometimes a little angry. It’s just kind of the way we’re operating.”
The city is starting to embrace craft beer, but there’s still a ways to go. That reality’s reflected in their beer list, which features brown ales and witbiers, as well as what Angry Hog calls its gateway beer: Giggling Piglet Cream Ale. “There’s just plain curiosity,” Jill says. “A lot of people in Austin, and I’m sure in other small communities, have never had craft beer. They’re curious and they want to get in on it.”
So far, it seems locals are enjoying having a craft brewery nearby. Recently, a woman in her 70s showed up just to tell them how much she liked IPAs. But the warm reception has caused Angry Hog to run into production challenges since officially opening. The problem is in part self-inflicted: Angry Hog’s brewers started the company with a half-barrel system in order to test the waters of the Austin market. Jill explains that it was meant to be a starting point as the business grew.
“Right now, with what we forecast for [what we’ll] need for beer, based on our fermenter space and the size system we have [a half-barrel], we probably can’t actually keep up with that forecast,” Bower says. “We’re getting creative on what we’re able to do and how we’re able to play the shell game.”
Currently, that means that hours will fluctuate depending on how much beer they have available. The brewery also can’t currently offer growlers of beer to take home. They’ll be investing in a bigger brewing system later this year, but for now Angry Hog is the “epitome of a nanobrewery,” Bower says.
“It was nice for us to be able to be the first microbrewery in town,” he continues. “I think any time you’re first to market with anything, it’s fun, it’s exciting. The public receives it well. So we just hope we keep making the public happy.”
Brewers: Joe Bower and Kevin Jones
Beers: Giggling Piglet cream ale, Shut Up, Kevin! IPA, Dirty Pig black IPA, Jimmy’s BB Gun brown ale, Smart Ass Wit witbier, Muddy Snout oatmeal stout.
Address: 500 23rd Ave. NW, Austin, Minnesota 55912
Hours: Fri & Sat: 5pm‒9pm, but also depends on beer inventory