Chapel Brewing’s theme can be described as one of transformation. Built in 1880 as a village hall and jail, the historic building in Dundas, Minnesota, was bought by J.P. Hummel in 1882 and converted into a church.
“That’s why we think Chapel is a pretty apt summary of that history,” says head brewer and co-owner Andrew Burns, who is preparing to open the doors to the brewery and taproom on September 16.
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The church used the building for 50 years, until in 1932 it was sold and converted into a town hall. When the new town hall was built, the historic building was sold again and converted into a photo studio. But it was the early history as a church and Sunday school that really pulled Chapel embraced and that the owners incorporated into the design of the brewery.
“With a name like Chapel and the history of this building, we wanted [the space] to feel sort of intimate and not industrial,” Burns says. “So we’re trying to avoid stainless and cement and big open spaces like you see in a lot of breweries. We’re not that; we want to think of it as a small, country chapel. So we’ve got the wood ceiling, the wood floor, the wood bar, a mixture of original elements of the building, with some updated architecture.”
One of the first things completed in the taproom was ensuring the floor could support the weight of thirsty patrons. Instead of chucking the old floor joists, Chapel found a way to use it for the bar top.
Wainscot paneling, the wood paneling from the original building, was saved and preserved, and is now used for the front of the bar, and accentuates parts of the walls. The trim and decorations were also kept the same, but other elements like the lights were brought over from a salvaged church.
Because the building is from another generation, it is a little smaller, with most of the 60-person capacity coming from a deck outside that faces the Cannon River and a rain garden.
The 10-barrel brewhouse is actually housed in an adjacent garage. That might sound a little large for such a small taproom, but Chapel plans on eventually distributing kegs of beer locally, and to also have bottle releases for sour beers, barrel-aged beers, or anything with a higher ABV or normally wouldn’t make it to tap handles often.
“Space is at a premium,” Burns laughs when mentioning his barrel-aging ambitions. “We’re going to do a lot with our limited space—barrel aging, bottle conditioning, and making beer that’s meant to be aged. All of the above.”
In the brewery production area, four fermenters are labeled with names of bass players, an ode to head brewer Andrew Burns’ favorite musicians, and a callback to his former career as a professional musician.
“I was homebrewing as a hobby [while touring],” Burns, a Minnesota native that started brewing eight years ago, says. “I like to say I’m still a musician, I’m still a brewer. Those are still my two big passions. It’s just that a different aspect is paying the bills.”
Opening Chapel Brewing has been a lengthy three-year process. The founders of the company, originally called Meetinghouse Brewery and then Meetinghall Brewery, fought hard to convince the Dundas City Council to approve the project and allow them to move forward with the brewery and taproom buildout. The company underwent another evolution when Burns and the ownership group decided to change the name to Chapel Brewing to better reflect their original vision for the brewery and the building’s history. Now, the owners are excited for the saga to come to a close so a new chapter can begin.
Describing himself as an American craft beer guy, having been born at the advent America’s craft beer revolution, Burns will be putting spins on his beers born from American trends.
That means plenty of hops and big beers, although he does intend to make a Kölsch and Belgian blonde part of his core lineup, alongside an oatmeal stout and IPA he describes as being plenty hoppy and juicy.
“For me that means we’re going to brew a whole variety of styles,” Burns said. “From all over the world, but the threads that will tie them together is they will all be ales, all unfiltered, and when possible, have an American twist.”
For example, his oatmeal stout will be a higher ABV, a little more robust and bold, according to Burns. “It has a lot of roasted character,” he exclaims. “Whatever I think of as the defining feature of that style, I like to amplify it.”
Along with four flagship beers, Burns expects to have plenty of seasonal beers on rotation—as many as he can churn out.
While the brewery has been through many transformations, Burns is confident that Chapel Brewing will bring people together to see the historic building enter its new life as a brewery.
Brewer: Andrew Burns
Beer: Kölsch, IPA, Belgian Blonde, Oatmeal Stout
Address: 15 Hester Street, Dundas, Minnesota
Hours: Tentative, but Chapel plans on being open seven days a week after opening September 22.