Just off a gravel road next to a horse farm in Hugo, Minnesota, two friends are getting ready to launch their new production brewery into orbit.
Cosmos Brewing majority owner Daryl Bolicek once envisioned a “rock star hotel” at the site: a place for touring musicians to rehearse, record, and get some R&R before playing gigs in the Twin Cities. An entrepreneurial spirit, Bolicek was split between opening a recording studio and his other love: beer. After chatting it over with Jared Camic, a friend from their days together at McNally Smith School of Music, they set their course beer-ward just over two years ago.
After determining their plans, Camic attended school in Madison and then at Brewlab in the UK, where he gained experience at Maxim Brewery and Three Kings Brewery. “As time has gone by the beer has gotten cleaner and cleaner,” Bolicek says of Camic’s homebrews throughout his schooling. “The number one change I saw was a lot of flavors that didn’t need to be there were gone.”
Cosmos Brewing began really coming to life when they started converting the building next to Bolicek’s house, (originally built to be a recording studio), into the production brewery with 15- and 30-barrel fermenters installed on what was first built to be a dancefloor.
While many new breweries are focused on their immediate community first, Cosmos, like their name, seeks a wider reach. “Our goal is to distribute nationally,” Bolicek says. “We’re going to start here and we have quite a few years to go just in Minnesota,” he admits. They are taking a calculated and methodical approach to growing their brand, beginning with a debut in the heart of Minnesota’s beer scene: Northeast Minneapolis.
With a sales manager living in Northeast already, it makes sense for Cosmos to go where the discerning beer drinkers are. With an out-of-the-way location and grand ambition, Cosmos is skipping the taproom model that most other breweries have used, and will instead focus on production and distribution to start. “You size yourself for your taproom and maybe a little distribution,” explains Bolicek of the taproom model, which he thinks can limit growth or distribution range to start. Cosmos will introduce kegs of their English-influenced beers at a launch party on December 2 at Grumpy’s Northeast, and hope to have a canning line up and running in early 2017.
After meeting in music school and holding a variety of previous jobs, including as touring musicians (though never together on the same stage) Bolicek and Camic are creating new art. Working out the details of a new beer is a similar process to when the two would get on a boat and write songs, says Camic. The only difference in the process is the end product.
Cosmos’ beers will be a blend of influences: English yeasts, traditional Belgian souring, and American proprietary hops, all made without shortcuts. There will be no extracts and no kettle sours, Camic says. With their English-style beer, the finish will be intentionally dry while emphasizing balance over an aggressive or oily hop character. “People think the English style is a ‘plain Jane’ but, in a lot of it, you get that fruity yeast character. The stuff that’s becoming popular now, they’ve been doing for a long time,” Camic explains. The beers, Camic says, will be filtered and clear and, because of the emphasis on dryness, many will touch higher ABV percentages.
Camic and Bolicek also have a love for sours like Flanders red and lambics, and are excited to establish a barrel-aging and souring program. Cosmos hopes to have 1,500 barrels in the warehouse after a year in business. “Our sour program is more of our baby, we’ll nurture it and it will take years,” Bolicek explains.
Like the road to Bolicek’s home and the brewery across his driveway, it’s been a long and winding path. “Two years of starting a company and not making a dollar can get you down,” he admits. “We’ve stayed positive.”
“There’s a good way to do that,” he laughs. “As long as you’re brewing good beer, you just drink beer.”
Photos by Aaron Davidson
Brewer: Jared Camic
Beer: Planet-XPA India pale ale, 3D Hoppy lager, Cosmonut brown, Buzzed Aldrin cappuccino ale, IRA hoppy red, Crop Formation wit, Habitable Saizone cherry saison, Light Source lager, Double Black Hole black ale, Supervoid Russian imperial stout, Arm-Strong Belgian barleywine, Muttnik Puppy Chow Porter, Celestial Pinball pomegranate lambic, HCBGW sour stout, Golden Meteor Sour apricot berlinerweiss, There Gose the Galaxy key lime gose, Ancient Ruins vanilla cacao oud bruin, Go-Lactic Flanders red.
Address: Hugo, MN (no taproom)