Nick Huisinga is a busy man. During the week, he produces vaccines for Willmar Poultry Company. On the weekends, he drives two and a half hours north to put the finishing touches on the soon-to-open Cuyuna Brewing Company in Crosby.
Huisinga owns the brewery with his wife and father-in-law. He’ll serve as head brewer and his wife, Laura, will manage the taproom. As a lover of both science and food, homebrewing was a natural hobby for Huisinga, but it kept growing.
“I didn’t think [opening a brewery] would ever happen, it was just a dream,” he says.
It was another hobby, mountain biking, that ultimately inspired Cuyuna. On a 2015 cycling trip with a friend, the unique red dirt trails in Crosby blew him away. At that same time, the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTB Crew) was seeking a brewery to complement the expanding cycling tourism. The CLMTB Crew had run a survey to determine what amenities cyclists wanted for entertainment, and craft beer topped the list. Huisinga jumped at the opportunity, with the city helping with advice on local grants and licensing procedures.
The brewery is in the heart of the historic town, located at 1 East Main Street. The building, constructed sometime between the town’s 1910 incorporation and a 1912 postcard they’ve found in historic archives, is antiquated and rustic. The hardwood floors are over 100 years old and the ceiling features original tin tiles––a departure from the more industrial taproom atmospheres that Minnesota beer fans are used to.
Patrons can sit at the lengthy zig-zag bar or at wire spool-styled tables, looking at the historic vault door that sits just behind the bar as a centerpiece. The vault is from a previous use of the building, but he’s hoping to integrate it into Cuyuna soon. Meanwhile, the five-barrel brewhouse is visible to visitors but separated from the taproom space, due to the building’s layout.
Cuyuna will produce beers for the taproom and will be looking to distribute kegs regionally as it grows.
Huisinga’s beers will be easy to drink: enjoyable and not overpowering, he says. “I don’t have any beer you only want one of. That’s what I strive for,” he explains of his brewing philosophy. “I’m not a big IPA fan,” he adds, though he enjoys some well-balanced options on the market. Instead, he favors European styles like extra special bitter and festbier. He’ll also brew Manhigh Oatmeal Stout with just a hint of smoked barley, a red ale named Yawkey Red, and Crusher IPA, a balanced IPA that uses Citra hops with a higher mash temperature to give a sweeter profile.
Though it was biking that brought Huisinga to Crosby the first time, it’s the area’s unique charm that truly appeals to him. All of the names, including the brewery itself, he notes, come from local history. Spanning roughly from Brainerd to Aitkin, the Cuyuna Iron Range drew settlers to the region and defines its spirit today. Yawkey Red is inspired by the unique soil of the local bike trails. It also connects the region’s mining history to its modern revitalization. By honoring that history, Cuyuna Brewing will give visitors a crash course in local history along with a flight of beer.
Currently still living in Willmar, Huisinga plans to work extra-long hours in Willmar during the week, then do three-day weekends in Crosby as the brewery settles in. Eventually, he’d like to move north and embrace the community that’s quickly embraced his project.
Moving from turkeys to beer may sound like an unusual transition but, Huisinga says, the focus on microbiology is surprisingly similar. Just like a brewer propagating yeast in the brewhouse, he isolates bacteria and multiplies them in the lab to create vaccines. “It’s the same idea so it’s kind of natural to move into brewing,” he says. “I’ve gotten a lot better at brewing from my job and, believe it or not, I’ve gotten better at my job from brewing.”
Cuyuna will have its soft-opening on the weekend of January 27 and 28, noon-11pm both days, and will be fully open the first weekend in February when it co-sponsors the 2017 Whiteout Post-Race Block Party in downtown Crosby (regular business hours below).
Brewer: Nick Huisinga
Beer: Manhigh Oatmeal Stout, Yawkey Red Ale, Ranger Strong ESB, Silver Dollar Lager, Crusher IPA
Address: 1 E. Main St, Crosby, MN 56441
Hours: Thursday 7–11pm; Friday Noon–11pm; Saturday Noon–11pm; Sunday 1–4pm