If you’re a landowner in southeast Minnesota, you may soon be getting a knock on your door from Austin Jevne.
The head brewer at Rochester, Minnesota’s, soon-to-open brewpub, Forager Brewing Company, has a passion for incorporating wild, foraged ingredients in his beer. “I enjoy it because it brings the forest to a bottle,” Jevne says. “It gives beer a different kind of flavor. There’s a ton of great beer out there, and for me, I always wanted to do something different and unique to our area—I want to give people a unique taste of our terroir here in southeast Minnesota.”
Jevne caught the foraging bug while working along trout streams for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“I found all these hidden treasures around the forests of southeast Minnesota,” he said. “Berries, roots, barks—not only did I like cooking with them but I tried using them in beers.”
Nowadays, Jevne has his go-to foraging spots, but he’s also actively seeking out new caches of ingredients on farms around Rochester. Jevne often approaches farmers and landowners in the area and asks if he can forage for particular plants on their land.
“Most of the time they say, ‘I didn’t even know that was something you could use or eat. Bring me a case of Bud Light and you can take whatever you want,’” Jevne said with a chuckle, though many also ask to try the beer the ingredients ultimately end up in. He never takes more than he needs, which he said is a basic foraging principle, and always comes back to build a relationship with the people whose land he forages. “What they think is waste is something special and unique for me.”
Mulberries, blackcap raspberries, gooseberries, wild plums and grapes, chokecherries, mint, lilacs, irises: if it grows in the area, Jevne is on a quest to find it and incorporate it into his beer. He even found wild hops growing in a forest that he’s used for flavor and aroma in a wild sour ale and plans to use in a pale ale made with all Minnesota ingredients once he can have their acid content tested.
Not only do Forager Brewing’s beers live up to its name, most of its brewing equipment was also salvaged or repurposed—its seven-barrel fermenters are converted yogurt and juice transportation tanks.
Given the focus on wild and foraged ingredients, it’s no surprise that one of the brewpub’s specialties will be sour beers. And like the ingredients added to the beers, the barrels used to age the sours also have unique stories.
The barrels begin at Black Swan Barrels in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and are then used by distilleries around the region to age spirits. From there, Turkey Hill Apiary of Lakeville, Minnesota, uses the barrels to produce their barrel-aged honey. Once the honey has been removed, Forager purchases them.
When Forager officially opens in early September, the tap lineup will include a Belgian blonde and brown, a French farmhouse saison, German hefeweizen and altbier, an American pale ale, and a chocolate coffee stout. The sours will be works-in-progress, given the amount of time they need to age. Plans for souring the beers include adding blackberries to the Belgian blonde, lilac and strawberries to the saison, blackcap raspberries to a Flanders red, and wild mint to the stout.
Like the beer, the food at Forager will also focus on foraged and seasonal ingredients. The menu will feature dishes that go well with beer, the centerpiece being wood-fired pizzas.
Forager is a component of Annie Henderson’s “business incubator” concept, called Kutzky Market. Along with the brewpub, the Market will house a coffee shop, a leasable commercial kitchen and pop-up restaurant, and space for nine local artists to sell their works. Click here for a full story on Henderson and Kutzky Market.
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Brewers: Austin Jevne, head brewer; Paul Metz, assistant brewer
Beer: Belgian blonde and brown, French farmhouse saison, German hefeweizen and altbier, American pale ale and chocolate coffee stout, with sours and seasonals to come
Visit: 1005 6th St NW, Rochester, MN
Hours: Mon-Fri 4pm-11pm; Sat & Sun 11am-11pm