John Skoglund still remembers his first craft brewery experience, years ago in Montana. “It was very intriguing to me, the community and locals coming together. It really drew me in,” the Montevideo native recalls. “I kept thinking it would be nice to have something like this around here.”
He’ll get his wish later this month, when he and business partner Nick Patton open Talking Waters Brewing Company.
Patton owns Java River, a coffee shop in downtown Montevideo, and is a middle school science teacher. He and Skoglund first met and ended up hitting it off over homebrews. They started a homebrew club together and, although the club eventually petered out, their dream of opening a brewery prospered.
“When my wife and I first bought Java River, the idea was that we would keep it as a coffee shop, but [we were also] hoping that we could expand it to a one-barrel taproom—doing coffee in the morning and beer at night,” says Patton, who has had beer on his mind for as long as he can remember.
He eventually realized that the Java River building wasn’t suitable for brewing, so he and Skoglund turned their sights to a vacant office building across the street from the coffee shop. As the two started planning a brewery in earnest, Jake’s Pizza, another neighboring business, quickly jumped into the game.
“I wanted to buy this building,” says Phil Zachman, owner of Jake’s Pizza and Talking Waters’ third partner, referring to the office space. When he learned about Skoglund and Patton’s plan, instead of competing with them, he joined them. He notes that he also realized his pizza place will be sure to feed a few hungry beer fans, too. “That’s my part of it,” he says modestly, deferring credit to Patton and Skoglund.
The connections between the three brewery owners run deep. Patton went to college with Skoglund’s son, and also worked for Zachman at Jake’s while he was in high school. Today, the three are business partners ready to showcase their local roots while pouring pints.
Phil & Nick prepping the mash for our first batch of beer!!???? pic.twitter.com/H0nQ6KKfen
— Talking Waters (@twbrewingco) June 9, 2016
Minnesota has grown to be the home of over 100 breweries, but the majority of them are in metropolitan areas, and very few are in southern Minnesota. Talking Waters sees that as a positive for them—a market in need of full-flavored beer. “Unless we seek it out, we’re not getting a lot of craft beer coming this way,” Patton says. He and his business partners are out to change that.
Talking Waters is keeping beer in-house to start, but are open to distribution down the road. The overall concept is to remain as local as possible: The brewery was mostly made by area craftsmen, from the tables (built by Patton’s father), to the mural by local artist and farmer Malena Handeen, to the barn wood decorating the north wall, which came directly from a century-old granary three miles from town.
As for the name, Talking Waters refers to Lac qui Parle Lake, which is French for “The Lake that Speaks” (as translated from its original Dakota name). It’s also a mission statement. “We want people to sit down and have good beer and good conversation,” Patton says. “This is a place to spark that kind of thing.” It’s a taproom with no TV—a space the owners describe as “rustic industrial,” with a small bar, a shuffleboard table, and comfortable couches that modernize the space with a homey feel.
Whereas many new breweries are plush with expensive equipment, Talking Waters’ brewhouse, located in the basement below the taproom, is a “frankenbrew” five-barrel system that includes three repurposed dairy tanks. But that’s not stopping the team from dreaming big. “People are always looking for something new and interesting,” Patton says. “I think we’re going to find that they’ll want to drink as much as we can throw at them. We have a small system,” he adds, “which makes it fun for us as brewers…to do that experimental and seasonal stuff.”
Patton says he plans to make a variety of styles as head brewer. They’ll open with roughly six beers on tap, but have space for 10 taps (one nitro) in total. Stay tuned to Talking Waters’ social media feeds (linked below) for an official opening date.
Brewers: Nick Patton (head brewer), John Skoglund (assistant), Phil Zachman (assistant)
Beer: Square Nail IPA, General’s Breakfast Stout, Farmer’s Tan Cream Ale, Stony Run Pale Ale, Zoomer Red Ale, and saison
Visit: 205 S. 1st Street, Montevideo, Minnesota (click here for a map)
Hours: Thursday and Friday, 3–10pm; Saturday, 12pm–10pm