For Dave and Debbie Torgersen, brewing was simply supposed to provide a fun activity to do together. Something they could dabble in as Dave approached retirement from the U.S. Army, something they could get more serious about once his 30-year military career was officially finished.
“We went overboard very quickly. It became an obsession,” Debbie says. “At his retirement party we had nine beers on tap and had a lot of positive comments about those. That’s when it dawned on us that [opening a brewery] was something we wanted to do.”
The couple will open Torg Brewery in Spring Lake Park at the end of August or beginning of September. Torg’s eclectic lineup will feature General En’Yu Endo American Pale Ale, Bearded Preacher’s Wife IPA, Brigid’s Bathwater Dry Irish Stout, Libidinous Hefeweizen, a wild rice mild, and Squirrel Nutkin English Brown, which took a silver medal at the Great Northern Brew Ha Ha.
The Torgersens’ goal is to brew great beer that will help bring people together, like it brought them together in this venture. Although they frequently lived on the same bases in Utah, Alabama, Minnesota, and Hawaii during Dave’s military career, he was often deployed around the globe. Debbie stayed very busy raising and homeschooling their five children, and working as a technical editor. When the two were able to travel together—to England, Ireland, Germany, Norway—they reconnected over pints of local craft beer, which inspired a deep love of brewing traditions.
They want to recreate some of these European flavors and feelings of connectedness at Torg Brewery. Beside the obvious connection to Dave and Debbie’s surname, Torg is Old Norse for a marketplace or town square, places where the populace interact and socialize.
“That Norwegian heritage of mine fell in line with the environment we wanted to mimic from our travels—what we saw in those small little pubs in Norway or over in Ireland,” Dave says. “You’re having a pint, and all of the sudden the table in the corner jostles and the people all pull out instruments and play music. […] That’s what we want to recreate as best we can here in the Twin Cities.”
Torg’s taproom features a mix of contemporary styles with sleek Old World craftsmanship. Thick wood trim around the doors and windows, an assortment of vintage stained wood chairs, and a grandmother clock complete the look.
Although they share the building with another business, there is ample space throughout, including indoor seating that looks down over the production floor and a second-story outdoor deck. In addition, the Torgersens plan to use a large, separate meeting space for events, private parties, and possibly a classroom if a northside institution creates a brewing certificate similar to the one at Dakota County Technical College.
The production floor was designed for expansion, with plenty of storage in the cooler and a second garage space. The brewery is currently equipped with five fermentors and pre-plumbed to add five more down the road. The three-vessel brewing setup mirrors the traditional English system and will allow them to experiment with parti-gyle brewing: a British method that uses the same mash to produce two or three beers in succession, the first possessing a much higher alcohol content.
Debbie’s love of learning about brewing traditions, styles, and methods, as well as her creative approach to crafting flavors, solidified her place as the head brewer. Because Dave studied microbiology and often worked in labs, he focuses on records and process control, and will eventually recover and reuse their yeast, which he did at the University of Minnesota while earning a master’s degree.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” he says. “I can bring the science and the structure and say, ‘Okay, artist, make sure you fill out this form so we can get all the parameters to duplicate this.’”
The Torgersens were cautious when deciding whether to expand their love of homebrewing into a full-blown brewery. “We really took a long time trying to talk ourselves out of it,” Debbie says. “But the more we started talking to different brewers and looking around, the more excited and positive we became about going all in.”
The couple met with 20 breweries during Torg’s planning phase and they received a lot of assistance from OMNI Brewing, LTD Brewing, Wicked Wort Brewing, and Alloy Brewing. Like these breweries, Torg is geared less toward distribution and more toward serving beer within its community.
“What we really wanted to focus on was a taproom,” Dave says. “We wanted to focus on creating good beers to serve to great people in a local taproom.”
Brewer: Debbie Torgersen
Beers: General En’Yu Endo American Pale Ale, Bearded Preacher’s Wife IPA, Squirrel Nutkin English Brown, Brigid’s Bathwater Dry Irish Stout, Libidinous Hefeweizen, and a wild rice mild.
Address: 8421 University Ave. NE, Spring Lake Park, MN 55432
Soft Opening: Late August 2018
Grand Opening: September 2018