When he retired from his engineering career two years ago, Uncommon Loon Brewing Company co-founder Brad Klatt wore a shirt to his party that read, “Of course I have a retirement plan—I’ll be brewing beer.” The homebrewer of 23 years admits he had the shirt there as a joke, but his lifelong friend Mark “Corky” Skoglund guessed (correctly) that there was more to it than that.
“Brad is a very planful man and always has been,” Skoglund says. “For him to retire, I thought something’s up.” After Klatt announced his retirement, Skoglund asked him what he was really up to, and Klatt told him he wanted to spend his retirement as a brewer.
The two men, joined by John Cariveau, have spent the time since Klatt’s retirement establishing Uncommon Loon Brewing Company.
It took the three partners many hours of brainstorming and voting from a list of 400 ideas to decide on a name for their company. “Uncommon Loon,” a play on Minnesota’s state bird, the common loon, pays tribute to the lakes surrounding the brewery’s Chisago City location, as well as the founders’ intentions to bring something new to the realm of craft beer brewing in Minnesota.
“Our beers are going to be different, and we’re different,” Klatt says. “We’re celebrating the fact that we’re going to be different for this community.” Uncommon Loon will be the first craft brewery in the Chisago Lakes region—the closest, 15 miles away, is HammerHeart Brewing Company in Lino Lakes.
Uncommon Loon will operate from a familiar place: the former Chisago City fire station and community center, located on Highway 8, which the founders purchased in April 2018. Formerly known as the Peppermint Club and the Hideaway, the center has hosted wedding receptions, American Legion meetings, election polls, and performances by bands like The Trashmen and The Castaways throughout the years. Skoglund’s former boss even relayed to him the memory of attending a sock hop in that building.
“Folks in this area are really accustomed to using this space,” Skoglund says. “We’re all into the idea of what this space has always served here and are excited to keep using it.”
When Klatt, Skoglund, and Cariveau placed a bid to buy the building, they beat out several other potential buyers who were interested in the property. “Everybody from the mayor to the city administrator has made it easy for us to get in here and purchase the property,” Klatt says. “They’re excited about what we’re going to do for the community.”
Attached to the community center is the former fire station, which has been converted into a 10-barrel brewhouse and 2,800-square-foot taproom. The focal point of the taproom is a 19-foot-long, Honduran mahogany art deco bar that adorned the Saint Paul Hotel until the 1970s. The taproom also features an indoor/outdoor bar with a garage door that opens onto a large courtyard patio, a stage, and free popcorn.
In the future, the founders plan to build a kitchen within the facility, but they are currently working with local restaurants and the soon-to-open Stone Inn Restaurant next door to provide food to taproom guests.
They says they want to create an unhurried environment within their taproom, making it inviting for community members of all ages: “Think of a coffee shop that serves beer,” Klatt says.
Klatt has lived in Chisago City for 19 years and expects the plethora of nearby lakes, parks, and bike trails to drum up business. But he says the brewery’s location on Highway 8, which is heavily trafficked during summer months, will draw the most visitors.
Uncommon Loon will open with six beers, including a hazy New England IPA—a favorite of Klatt and Skoglund—along with a blonde ale, Northwest IPA, hefeweizen, nut brown ale, stout, and cream ale. They’ll also feature craft sodas, draft root beer, and specialty beers that Klatt will brew as part of the brewery’s future firkin program.
Though they expect many guests to ask for lighter styles of beer, based on local drinking preferences, Klatt plans to also introduce experimental styles like barrel-aged beers and sours, in addition to varieties of lagers. “We ask people to come with an open mind, and I think we’ll surprise them,” he says.
A major goal for Uncommon Loon is sourcing local ingredients whenever possible. To accomplish this, Klatt has been working with Country Bitters Hop Farm just six miles away in Center City, and St. Croix Valley Hops a little farther afield in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, among others.
As Uncommon Loon becomes the newest iteration of the town’s community center, the founders hope to make it much more than just a retirement venture. Eventually, when the event space is fully booked, kegs are going out to local establishments, and the brewery’s kitchen is up and running, Klatt, Skoglund, and Cariveau hope Uncommon Loon continues to be a place where people love to gather.
Brewer: Brad Klatt
Beers: 12 taps, with six on tap to begin, including a New England IPA, blonde ale, Northwest IPA, hefeweizen, nut brown ale, stout, and cream ale
Address: 10825 Lake Blvd., Chisago City MN 55013
Grand Opening: December 19, 2018 at 4pm
Update [4:25pm, December 14, 2018]: Uncommon Loon announced on Facebook they would be open to the public on Wednesday, December 19.