Now Open (Or Damn Close) is supported by underwriting partner Maltwerks, a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. The Growler maintained full editorial control over the content.
Opening any brewery can take years and years of effort and seemingly endless preparation. For brothers-in-law Matt Harren and Kevin Siepker Jr., the collective dream of opening their own place together was born a decade ago in their homebrew club.
“We wanted to do it right away 10 years ago,” laughs marketing coordinator and assistant brewer Siepker Jr. “It’s been a long, slow process,” Harren, primary owner and head brewer, agrees. Harren’s wife, Amelia, also shares primary ownership and event/marketing responsibilities.
A decade ago, the two were living in the Twin Cities metro, homebrewing with their other brothers-in-law in a club they aptly named the Woodside Brew Brothers.
“We saw everything kind of explode around the metro area,” says Harren of the beginning of Minnesota’s craft beer boom, “and got to enjoy all that stuff.” But then life happened. “We had our first kid, then we had another kid […] then we got close again [to opening a brewery]. Then we had twins.”
Ending up in Parkers Prairie through a turn of events, it took six to nine months of dusting off the business plan followed by another year of construction and work before they finally opened the doors of Thousand Lakes Brewing Co. The wait was long, the work hard, and the sacrifices personal, but they take great pride in their achievement.
“[We’re] a couple homebrewers, and we did all the work ourselves with all kinds of input from our families,” says Harren. “A lot of the breweries opening up now are super well-funded—people coming in, they’re full of investors, and kind of know what they’re getting into […] Our [story] is much more nitty-gritty, roll your sleeves up and get it done.”
The trio had originally considered locations closer to Alexandria before 22 Northmen opened on the same property as Carlos Creek Winery just 17 miles south. Ultimately, with their kids in the local school system and their social life and community in Parkers Prairie, they decided to stay in town.
“As soon as you turn the bend down at the south end of the lake, you can see our building,” says Siepker Jr. The space, interestingly enough, was previously a flower shop with personal ties. “This is where I got my wedding flowers from,” Siepker Jr. laughs.
Another interesting fact (and source of local pride) is found in the name, Thousand Lakes. “I like the breweries that have stories behind the name,” prefaces Siepker Jr. He goes on to explain an old newspaper article that Harren and his wife came across, asserting that Ottertail County, where Parkers Prairie resides, has the most lakes of any other county in the U.S.—1,048 lakes, to be exact.
Aesthetically, they’ve sought to reflect the feel of lakes country in their taproom. Large windows offer a great view of Lake Adley to the south and plenty of natural light. Natural wood elements reflect the area’s woods. Even the tables were handmade—most by Harren and Siepker Jr—and some feature Minnesota lakes in the tabletop design.
Like any good local watering hole, the two hope that their space will be a place for people—locals and those passing through—to relax and enjoy together. “One of our big goals to start,” says Siepker Jr. “was always to be a place to gather.” He waves to the shelf of games against one wall. “There was one particular table [during a soft open], during the time they were sitting here, a couple hours, I think they went through three different games. I was amazed to see how many people chose to sit and play games while they were here.”
Perhaps another reason people stay is to sample from all 13 taps. Harren, brewing on a small 3.5-barrel system that is only just larger than his homebrewing setup, says it was important to him that they open with something for everyone. While he personally prefers German styles and IPAs, his wife drinks sours and his kids enjoy craft sodas. The tap list opening week featured everything from a hazy IPA to Kölsch-style, raspberry sour to nitro stout, saison to German Pilsner, and even his own craft root beer.
“We had some people that went through the entire flight of beer but in pints,” laughs Siepker Jr. “There’s always the ambitious ones.”
From Woodside Brew Brothers homebrewing club to Thousand Lakes Brewing Co. in Parkers Prairie, Harren and Siepker Jr.’s own ambitions have been a long time coming. Now, they hope the community joins them in enjoying the results.
“It’s kind of a fun thing to help bring some people in, [and] bring a little excitement to the community,” says Harren.
Brewer: Matt Harren
Beers: Breakfast for Supper Oatmeal Stout (nitro), Tastes Like More Vienna Lager, Pontoon Putzin’ Kolsch, Haystacker Saison, Sassy Red Head Raspberry Sour, Tent Pitcher German Pilsner, Striped Overalls Cream Ale, Last Light Pale Ale, Adley Ale West Coast IPA, Fuzzy Wuzzy Hazy IPA
Address: 110 W Lake Street, Parkers Prairie, MN 56361
Hours: Wed: 3pm–8pm; Thu: 3pm–8pm; Fri: 11am–10pm; Sat: 11am–10pm; Sun: 12pm–6pm
Opened: December 21, 2019
Maltwerks is a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. Maltwerks maintains close relationships with local farmers so brewers know exactly what barley was used and the characteristics they can expect. Maltwerks is a partner in globally sourced commodities and carries a wide variety of spices and botanicals for diversity in craft brewing.