The longest gap between beers in Minnesota brewing history (154 years) is ending this fall. After eight years of planning and tens of thousands of hours of research, legal work and build out, the only known remaining example of a pre–Civil War lager beer saloon is being reincarnated as Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery. Having successfully navigated all sorts of legal and architectural puzzles, the long-anticipated brewery will open October 1.
Owner Tom Schroeder and his team have created an intimate brewery and restaurant that evokes the feel of a Civil War–era tavern, though as Schroeder notes, he is not just “playing with an antique.” Schroeder and lead architect John Yust, brewer Drew Ruggles, and chef Karl Gerstenberger have developed a modern production brewery, taproom, and restaurant within the 19th century structure and the new additions.
The interior, food, and beer are an amalgam of German influences as they might have been experienced in Minnesota’s territorial period. Some of the furniture is from the 19th century and more has been created according to patterns of the era from reclaimed wood. (The restrooms, located to the rear of the building, are modern.) There are several display cases featuring the history of the building and of beer from the era, as well as some small doors that can be opened to view architectural features of the structure.
Visitors will enter from the alley on the north side, and arrive in the Bier Hall—a casual room where they can enjoy food and beer, or wait for seating in one of the other rooms. The Stove Room is on the first floor facing Smith Avenue, and features the original wood floor along with a functional wood stove. Directly above is the Buffalo Room, which unsurprisingly features a bison head mounted on one wall. Behind the Buffalo Room is the Bier Lounge, which offers more relaxed seating options. The rooms on the second floor can be closed off, allowing spaces for private parties and special events. (While there is a sign directing patrons to the biergarten, it will not be ready this year.)
Photos by Aaron Davidson
Chef Gerstenberger brings many years of experience in sausage manufacturing and an affinity for the Slow Food Movement to the Wurstery part of the business. His house-made sausages will be at the center of the menu. Diners can select from a variety of German-inspired side dishes, including dumplings, spätzle, and duck fat potatoes, as well as beet salads, pickle salads, and German potato salads. The menu will also feature regional cheeses and smoked meats and fish sourced from local artisans. Aki’s BreadHaus will supply pretzels.
Drew Ruggles’ German style beers are influenced by flavors and ingredients similar to those of mid-19th century Minnesota. All of the beers include at least some Cluster hops, which grew in the Upper Midwest and were widely used by American brewers of the era. Ruggles uses a lot of Weyermann floor-malted barley, but also includes some Czech malt to get the slightly grassy character typical of the less-modified malts of the 19th century. While seeking an authentic-tasting beer, Ruggles emphasized: “we are not going full-gonzo 1850. We want to provide a semblance of history but also to accommodate modern tastes.” The custom-built brewhouse is located in a new building to the rear of the brewery.
Three of Ruggles’ beers will be on tap opening day, with more to follow later in the month. Because Waldmann is opening in October, one of the first beers will be an Oktoberfest märzen—it’s hoppier than many märzens, which produces a drier finish. The first menu will also feature a classic Pilsner—a showcase for malt but as hoppy as the classic continental versions. Ruggles plans to devoted one tap throughout the year to a wheat beer of some sort. The first to occupy this spot is Harvest Hefeweizen, which in color and taste is in between a hefeweizen and a dunkelweizen. A Wiesn-style Oktoberfest like those now served at the festival in Munich will join the lineup about a week later. After Oktoberfest season is over, the märzen will be replaced by a Vienna-style lager. Also currently resting in a fermentor is a Munich dunkel made with six percent beechwood smoked malt. Crowlers, lids, and the seamer are in the building, but the labels are still awaiting approval, so it will be a few weeks before beer is available to-go.
Waldmann has a small parking lot and there is also some street parking in the area. Because of the density of the neighborhood, customers may find it more enjoyable to walk, use public transportation, or bicycle and occupy one of the numerous bike racks provided. However you get there, the food, beer, and the whale oil lamps will transport you to another era.
Photos by Aaron Davidson
Brewer: Drew Ruggles
Beer: Pilsener, Oktoberfest Märzen, Oktoberfest Wiesn, Harvest Hefeweizen, Vienna Lager, Münchner-style Dunkel.
Address: 445 Smith Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota
Hours: Tue–Thu: 11am–10pm; Fri–Sat: 11am–midnight; Sun: 11am–9pm; (Mondays available for private events)
Online: Website, Facebook, Twitter