Travail chef takes the reins of a restaurant and brewery

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Travail chef Andy Goettsch brewing Spotlight IPA at F-Town Brewing // Photo by Domini Brown

Spotlight IPA. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because you haven’t been to F-Town Brewing Company or one of Travail’s restaurants lately—or maybe ever. The refreshing session ale is a collaboration effort between Andy Goettsch, chef at Travail Kitchen and Amusements, and F-Town Brewing Company of Faribault, Minnesota. These two establishments have combined for a two-month stint in the Rookery Spotlight series running through May and June.

Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, is not known for tradition. The owners take risks and allow ambitious chefs to do the same. This is especially true at the Rookery, Travail’s bar that features beer, craft cocktails, and a rotating menu of delectable small plates. Rookery Spotlight is a concept in which one of Travail’s emerging chefs gets full jurisdiction over the operations and menu of the Rookery for a two-month period. It is a sink-or-swim kind of deal. They get to showcase their skills, their ideas, and their own tastes.

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F-Town Brewing owner Travis Temke // Photo by Domini Brown

When Travail’s Andy Goettsch volunteered to be the second chef in the Spotlight series, he didn’t know that he would also have the opportunity to take the reins of a brewery, so to speak. Travis Temke, owner of F-Town, made the collaboration possible.

Temke reached out to Travail earlier in the year, and it turned out the timing was ripe; Temke found out that Spotlight’s second chef was a homebrewer. Goettsch did not hesitate to take up Temke’s offer to work together, and soon chose a homebrew recipe to share with F-Town. The craft brewer then made the commercial production of Andy’s Spotlight IPA a reality.

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F-Town’s Noah Strouth, left, and Andy Goettsch // Photo by Domini Brown

Goettsch’s tendencies in the kitchen are to be patient, precise, and process-perfect; all of which translate well to brewing, where sanitation, percentages, and timing are the name of the game. When asked if he was nervous about sharing his homebrew recipe with a professional brewer he replied in the negative. “As far as my homebrewing goes,” he said, “this is my flagship beer. It’s one that I love, so I want to share it with people.”

Spotlight IPA is a bright session ale with a huge charge of floral hops and a clean profile. Goettsch says it’s “not a palate crusher” and is especially good with light food during the summer months. Rather than pairing it with a specific plate, Goettsch intends that the IPA goes down easy with everything on his menu.

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Andy Goettsch’s Rookery Spotlight menu focuses on simple dishes // Photo by Domini Brown

For Goettsch’s Spotlight stint, he is focused on making dishes with few ingredients. This is part taste, part efficiency. The caveat of the Rookery Spotlight is that the chef literally does it all. Goettsch preps, takes orders, cooks, cleans, and even manages the business side of the Rookery. Every plate served comes from Goettsch’s own hands. Simple, fresh courses are paramount to Goettsch’s concept.

Goettsch has been a chef for more than five years, and a homebrewer for two. He received his first-ever one-gallon brewing system as a Valentine’s Day gift, and has brewed twice a month ever since. At first he stuck to the kit recipes, but that got old pretty fast. “As a chef, [it’s like] cooking someone else’s food. You [soon] want to do your own thing.”

Moving up to a five-gallon kit, he began creating his own recipes. Brewing became another outlet for his creativity as a chef. In time, he created the recipe that would become known as Spotlight IPA.

Noah Strouth, F-Town’s head brewer, worked with Goettsch to configure the Spotlight IPA recipe for commercial production. In order to retain the integrity of the Spotlight concept, it was paramount that the quality and taste of the beer did not change from Goettsch’s intent.

There were a few obstacles in the process, mainly in sourcing the right hops and in scaling the recipe for volume. Temke explained that under their typical brewing practices, they would “never do a recipe this quickly and offer it as our own.” But with Travail’s reputation, and the fun challenge of the collaboration, Strouth and Goettsch made it work.

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Andy Goettsch, right, preps dishes at Travail // Photo by Domini Brown

Aside from Goettsch’s recipe, F-Town handled all the details of production. Temke even designed the tap handle for the beer. He wanted it to have all the character and recognition that Spotlight owes to the chef, so what better way than to feature Goettsch’s bright, smiling face on tap handles?

Spotlight IPA complements F-Town’s own tap offerings: an American pale ale, an IPA, a nut brown ale, and a limited-run maple imperial stout. “We’ve never had a beer like Andy’s, so it’s something different,” Temke says. “It gives our customers and locals something new.”

When asked how he will measure the success of his beer and his menu, Goettsch says there are two ways. The first is financial. Any restaurant can be considered a success if there is a profit. However, it’s the people who eat his food, he says, that will define his personal success. “That’s the ultimate compliment as a chef,” Goettsch says, “that people follow you.”

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One of Andy Goettsch’s dishes from his Rookery Spotlight menu // Photo by Domini Brown

Goettsch laughed at the thought that his beer might sell out before the end of June. “I have a Belgium recipe I really like,” he offers. Perhaps Goettsch’s collaborations with F-Town aren’t quite over yet.

Spotlight IPA will be on tap, along with Goettsch’s exclusive Spotlight menu, at the Rookery throughout May and June. IPA adventurers can also find the beer at Pig Ate My Pizza (Travail’s sister restaurant) and F-Town’s taproom.

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Photos by Domini Brown

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