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From Malt to Hops, Scott County’s Beer Scene Is Bubbling

New enterprises add to long history of beer production

By Bonnie Burch on October 7, 2015

A bartender poses behind the bar at Badger Hill Brewery.
Shakopee / Michael D. Tedesco

With one of the world’s largest malting operations, a growing network of home brewers, a new microbrewing facility and tasting room (and another on the way before the year’s end), Scott County is trending for lovers of hops and suds.

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But for those who know their local history, beer production has long been a part of the county’s culture and economy.

“In my opinion, one of the most influential, but less well-known stories is that of Rahr Malting in Shakopee,” says local beer expert Tyrone Babione of New Prague.

Founded by German immigrant William Rahr in 1847, Rahr Malting is still a family owned company. The malt production plant in Shakopee, now the company headquarters, supplies malt to breweries around the world.

“Brewers call malt the soul of beer. It is the malt, primarily made from barley, which provides the sugars needed to ferment into alcohol. Without a supply of quality malt, brewing is not possible,” Babione says.

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In response to the booming nationwide craft beer market, Rahr formed a subsidiary, Brewers Supply Group, to provide ingredients to craft breweries, wineries, distilleries and home-brew shops.

Past to Present

Early German and Bohemian settlers brought their beer crafting knowledge from the Old World to their new homes in Minnesota. By the mid-1800s, Scott County had breweries in Belle Plaine, Jordan, New Prague and Shakopee at various times, according to Land of Amber Waters – A History of Brewing in Minnesota by Doug Hoverson.

Prohibition closed most of these breweries, and none of them survive today.

But late last year, commercial brewing returned to Scott County when Badger Hill Brewery opened a facility in Shakopee, where beers such as the White IPA are brewed and canned for shipment to bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

Beer enthusiasts can also taste the specialty beers in the onsite taproom or get their growlers filled.

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Founded in 2012, Badger Hill got its start as a partnership through an alternative proprietorship agreement with Lucid Brewing in Minnetonka before moving to Valley Industrial Boulevard.

Coming Soon

Even though Badger Hill is the first new microbrewery in Scott County, it won’t be the only one for long: Roets Jordan Brewery Co. is working toward a late 2015 opening.

Originally, the Roets family was renovating an old Jordan brewery facility for the operation. But disaster struck in June 2014 when a landslide smashed through the walls of the old building before the first keg was tapped.

Since then, brewery owners have signed a lease to move the brewery and taproom to a former library building while the stability of the hillside behind the former site continues to be assessed.

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Home Sweet Homebrews

Of course, plenty of Scott County beer enthusiasts create their own concoctions in garages, basements and barns using tips and recipes traded through home-brewing clubs such as the New Bohemian Brewers, based in New Prague. One of the country’s largest home-brewing competitions happens every year during the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

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