Finding a home for Yoerg Brewing Co. has been a lengthy process for co-owners Thomas Keim and Carole Minogue.
“We were all set to go into an old saloon on Wabasha, and it would have been perfect,” said Keim. “It was just a few blocks from the original Yoerg brewery. But poof, the deal went down the drain in April.”
Then the couple started considering the possibilities of a 19th-century storefront on the northeastern edge of Lowertown.
“But that dragged on, and on,” said Keim. “I was beginning to look at strip malls in West St. Paul, but Carole said, ‘Forget it, we have to be in a historic building.’”
Well, they just found one: the 1885 red brick beauty (at 378 Maria Av. in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood) that was most recently home to the Strip Club Meat & Fish, which closed last July after a 10-year run.
“It’s the perfect spot,” said Keim. “I’ve always loved the building. I’m a St. Paul boy, I grew up on Rice Street. And Carole’s from St. Paul, too.”
Keim’s fascination with St. Paul’s first brewery began when he was 10 years old, killing time in the basement of the East Side liquor store where his father was working a part-time, post-retirement job. He unearthed a box of Yoerg beer bottles, and an obsession was born.
(Aren’t familiar with the fabled Yoerg name? It may not ring 651 bells as loudly as Hamm or Schmidt, but it probably should. The brewery was founded in 1848 by Anthony Yoerg, a Bavarian expat who built a thriving business on the city’s West Side; the company survived Prohibition, but sputtered to a close in 1952).
After years of collecting bottles, labels and other paraphernalia, and diving deep into historical research (“Carole got sick of me whining about reviving the Yoerg label,” Keim said with a laugh), the couple obtained trademarks and original recipes and tapped Octopi Brewing, a contract operation in Waunakee, Wis., to brew their distinctive beers: a dark, roasted-malt bock (“We just roast the hell out of the malts, it’s unique” said Keim) and a creamy pilsner labeled a “picnic” beer. Both are currently sold in about 30 retail outlets.
“We have a cult following,” said Keim.
For the new space, Keim and Minogue have teamed up with Mike Spores, a St. Paul firefighter and avid home brewer, to lead commercial production specifically for the brewpub.
“We’re talking about producing a smoked beer, a hoppy Bavarian rye lager, those kinds of things,” said Keim.
The bar will reserve half its taps for a rotating selection of craft labels imported from Bavaria and the Czech Republic.
“We’ll bring the Old World to the New World,” said Keim.
In addition, Keim will select 100 wines by the bottle, all in the $40-and-under price range. He’ll also offer a rotating array of eight by-the-glass options, all at $6 a pop.
The kitchen will focus on simple, beer-forward fare. The centerpiece will be a sandwich that Keim encountered years ago at a Long Beach, Calif., bar.
“It was owned by a guy from Wisconsin, and he’d been making this same sandwich since 1920,” said Keim.
Picture this: a Polish sausage, split and filled with a pickle spear, finished with Swiss cheese and mustard, served on caraway rye and wrapped in white deli paper. The bread will be baked by St. Paul’s PJ Murphy’s, and sausage will come from nearby Morelli’s, which is also producing a handful of different 12-inch pub pizzas.
“Since we’re going to be on the East Side, we’ve got to support our East Side neighbors,” said Keim.
“A fun, everyday menu,” said Keim.
Keim said that the space will undergo some cosmetic upgrades, and the plan is to take over the storefront next door and convert it into an events space. Target opening date is Sept. 15.