Less than two years ago, Zac Gleason didn't have a plan.
He was stressed, tired of corporate life and wanted to do something different. He talked to his wife about quitting his job, working in the multifamily apartment industry.
"My plan was to make a plan," Gleason said. "I wanted to start a business of my own. I wanted to create something that was going to be my legacy."
After a lot of soul searching, Gleason landed on starting a craft brewery. The move fit with his background as a home brewer and leveraged the connections and industry knowledge he had through his popular food blog, Sota Eats.
"I put my head down and I worked full time at this every single day until right now," he said. "And here we are."
Just 18 months after Gleason left corporate life, Hackamore Brewing Co. opened last week in a Chanhassen industrial park.
"I wanted to create an upscale and more elevated brewery that is still always going to be a brewery first," he said. "When we would build new developments, it was always about putting in the newest, the best, the most amenities. So I really brought that to this project."
That means a state-of-the-art golf simulator. In-demand pinball games, including the new Foo Fighters machine. A "pro shop" with an array of co-branded merchandise. Several types of seating areas, from cozy couches and booths to high-tops and communal tables. Viewing windows into the brewhouse. Televisions that aren't a focal point but allow guests to watch a game. Live plants and custom statement art pieces provide what Gleason calls "Instagrammable-type moments."
The result? An opening weekend that had lines nearly out the door and all Hackamore hands on deck.
"We were floored," said Gleason.
Hackamore Brewing Co. is a window into Gleason's upbringing. It starts with the name — he grew up in his grandparents' home on Hackamore Circle in Corcoran — and continues with the flagship beers.
Can Crusher, a cream ale, is a shoutout to his job as a kid — "That's how I learned the value of money," Gleason said. He also thought it was a great name for a light, crushable beer.
The Potbelly Oatmeal Stout, "besides the obvious beer-drinking potbelly," he said, is a nod to the potbelly pigs his grandparents raised.
Grandma's Kitchen, a strawberry-rhubarb pie kettle sour, is a tribute to his grandma, her gardens and the rhubarb treats that came from them.
The #14, an American lager, is a tribute to his late grandfather, who was his father figure growing up, and is the only beer with a specially designed tap. It incorporates the number 14, the number his athlete grandfather — and the entire family — wore in sports, and a cardinal, which many believe symbolizes a loved one watching over you.
"He would only drink the crappiest and cheapest light beer that he could find, so I really want to replicate a light American lager," Gleason said. "And the ironic thing now is that as craft beer goes through such waves and swings, lagers and pilsners are all the rage right now."
A little help from friends
The ties to Gleason's past don't end with the building or the beer — they extend to the people in it.
"Everyone brings something major to the table," he said.
Gleason, his brother Jake and cousin Nick Flies were avid home brewers. Flies was the first to make it a career, spending the past decade working at several Twin Cities breweries before landing at Pantown Brewing in St. Cloud. He's now Hackamore's head brewer.
One of his stops was at Waconia Brewing Co., where he worked as an assistant to Tom Schufman. Schufman is now Hackamore's technical brewer. Jake, a co-founder, will eventually come on board full time and operate the brewery with his brother.
"We kind of brought the band back together," Gleason said. "It's a superfun culture, bringing these guys together. And we're all friends."
One thing makes the opening bittersweet. Gleason's mentor, BlackStack Brewing co-founder Scott Johnson, died just weeks ago.
"It is absolutely crushing to my entire soul," Gleason said. "I don't know what I did to deserve it, but he would call and spend two to three hours on the phone with me. He would tell me what he did right and what he did wrong and what I should do and what I shouldn't do. I was extremely excited to show him this place, but didn't get the chance to.
"But I am proud to say that there are decisions about this brewery that he helped make."
Hackamore Brewing Co.
Where: 18651 E. Lake Drive, Chanhassen, hackamorebrewing.com
Hours: noon-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., noon-11 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun.
The beer: Hackamore has five flagship beers — Potbelly Oatmeal Stout, #14, Let's Go Hazy, Grandma's Kitchen and Can Crusher Cream Ale — and an N/A version, ABØV. Most are available in pours of 5, 10 or 16 ounces. There's also a robust offering of Hackamore hard seltzers, and sodas from local maker Northern Soda Co.
Take it to go: Eventually Hackamore beer will be available in 32-ounce crowlers. If you're looking for it in liquor stores, you're out of luck. "I really want the taproom experience to be first and foremost, to where you come and get our beer," said Gleason. "And that's by design."
The food: Pop-up darling the Salsa Collaborative has set up shop Thursdays-Saturdays, with smashburgers, tacos, burrito bowls and a must-have oatmeal cookie creme sandos. Food trucks will rotate in other days of the week. Snacks, including charcuterie and grazing boards by From the Diner (owned by Gleason's mom) are available, too.
The art: Gleason commissioned tattoo artists Jordanne LeFae and Pip Arnes of Weird Ink Society in St. Paul to create the branding and artwork. The brewery's big murals are acoustical art, helping to cushion the sounds in the brewery, which has soaring ceilings.
The building team: Builder, John Kraemer and Sons of Edina; design, Alexander Design Group of Wayzata; interior design, Summer Krzoska, whom Gleason worked with in his corporate job.
Fun technical facts: Hackamore was among the first in the state to use a new Canadian keg system that is lighter, stackable and has an inner liner that's recyclable. (It's similar to the pouches in boxed wine.) And a reverse-osmosis water system allows the brewers to have a blank slate when creating a beer, meaning they can adjust the minerals to reflect the water profiles of any style of beer.
Bring the family: Gleason set out to make the brewery a place that families can enjoy, with games, highchairs and snack offerings. But because there's food served, furry family members aren't allowed indoors.
Yet to come: Work has started on a patio, which Gleason says should be open by summer (dogs will be welcome on the patio). Look for a barrel-aging program, with plans to release on Hackamore's first anniversary. And there's a kitchen roughed in, with a goal to eventually have food in-house.