When Laughing Sun Brewing Co. started making beer in late 2012, it was about the only microbrewery in the area. By next year, Bismarck-Mandan could have six, and, statewide, there could be close to 20.
A north end destination
Jordan Everaert, who has spent three years as a manager at his mother and stepfather’s restaurant, Mackenzie River Pizza, has seen how locals’ opinions have evolved and shifted in regard to craft beers. He watched some of the original brewers, such as Mandan's Bird Dog Brewing and Buffalo Commons Brewing Company, grow in popularity.
“People are now willing to venture outside their comfort zone to try something local,” he said.
He and his family are going to enter the market: Construction of Bismarck Brewing started this summer and is expected to open in January.
When he decided to add his own brews to the mix, Everaert said he hoped to stand out by building in north Bismarck rather than downtown, where other brewers have gone.
“Up north, it almost needs to be a destination because it’s a drive for some people,” he said.
The north Bismarck operation is two-fold:
• Bismarck Brewing will operate as a microbrewery with a taproom in the loft of the building. The brewhouse is 4,500 square feet and houses a 15-barrel system.
• Ale Works will be the full-service restaurant on site, with large windows looking into the brewhouse. It will have a bar in addition to serving Bismarck Brewing beers on tap. The menu, though not finalized, will pair well with the beers and have a German leaning.
Bismarck Brewing also aims to open the brewhouse to tours and educational events. With an extra acre on the three-acre lot, the brewery may host an Oktoberfest as a “fun way to give back to the community.”
Everaert started homebrewing, as a hobby with his stepfather and stepbrother, after moving to the area from Montana.
“I’ve always been fascinated with science, and brewing is a blend of art and science,” he said.
Bismarck Brewing will start with six beers — two IPAs, a Belgian white, a pilsner and a Scottish ale — as well as a cider, a birch beer and a rotation of seasonal brews. Plans are to self distribute with the goal of offering brews in several bars and restaurants by spring.
Everaert’s goal is a modern twist on classic styles. For example, he has a recipe for a traditional Czech pilsner but brews it with Japanese hops with a dill pickle aroma.
As a native of Montana, craft beer has long been in his local culture.
“It’s cool to see it take hold here,” he said.
Five years at the forefront
"We need to make so much more beer" due to demand for the product, Laughing Sun's co-owner Mike Frohlich said.
And the microbrewery is aiming to expand to a second location with a brewhouse, food and events area in the next year.
In its five years operating, Laughing Sun has brewed more than 100 different beers, with a wide range of sour, hoppy and malty, according to Frohlich.
Buffalo Commons Brewing Company brewed its first batch in January 2013. Just over a year later, Linda and Ted Hoffman opened a taproom at their Mandan brewery, though their business is mostly based on distribution.
Hoffman, a founder of the North Dakota Brewers Guild, began the group with four brewers but is now up to 11 or 12.
Buffalo Commons started with four beers in rotation. Now, Hoffman’s is up to seven, plus seasonal offerings. He’s just finishing a batch of Bully Imperial Stout and is planning a Norwegian Christmas beer recipe for the end of the year.
With so many new craft beers starting to make their way into Bismarck-Mandan, as well as the rest of the state, Ted Hoffman said more bars have started to demand smaller five gallon kegs, rather than 16 gallons, so they can have more beers on tap at a time.
“That’s been a big change for us,” said Ted Hoffman, adding that, when he started marketing his beer, a lot of people were leery of homebrews and what they might taste like.
“People have learned you can make good beer, and good beers don’t necessarily come from big conglomerates,” Ted Hoffman said. “It took a while for people to get used to.
“The best is yet to come,” he said of increased opportunities to try good locally made beer.
Growing local ingredients
And the local craft beer industry goes beyond the brews.
Two Track Malting Company, which started making craft malt barley in June 2016, recently doubled its production from five tons of malt each week to 10 tons, and it has the capacity to grow to 15 tons, if demand continues to rise.
“We’ve had a waiting list,” said co-owner Jared Stober, but the company is accommodating everyone now and are looking for new customers again.
Two Track malted barley now goes to brewers in 23 states, Stober said.
“We’ve got that much interest,” he said.
Two Track grows its barley on the Stober farm but it also started testing malts made from barley grown by two additional farmers.
Making it in Mandan
“It’s definitely an exciting time to be a brewer,” Dylan Hilfer-Schafer said.
Mandan couple Hannah and Dylan Hilfer-Schafer, along with Dylan's brother, Jake Schafer, are the founders of Dialectic Brewing Co. in Mandan.
Dylan Hilfer-Schafer, the company's brewer, started experimenting after Hannah Hilfer-Schafer bought him a beer brewing kit for his 23rd birthday.
He spent time working at Junkyard Brewing Co. in Moorhead, Minn., and recently the couple decided to open a brewery and taproom at 416 W. Main St. in downtown Mandan.
The trio aims to start with 10 craft beers on tap, as well as nonalcoholic house-made sodas.
Dialectic plans to focus on “session beers,” with 5 percent alcohol or lower. Dylan Hilfer-Schafer said many microbrewers like to brew “big beers” with 7 to 9 percent alcohol content. The brewery also aims to carve a niche in the area by creating an atmosphere conducive to chit chat and community gathering, something that Dylan Hilfer-Schafer said is common to some of his favorite microbreweries.
“When I go sit in a brewery, it never fails; I meet a wonderful person and have a great conversation,” he said.
Dialectic will have both lager and ale style beers, according to Dylan Hilfer-Schafer. Lagers are cold fermented, which takes longer, while ales take warm fermentation. He said he also wants to have at least one sour beer.
The goal is variety, ranging from “something hoppy to something nice and dark.”
Construction of the trio’s taproom has started to pick up. There will be 4,000 square feet total, with a 600- to 700-square-foot brewhouse. The seven-barrel brewing equipment can handle 250 to 275 gallon batches twice a week, allowing constant turnover of the beers offered. There also are plans for some small-scale distribution.
Their hope is to be operating by mid to late spring.