It took Jonathan Christiansen — head brewer, owner and founder of Zymurgy Brewing Company in Menomonie — hours to notice the snowstorm pounding outside on Dec. 1 during the brewery’s grand opening. A line of customers, steady for the first six hours, was keeping him busy.
It was a day that Christiansen, 36, had been working toward his whole life: opening his own brewery.
“I was pretty amazed that because of the storm, how many people came out,” Christiansen said.
Christiansen, along with partners Chelsea Rickert and Zach Barker, aren’t strangers to the area. Christiansen is a Wisconsin native, and both he and Barker went to college in Milwaukee. Rickert graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“We love this place. We aren’t big-city folk,” Rickert said at the opening.
Former head brewer at Menomonie’s Lucette Brewing Company, Christiansen set out to open Zymurgy after leaving Lucette in 2016.
They renovated the building at 624 Main St. E — it used to be home to Dennis’ Auto Services — and are shaping the brewery into a “public house” hangout.
The brewery doesn’t have a kitchen, but that means dogs are welcome, a fact that Christiansen loves.
“We want to have that public house feel, where people can hang out for a few hours, play games, as opposed to the quick in-and-out,” Christiansen said.
With Brewery Nonic’s grand opening slated for Jan. 19, Menomonie will soon be home to three breweries. But competition is a good thing for all three, Christiansen said — beer fans and tour bus companies alike are more likely to stop in the city with three breweries open.
“Generally when people come to the city to visit a brewery they’ll go to at least one other brewery,” he said.
Dustyn Dubuque, Main Street of Menomonie executive director, agreed.
“I can’t tell you the amount of times I have driven multiple hours to the Twin Cities to attend different breweries in a small area,” Dubuque said. “We will now have three that are a mile (apart). That will bring visitors to the downtown area.”
Expect to see Zymurgy beer on tap in Eau Claire, Hudson, and maybe even Milwaukee or Madison one day — but limited in Menomonie outside the brewery itself, Christiansen said.
With 15 beers on tap for the opening, drinkers had pale and hoppy ales, darker beers, a brown ale and more to pick from.
Local ingredients stood out on the menu: Fluffhead, a German wheat beer, is made with Augusta and Eau Claire honey. A fruit beer, Ramblin’ Rose, added Camp Douglas cranberries to the honey-brewed Fluffhead. Hops from Durand give IPA-style Hoppy Thing a zing.
While the Fluffhead and Ramblin’ Rose were top sellers on opening day, Christiansen isn’t shy of playing with stranger ingredients and having a bit of fun. The Terry Porter, a dark chocolate-flavored beer, is named after a former NBA player and Milwaukee Bucks coach of the same name. The Sherlock, a mild English ale, is named after a cat Christiansen had for 17 years. The Sassy Squash Ale, brewed with local roasted butternut squash and a few unexpected spices, was “a fun, wacky experiment.”
The Sleepy Alligator, a dry saison ale, is Christiansen’s favorite, inspired by his time in Belgium in the early 2000s.
He’s looking at adding a couple higher-alcohol-content beers to the lineup this winter. Plans for an English barley wine, a strong style of ale, and a Russian imperial stout are in the works.
Building the brewery’s massive cooler by hand — with help from a friend — was the biggest challenge he faced, Christiansen said: “I thought building a cooler would be easy. It was not.”
The team is still nailing down the brewery’s hours, but they hope Wisconsin sports games, a pool table and dart boards will draw locals.
They hope to host live music, comedy, food trucks and brewing-related talks, Rickert said: “We want to do very community-based events.”
Spent grain from the brewing process will be made into dog treats and donated to local farmers for animal feed. And while Wisconsin flavors and additions are already cropping up on the menu, the team hopes to expand that hyper-local focus even more, Rickert said.
Dubuque said the microbrewery boom is at an all-time high, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved.
“Upon the opening of Brewery Nonic in the near future, Menomonie will now be a destination for those looking to drink different brews,” Dubuque said.
Contact Zymurgy Brewing Company on Facebook, www.facebook.com/zymurgybrewing/.