A little less than two years ago, before Insight Brewing Company even opened, they had an open house to showcase their beers to people. I remember feeling excitement about the prospect of a brewery conveniently located on my way home from work. Today, sitting down with Ilan Klages-Mundt to talk about Insight’s upcoming sour program, new Head Brewer Ryan Mihm, and plans to expand their brand, locally and across state lines, it is clear to see that a lot has happened since that open
Ilan creates 98% of the recipes for the craft beer that Insight Brewing Company showcases, both packaged and on draft in the taproom. You can imagine how my curiosity piqued when I learned from JP Awad, Territory Manager at Insight, that I should come by and chat with Ilan about the new Head Brewer they hired. Ilan is taking on more oversight of the company and needs someone he can trust to be there all the time and brew to a high standard. That is where Ryan Mihm comes in. Ryan’s brewing pedigree speaks for itself. His resumé includes brewing at Allagash Brewing Co. from 2010-2014 and New Belgium Brewing Co. from 2014-recently. Ilan says Insight’s authenticity and commitment to quality appeals to Ryan and that is a big part of what brought him to Insight.
In addition to New Belgium and Allagash being breweries that garner a huge amount of national recognition and respect, they are doing some of the finest barrel-aging of any brewery in the nation right now. Ryan will oversee the barrel-aging and new sour program at Insight, as well as continuing to brew innovative beers that reflect the worldly and stylistically diverse beers that already exist in Insight’s portfolio. Insight has around 40 barrels right now that are being used to house Gravity Well, an Imperial Stout. From there, the barrels will be filled with an English-Style Barley Wine. After that, the barrels will be ready for sour beers to age and do their thing. Eventually, Insight will have space for around 400 barrels; if that doesn’t get you percolating, I don’t know what will. A single batch of beer will take up roughly 40 barrels, so you can see the trajectory that Insight’s barrel-aging program will be on once they get that new space up and running.
Currently, Insight is in negotiations with the people who own the building across their parking lot. Once Insight has that space, they will use it for barrel-aging dry storage. That will open up the current space for more tanks and fermenters. Yes, Insight will be growing its capacity to allow for them to produce more of the award-winning craft beers as well as small-batch seasonals and one-offs. This year, Insight will produce between 6,000 and 7,000 barrels. They are looking at replacing their 60 barrel fermenters with 120 barrel fermenters in the not-too-distant future. The current space will cap out at 50,000 barrels and they intend to expand again soon. Ilan speaks about this, all the while, his smile is ear to ear. Pointedly, I ask whether or not Insight is on track with their initial business plan and he admits that they are ahead of that pace, which is good, but also provides a few challenges. A big bonus for Insight has been getting into cans, which Ilan admits he would have liked to be able to do sooner. “Cans allow you to get into the market and on the shelves a lot easier than kegs.” As more people discover Insight, their beers brewed on the small batch scale come and go pretty fast. Ilan continues, “We put one batch of our Giant’s Axe Pale Ale in cans. Next time around, it will probably be several times that amount.” Ilan knows that for certain beers, they need to brew bigger batches next time around, but figuring out the exact number is not an exact science. “We try to keep our finger on the pulse of trends to educate us on how much to brew.” They are settling into a groove, however, and that has lead to out of state expansion.
On August 22nd, Insight will launch in Sioux Falls, SD. That is the first outside of MN market that Insight has attempted. The feedback on their beers has been tremendous and the thirsty folks of South Dakota are in for a real treat. Ilan wants to grow that market as well as fill in remaining regions of Minnesota. Ilan is extremely proud of the staff at Insight and realizes that people are the most important asset they have. All the way from the people pouring pints to the sales team, he wants people to be happy at Insight because he believes that will affect the quality of the brand. Ilan says, “If you are not focused on quality, you don’t get craft beer.” He knows that people gravitate towards the Insight brand because it tells a story and provides its patrons with an authentic and worldly drinking experience. Ilan wants people to come and, “beercation with us” adding that Insight’s mission of adventure and discovery is illustrated in the beer. “When I traveled to Fuller’s in England, I brought Lambton Dragon and tried it side by side Fuller’s London Pride; it tasted almost identical.” This adherence to tradition and style is paramount to Ilan when it comes to providing Insight patrons with a global craft beer experience. Ilan has been to Italy and Belgium most recently and there is a trip to Germany in the works. He says, “We travel for you.” All the more reason we should all be happy that Insight has Ryan Mihm, for without him, Ilan would not have the freedom and flexibility to go out and discover new craft beers styles and techniques.
Ilan says that there have been many challenges along the way to get Insight to this point, but he really feels like they are heading down a path that will only make them more of a force in the MN craft beer scene. Ilan recounts a “somebody pinch me” moment that he had when he was getting ready to do a sampling in S.D. a while back. He said that he was looking at some Insight cans in the cooler to make sure the labels were facing out and the clerk brought a few patrons over to show them where the Insight beer was. “The guy said, ‘Here it is’ referring to the Insight cans, and the people said, ‘Insight and Surly are the two MN beers that we have been waiting for.'” I guess that is pretty good company to keep when you are working on growing your brand into new markets. So keep your eyes open for exciting things from Insight in the future, they are definitely going to be giving us some things to celebrate.
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