This past summer I had a MN beer bucket list. Much of that list consisted of an ever-shrinking list of MN breweries I had yet to visit. Disgruntled was near the top of that list. At the end of August, I finally crossed Disgruntled Brewing Company off my list and saw firsthand why so many craft beer nerds cannot stop talking about Perham’s craft beer darling. I came away from my visit impressed by both the quality of the beers and the generosity and character of the man behind the beers, Brett Doebbling. Disgruntled Brewing Company is a true gem that Minnesota is lucky to call their own.
I First Knew Brett Was Disgruntled When. . .
I remember like it was yesterday. There was an online post in a Facebook group about the Beerploma March Madness event. The event is modeled after the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the breweries are selected by fan voting in four different regions of MN. Disgruntled is in the North region and that pits them against a crowded field of many quality breweries. Bent Paddle, Castle Danger, and Lupulin are just some of the stalwarts that vie for the 16 spots in the North region. So, because they did not get enough votes, they were left out of the 2017 Beerploma March Madness.
Brett commented that Disgruntled got a bum deal on that and he questioned the legitimacy of the event. I agreed with him. In fact, I agreed with him wholeheartedly because the beers from Disgruntled that I have tried have been phenomenal. Many craft beer nerds in Minnesota and beyond have been singing Disgruntled’s praises as well. I was disappointed that Brett seemed a bit miffed. So, I reached out to him and told him I would love to visit his brewery and all but assured him that he will probably never be left out of Beerploma’s March Madness again.
We set up a time for me to visit the brewery and then I ran into him at All Pints North. I approached cautiously and was hoping that he wasn’t still mad. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Brett is honestly one of the nicest people you will meet in the beer community. I introduced myself and we talked about what he was pouring at All Pints North. Lots of good things from exceptional IPAs to an amazing stout. I told him how excited I was to visit the brewery and continued on my way.
After spending just a short time with Brett, his authenticity, humility, and passion for his craft are readily apparent. Brett is genuine; what you see is what you get. He is MN raised and treats people well. Brett believes strongly in working hard. He is easily one of the most passionate brewers I have come across. He lives and breathes brewing. It is not uncommon for Brett to be on his phone until 3 or 4 in the morning learning about different aspects of brewing. He wants everyone to enjoy his beer and that is why he works tirelessly to brew a wonderful product.
Getting him talking about beer is a lot like what happens when you give a 5 year-old an espresso. His eyes light up and he begins rattling off every idea about beer that is fermenting in his brain. At least 3 times during our interview, he actually apologized for getting so excited about a topic or tangent. His energy is refreshing to me. Many brewers simply view their craft solely as a job. There are a handful of brewers who live it as a passion; that is the category Brett falls into. Brett is a self-taught brewer, which is mind-boggling given how complex and well-made his beers are.
Brett is incredibly hands-on. He likes to have control over all the aspects of the brewing process. Brett understands that quality is paramount and consistency is key. Given Perham’s location, he has to brew beers people will travel for. This concept has taken hold with the beer geeks of MN and beyond. In a well-known FB community called Beer People, pictures of Disgruntled crowler hauls are beginning to outnumber images of jabronis chugging barleywines at a 5 to 1 clip. I won’t say that Brett is a victim of his own success, but with the high demand for his beer, churning out enough beer to keep accounts happy is challenging.
I mentioned that Brett has a tremendous work ethic and humility about him. So, I knew that there had to be some other place where Disgruntled got its name. Before he started brewing, he hung sheet rock. He spent time around a lot of people who were unhappy with the daily grind and competitive nature of their work. Brett said that Disgruntled is meant to describe the attitude many of us have working for somebody else. “Why the hell am I working for these people? I can do better on my own!” It is also that spirit that fuels Disgruntled Brewing’s success.
Despite being self-trained, Brett has relied on help from others in the MN beer industry. He cites friends at Jack Pine, Junkyard, and Lupulin as being folks that have helped him along the way. Disgruntled is up to 40 accounts, but the demand is there for many more. Brent has some collaborations in the works because he loves the energy one gets from working with other brewers. He also says that if he had more time he would start a homebrew club.
The Disgruntled Taproom Space
Disgruntled’s taproom space is hip, yet cozy. It is hard to believe that I am almost in Northern Minnesota. The aesthetics of the taproom are incredibly warm and inviting. There are games for people to play and various sizes of tables to accommodate large and small groups. As I walk around the room, I see that there is an incredibly beautiful outdoor patio complete with bag toss games and comfortable seating. Brett is finishing up some work in the brewhouse, but stops to greet me with the warmth and exuberance of an old friend. He thanks me for coming and asks me if I would like to see the brewhouse. I am thinking, “Does a bear crap in the woods? Of course, I do!”
Disgruntled Brewing’s Brewhouse
The brewhouse is a 7 barrel system. Brett has two guys helping him and they keep everything running smoothly when it comes to brewing. Between a wonderful stack of barrels, a homemade grain mill, a lab space, a can filler, and a walk-in cooler, it has everything that a brewery should have. The scale is small, but the product is on par with some of the best breweries in the state when it comes to flavor and wow factor. Brett knows that consistency is key, so he has a lab. Brett bounces beer ideas off of a consigliere of sorts who works at a brewery in Iowa that is rather famous for adeptly hopped beers and fantastic stouts that people go crazy for.
Disgruntled has been open since early 2016 and its following grows rapidly. Brett believes Disgruntled is changing people’s perception of what craft beer can be. One might assume that the beers that Disgruntled brews are too outside of the box for Perham, but they would be wrong. In Perham, locals rave about the beer and vociferously support the taproom. The city of Perham was instrumental in helping get Disgruntled established and it is a boon for that community.
Beer Time at Disgruntled Brewing
After the tour, Brett asks me what I want to drink. I tell him I would love to do a tasting flight of many of the ones I haven’t had and he obliges. Before getting into specifics about the beers, I came away absolutely wowed. I would have gladly order each one in all its full pint glory, but a man only has so much time in the day and I had to get to the Red Hawks game in Moorhead by 6.
Reaper NE IPA
This beer is fantastically fruity and refreshing. Amazing amounts of juicy hops combine with a nice earthiness to give it a unique balance. If they had an option to let me go wild in a pool of this delicious nectar of the gods I would grab my flippers and snorkel!
Numba Four NE Pale Ale
This pale ale has a little bit extra going on thanks to the Neo-Mexican Medusa hops! Floral and citrusy. Fruit flavors of pineapple and tangerine pith give it balance. It has a satisfying slight residual bitterness that lingers nicely on the tongue.
Double Stuffed Milk Stout
My notes read exactly like this: “Holy shit, this is liquid Oreos!!!” This beer is audaciously decadent. A fantastic sweet stout with a nice bit of Oreo cookie roast and chocolate. I want to mainline this stuff.
Stupid Good American IPA
This is now what I want every time I order an American IPA. A pleasant onslaught of citrus flavors in the form of orange, tangerine, and grapefruit. Bitterness is on-point and delightful.
Juicylicious NE IPA
Amazing softness in the mouthfeel which I have come to discover is often the tricky part of this style hybrid. Sooo juicy and bright. Aroma is intense and unhooks the bra of my olfactories without much effort. What a great beer!
Epic roasty aroma in this porter. Body is right where I like it to be; not too thick, but with a bit of body. Roasted malts are prominent and flavor is not too sweet. I would love to try this side by side with Dangerous Man’s and Empyrean’s versions. It would a great comparison.
All in all, Disgruntled blows me away. I cannot wait until I can make the journey up that way again. Good people brew good beer. Passionate people brew great beer with an abundance of care and attention to detail. Brett does all those things and more and I cannot thank him enough for graciously having me up to tour Disgruntled Brewing Company!
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