On a whim and due to its proximity to Northern Brewer, my wife and I decided to check out Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery this past Tuesday. Unlike most other breweries in the St. Paul area, Waldmann is actually open before 3-4 PM and serves food! For those who haven’t been there yet, the place is actually a little hard to notice at first: look for the old building that looks like it would be a great B&B and sporting a US and a German flag out front. The brewery is located in the oldest surviving commercial building in the Twin Cities–initially a saloon built in 1857. Oh, and the place is right next to Bad Weather Brewing so you can just walk around the block to visit either! Parking is a little tight though, so you may have to drive around a bit to find something on the street, especially with all the recent snowfall.
Walking into the building I was struck immediately by the age and quaintness of the setting. Within minutes of being seated Sj commented that Waldmann had one of the best “feels” of any brewery she had been to. Lacking in the usual taproom fare of exposed pipes, metal and rough wood decor, and Edison light bulbs, this place is so different that it really stands out! Walking in we passed a small bar, then into the restaurant/pub proper. Off to the right side of the entry is the brewery itself (hidden from view) and the small kitchen. We were escorted to an upper level dining area with its own tiny serving station and access to another larger banquet room that overlooks the street. Old pictures and paintings line the walls, worn wooden floors creak a bit and add texture, and quietly complimentary German music softly adds context.
With it being 1 PM on a Tuesday, we were pretty hungry and quickly ordered up some food. Our server was named Nova and did a great job of walking us through everything. She recorded our order on an iPad and even before we were done ordering a server came upstairs with Sj’s piping hot soup. Now that is quick service! We learned that the sausages (all but one type) are made in house by their chef Karl Gerstenberger, who came up later to talk with us about himself and the place. Karl has had more than ten years of restaurant experience, followed by courses in Iowa in Meat Science, and can make a mean currywurst! We also really enjoyed the spaetzle and perfectly seasoned mashed potatoes that came along with our wurst sampler plate. The only disappointment food-wise was the pretzel that was a bit overcooked and hard, but frankly we were too full after all those sausages to care much.
The brewery was opened in October of 2017 by Tom Schroeder, along with Karl as chef, and head brewer Drew Ruggles. The concept behind the beers was to take a hypothetical 1857 German brewer with knowledge of good lager making, but give him access to modern ingredients and techniques. I like this since it nods to the old ways and the time period when the saloon was opened, but gives the brewer a little creative licence to do some new takes on classic beer styles.
Since I was stuffing my face with sausages and warm bacon-kraut I didn’t take quite the copious notes on the beers that I usually do. They had 5 beers on tap, all German styled and sessionable from 5 to 5.6% ABV. My personal favorite was the Wiener–a classic Vienna lager that hit on all cylinders for me. Malty, complex, but with a nice hop bitterness and clean lager yeast character. My second favorite was probably the Dunkel, which also had wonderful malt complexity fair bursting with melanoidins. The Pilsner was quite nice, and the Amber Weizen had plenty of German wheat yeast esters but still came off well balanced. I did not have a bad or flawed beer here, which is saying a lot for a new brewery serving mainly lagers!
Drew came up to talk with us as well and I was able to ask lots of questions about the brewery and his process. Drew has been a homebrewer for 20 years and has an architectural degree–allowing him to help out with designing his ideal brew system and brewery. He took us on a short impromptu tour of the space and let us try out a couple of beers that were in process off the brite tanks. He uses an interesting hybrid decoction mash for most of his beers which could account for the malt complexity I picked up on, and fements in horizontal stainless fermenters that I haven’t seen much in America. I’m interested in the upcoming Hopfen bier (tasting good so far!) and the German porter.
For a stop that was mostly spur of the moment, both Sj and I were quite impressed with our visit to Waldmann. I probably wouldn’t even have heard about this place if a few folks hadn’t commented on our Beerploma top brewery lists to ask if we had checked it out yet. Thanks folks! Thanks also go to our serving staff and Drew and Karl who took time out from their day to meet with us and show us around the brewery. If you are in the mood for a new type of taproom experience in a very old venue, then Waldmann is the place for you!