Utepils Brands Experience to Unique Culture

When you travel to Minnesota, the northern European culture is apparent. When Dan Justesen opened his brewery in the Twin Cities area of the state in 2017 he very much wrapped his arms around the Scandinavian culture, incorporating words that make you think of the meaning.

So, don’t Google “Utepils” or “Fernweh” because they won’t show the true meaning of what Justesen envisions from the words.

Utepils, the name bestowed to the brewery, has a loose interpretation meaning “cold beer” in Norwegian. But its true meaning is hard to give in one or two words, he said.

“Utepils … it describes an emotion which works for us up here in the North Country,” Justesen said. “It’s the anticipation to enjoy your first beer outside in the sunshine after a long, cold and dark winter.

“If you’re there in February with your nose on the glass, thinking, ‘I want to be outside drinking a beer comfortably with my toes in the grass.’ You’re feeling Utepils.”

Fernweh is the name of the brewery’s taproom. Usually, when you walk into a brewery’s facility, the taproom is front and center. Justesen took a cue from Walt Disney, who said people always want to know what’s around the corner and placed the taproom down a hallway from the entrance instead.

“Go to Walt Disney World, there are no straight roads,” he said “Life’s an experience, right? So this hallway helps consumers leave the outside world and come into our world.”

​The sign at the end of the hallway and past the brewhouse says ‘Fernweh,’​ which on a Google search would just say “a German word for wanderlust.” Not so fast, adds Justesen.

“It means when you seek continuously for a place that you can’t describe, but when you find it, you realize you’ve found home,” he said. “You don’t know what it is until you get there and then when you walk in you go, ‘Yes, this is the place.’

“So we thought that would be a good name for our taproom.​”

When Brewer visited the taproom in June, the brewery had just started to reopen its Fernweh (taproom). Reservations were a must, time limits we set, and capacity was capped at 50%. Although the taproom sales are helpful, Utepils was built for production and retail sales. Justesen, along with Head Brewer Eric Harper, started with a 50-barrel system, four 50-barrel tanks, and two 100s. The brewery has added nine more 100s since to give it a capacity of around 12,000 barrels per year. In 2019, Justesen said they made around 6,000 barrels with initial projections for 2020 being 10,000 BBLs, but that hope may have changed because of the pandemic.

“We have a very big locomotive and we just keep hooking up more tankers, is the plan,” he said. Currently, Utepils is selling in Minnesota and small parts of North Dakota, and it just signed up its first distributor in Wisconsin.

“We’re not looking to be all over North America, that wasn’t our plan, even if we made 20,000 barrels a year,” Justesen said. “That’s just a tiny, actual fraction of the market in Minnesota. It’s just earning customers, doing the time and work to get out there. We’ve always felt like we get people to try the beer you’ll, they’ll like the beer.

“Make a really good product, and then count on it to communicate itself over time to people.”

Another word that Justesen likes to use to describe the up and coming brewery is Neo-Traditional. It’s a word that was given to him by a retailer describing the beers that Utepils offers, which are classic Euro styles, but made on high-tech equipment.

Using an automated energy-saving system, Utepils can deliver its 50-barrel batches of wort on just 20% of a normal energy output. The grains and hops are imported as to give authentic flavors from Europe but with the freshness in America.

“We are just like the people in 1860 … you want to sit around with their friends, tell lies, and drink great beer,” Justesen said. “It’s like blue jeans. They just work, right? So you don’t really need to reinvent them. Just make a really good pair. We’re just trying to make those beers great and not trying to re-invent them.”

Everything Utepils does is to sell an experience. Whether that experience is what Justesen and his team can create for a consumer in the taproom, or whether it’s out on a fishing boat, a backyard, or someone’s favorite little pub.

“If you’re in the fishing boat and you’re reaching in your cooler, you might ask your buddy. ‘Hey, do you want a beer?’ and you hold our beer and he makes a face? Yeah, I just lost. But if you get that little tingle inside?. That’s what we sell. That positive tingle.

“I love the word Neo-Traditional because it is totally what we are. This is the most technologically advanced brewhouse and yet we make hundreds of years old styles of beer.”

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