It all started in Tim Pelton’s kitchen. Inspired by his daughter and her friends, who started brewing during graduate school, Pelton found himself a hobby in the art of brewing.
“I mentioned to two of my longtime friends, Matt Kottke and Tom Hilstad, that we should start brewing and so the next thing you know we got a kit and started homebrewing in our kitchen and did that for a few years until we had a boil over in my kitchen,” Pelton recalls. “My wife told me that we needed to find a new place to play.”
From there the three homebrewers moved to Matt Kottke’s basement and then into Pelton’s garage until he received a call from Mark Sebring. “Mark called me up a few years ago and told me that they were thinking of starting a brewery and asked if I was interested,” Pelton said.
“When it was just Jon, Matt, and myself, and we were homebrewing, we called ourselves Mineral Spring Brewery,” he said of the name. “Mineral Springs is a pretty big deal here in Owatonna, the healing waters and so much more.”
Along with Sebring, Bill Cronin, Rod Baker, and Mark Knutson joined in the endeavor, comprising a team of five brew masters along with Pelton. “We just started kicking around a variety of different ideas,” Pelton said of the initial stages.
After a building became available right by the river and a few steps away from the local trail system, the team scooped it up. “We thought it was a pretty neat spot, and it is a neat spot,” Pelton said of their current location, 111 Walnut Ave. N, in Owatonna.
While the location was a perfect fit, the building needed a lot of work. Originally an old autobody shop, the team worked hard to convert it into a brewery complete with inside and outside patio seating.
“We have seven beers on tap right now,” Pelton explained. “The lightest would be a cream ale, then there would be a Kolsch, we have two IPA’s, one which I would say is very citrusy, another which is more traditional, and we have a Scotch ale, a Vienna lager, and a Stout.”
These were recipes which carried over from his homebrewing days. “We just had to convert it up from making 5 gallons at a time to 150 gallons at a time,” Pelton explained. “We got a lot of help from other people in the industry.”
“Dual Citizen Brewing in St. Paul, they were probably the guys that gave us the most help,” he said. “They opened up all the ports to us and explained where you get all of this stuff. They got their equipment in Raleigh, N.C. and that’s where we got our equipment.”
Pelton and Sebring were invited to try their hand at large-scale brewing at Dual Citizen where they learned some tricks of the trade. They also visited North Carolina to learn about the equipment. After a construction period and some legal formalities, Mineral Springs Brewery officially opened its doors in Owatonna on Nov. 8.
Although he enjoys each one of the seven brews they currently have on tap, Pelton singled out the Kolsch. “I like them all, but I would say the Kolsch and the Vienna lager,” he said. Each of the beers carries a hometown name, with many honoring local figures.
A passion project, much of the interior of the building was constructed by the five of them, including the wooden tables, granite countertop, and large sink basin. “Everything in here, we made,” Pelton opined.
Pelton and his fellow brew masters are excited to bring the taste of their craft beer to the community. “It’s different because we’re only licensed to sell what we make,” Pelton explained. “It’s just what we can make for alcohol.”
The process itself requires some careful understanding of brewing, and involves multiple stages to get each of the beers the right flavor and form. “Brewing is 20% brewing and 80% cleaning,” Pelton joked. “That’s a big difference from homebrewing.”
With an eager community thirsty for some of the home brews on tap, Pelton and the Mineral Springs brew masters will be serving up a bevy of good drinks. “It’s just a lot of fun and that’s why we do it,” Pelton said. “It’s nice to have a place like this in Owatonna!”