by Jim Boyle
With the number of craft breweries on the rise, a local couple is creating some waves of their own by making it easier for people to brew their own beer.
Jason and Jill Schroeder own and operate Silo Brewing Company, a rural Elk River shop where folks have been coming to learn how to make beer for the past three years.
The co-owners recently added wine-making to their class list after being encouraged do so by the owners of Goose Lake Farm & Winery.
Silo Brewing Company’s beer-making classes cost $120 for first-time students, and after three sessions, people leave with 5 gallons of beer (about two cases) they have made and bottled.
“It’s one thing to drink a good beer,” Jason Schroeder said July 30 while preparing for a wine-making class. “It’s another to drink a good beer that you have made.”
Jason Schroeder has been making his own beer for 17 years, and the number of friends he has to share his hobby is growing.
The seed for the business was planted a long time ago in a really good glass of beer. That’s when Jason decided on a whim to try making his own batch of beer after one friend tried and failed and a second friend suggested they try their hand at it.
He was in the Nebraska at the time, and so he and his friend stopped in a little brew shop to get the necessary supplies, a little advice and a few cautions.
“The first batch I ever made was fantastic,” he said. “I think that put the bug in me.”
He was still in his 20s at the time, and he decided to continue brewing on his own. As he got older, he made the transition from his college days of drinking more beer than he should to drinking less and less beer and becoming more and more of a beer connoisseur.
“There’s a big difference between drinking beer and drinking good beer,” he said.
After he married, got settled into his job as a trainer of three-dimensional computer aided design in Brooklyn Park, he and Jill Schroeder concocted a plan to move from St. Michael out to the country. Once they did in 2007, ideas about brewing beer and teaching people to do it began to germinate.
They began to assemble what was needed on the 10-acre hobby farm located at 21646 Pinnaker Road and also started to attend beer festivals. One thing that they kept hearing was stories of people who wanted to make their own beer but didn’t, for one excuse or another.
“It was time to either have fun with a little business or to destroy a hobby,” Jason Schroeder said. “I decided it was time to teach classes. I take care of the sanitation and remove all the other excuses people have and let them make their own beer.”
The Schroeders don’t view the business as their retirement plan, and they’re happy it still feels like a hobby.
Jason Schroeder said Silo Brewing Company is not about making “yellow” beers like the Millers, the Michelobs and Budweisers of the world. “Bigger” beers are what he has always appreciated and most of his customers prefer to make. The Schroeders admit such lagers are an acquired taste, much like coffee.
Some who have been partial to traditional beers have come around to like the darker, more robust beers.
“The bigger beers are more intriguing,” Jason Schroeder said. “It’s beer. But it’s real beer with more character, it’s heavier and more flavorful.
“We do everything from a vanilla porter that’s a wonderfully malty holiday beer to a bitter, hoppy India pale ale — and everything in between.”
The Schroeders have even found a way to make gluten-free beer for a friend and customer with celiac disease and have taught classes on how to make gluten-free batches of beer.
“It’s so nice to enjoy the taste, the flavor and the experience of drinking a home brew,” Jason Schroeder said.
The beer-making classes are three sessions long, with each session lasting about two hours. Wine classes take four sessions to walk through the process. Customers come in with nothing and leave with bottled product.
The Schroeder’s first three beer-making classes were attended by women.
“That surprised me, but looking back, I am not sure why it surprised me,” Jason Schroeder said.
Some have used the classes as a guys or gals night out. Others have used it as a team-building exercise for a group.
Classes are offered in the evenings and on weekends year-round, but fall is the busiest time of the year. The Schroeders also sell books and T-shirts. The $120 cost of the class covers everything needed to make and bottle the beer. There are discounts for repeat customers.
“That’s the best when someone calls and says things turned out great or ask when the next class is,” Jason Schroeder said.