Michaela Woodward – Staff Writer
St. Peter’s brewery drought is shortly coming to an end, thanks to two Gustavus seniors.
Luke Dragseth and Eric Johnson will be opening Paddlefish Brewing Company later this year, once renovations are finished and the beer starts brewing.
While the St. Peter community is at the core of the business, the name also has some interesting ties to St. Peter.
“In Minnesota [paddlefish are] considered protected. Recently, they removed a dam, kind of at the mouth of Minnesota. Since then, we’ve been seeing a ton more paddlefish from the Mississippi area come back into the Minnesota River. This is their native habitat and this is where they used to be but we haven’t seen them in a long time. Interestingly enough, they seem to be congregating right in St. Peter. The Department of Natural Resources has discovered that we have almost 90% of the paddlefish population in Minnesota, right down off the shore. It’s kind of this cool thing that St. Peter gives to the state of Minnesota and we wanted to represent it in our name,” Dragseth said.
Both Dragseth and Johnson are fans of breweries and were seeking to fill the gap in St. Peter.
“The idea for the brewery started in August 2022 when I was at Bent Paddle, another Gustie-owned brewery in Duluth. Looking around, I asked that question that I’ve been asking since coming to Gustavus: why is there no brewery in St. Peter? I thought to myself, sure I don’t know the first thing about brewing or managing a restaurant, but if I can find the right people, I think that this is something we can do,” Johnson said.
Dragseth has brewing experience to guarantee that the beer selection will be diverse and carefully crafted.
“I’ve been around home brewing kind of my whole life. My girlfriend’s parents are really great home brewers and they got me into it when I was in high school, so I brewed with them. When I came to college, I started doing my own recipes, experimenting a little bit with what I put in the beer and what type or beers I made,” Dragseth said.
However, he gained a lot of expertise from his academic experience on campus his First-year here on campus while doing a study on yeast cultivation.
“We were doing cancer research, looking at different strains of genetics and stuff like that in yeast cells, and looking at how they compared to the human body. Through that process I got really interested in yeast cultivation on my own and so that summer, I kind of worked with some different strains and got some brewing yeast and made a lot of bread at the same time which was really fun. But my beer-making skills kind of took off from there,” Dragseth said.
The brewery plans to stock various beers from classic American brews to more eccentric concoctions. Once they open, they want to be able to cater to their audience.
“What we want to serve to people is beers for every occasion. Every type of person should be able to come and find a beer that they’re comfortable with and that they really enjoy,” Dragseth said.
This inclusive mission statement goes beyond the beers they serve.
“Our goal is to build a genuine and authentic community at the brewery. We truly want to be a gathering space for all people–Gusties and St. Peter residents alike. To achieve this, we plan on hosting a number of unique and engaging events that appeal to all people. Likewise, we plan on serving as a hub for local musicians and entertainers. One other exciting thing: we have a huge parking lot that should allow us to host bigger events. So there really is no limit to what we can do,” Johnson said.
“We’re definitely going to make it a space where everyone feels included and can come down and do all of these cool things. When we’ve been working with these other businesses, we’re really been looking for ways to work with the city itself and do a lot of cool events and stuff like that. We’re focused on making a space here where people can [come] together and do things and host all their activities,” Dragseth said.
The anticipated opening is at the end of summer/early fall. In the meantime, you can follow the developments on social media on Facebook or Instagram (@paddlefishbrewing).