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Beer hobby turns into obsession, business pairing for Detroit Lakes duo

Nick Murray pours his homemade beer for a customer at The Lakeside Brewery. KAYSEY PRICE / FORUM NEWS SERVICE1 / 3
The fermenters where Nick Murray and John Schott brew the beers for The Lakeside Brewery. KAYSEY PRICE / FORUM NEWS SERVICE2 / 3
Nick Murray shows where it all began: one of his first brewers, which he and John Schott used to brew beer in his garage before pairing with Lakeside Brewery. The brewer now sits at Lakeside Tavern, and they plan to make small ‘mystery’ beer batches in it. KAYSEY PRICE / FORUM NEWS SERVICE3 / 3

DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—Beer. It seems to have been around forever, capturing people's interest since the beginning of time. Nick Murray and John Schott, who began manning the Lakeside Brewery back in April, are no exception—for them, brewing the beverage has become an "obsession."

It all began when Murray and Schott, who have been best friends since high school, were working at Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes, and the craft beer scene started growing.

"We were able to taste a lot of (craft beers) that a lot of people weren't able to get," Murray remembers.

From there the ale interest began brewing between the two friends.

"I was like 'well, why don't we start a brewery?'" Murray said, recalling that they bought their first brew kit off Amazon, and "it was really bad," he laughed. "When we bottled it, a couple of the bottles exploded."

But the two kept a positive attitude and took to the books.

"I hate reading" Murray said. "I am a picture person all the way."

But he said once he gets hooked on something, he gets obsessed.

"It's like, 'get out of my way,'" Murray added, saying he and Schott had a "let's keep trying" attitude.

Eventually, after much experimenting, they began getting the hang of the brewing process and turned one of their garages into a brewery.

"Once we hit that point, it was kind of frustrating," Murray recalled.

A restaurant wasn't something Murray and Schott wanted to tackle—they wanted to open their own brewery, but "the banks wouldn't even look at you," Murray said.

Murray and Schott had spent time working at local restaurants and had family and friends supporting their obsession. They even earned a few awards for their brew creations, including a Zorbaz Home Brew award and second place in the porter category of an American Homebrewers Association competition. But it wasn't until Chet Collins, the owner of Lakeside Tavern, approached the two brewers with an idea that their obsession found a home. Collins had the brewery, and Murray and Schott were brewers, so they decided to put the two together.

"It was kind of surreal when we go this deal," Murray said, remembering that they brewed a beer batch at the Lakeside Brewery with Collins, and he was on board within a matter of hours.

With the agreement in place, Murray and Schott were able start "figuring out the nooks and crannies of the new brewery" and continued getting creative with their brews.

"I try to make (brewing) as fun as possible and as interesting as possible," Murray said. "To me brewing is an art—it's a science, but you have to have a creative side."

Murray, who went to culinary school says the food creativity comes in handy with the different flavors involved in the beer-brewing business, and they do their best to meld the science side with the creative side.

"(We're) not so much on quantity. (We're) more on quality," Murray said, adding that they have five in-house brews as of right now, one of each type of beer: IPA, porter, pale ale, lager and shandy, and they are hoping to add a couple more soon.

Their goal is to try "to appeal to everyone."

"My thoughts are more on the demographics of the area," Murray said, since he sees the area as having starkly different taste in beers: the craft beer scene is starting to emerge, but "people are also still drinking Old Milwaukee," Murray said.

They want to respect the differing tastes by just making beer that just "tastes great," and their method seems to be working.

"We average about eight kegs a week, so it's going well. The Shaka Shandy is definitely a top seller right now," Murray said, adding that they make the shandy's lemonade in-house.

And the positive feedback from customers is giving the brewers a feeling like they're "not under any pressure," so they're "just trying to take different angles to (brewing)."

Murray and Schott are hoping to start a "mystery tap line" in about a month where customers will blindly test a new beer and try to describe on a comment card what they think the flavors are.

They may also start showcasing local home brewers' recipes, giving other brewers who may still be stuck in their garage a little recognition.

They're even going to try to change a city ordinance in Sept., so they can sell their growlers on Sundays.

But with all the change, the "Brew Boys" still focus on making good beer and staying humble, although some have dubbed them "brewmasters."

"That's a title I feel you have to earn," Murray said, adding that he doesn't feel like they will ever reach that level.