FARGO - When St. Paul's Summit Brewing Co. hit a bump in the road at the end of 2017 and was forced to lay off employees for the first time in its 32-year history, founder and president Mark Stutrud looked back home to get the company back on track.
The brewer released a new beer with barley grown on his cousin's North Dakota farm. Dakota Soul has been such a success, Summit has been forced to more than double its production of the lager.
The beer will likely be Summit's third best-selling beer, making up about 10 percent of sales by the end of the year, Stutrud says.
"It's been overwhelmingly positive," he says of Dakota Soul's reception.
Overwhelming is right. Stutrud admits they weren't prepared for just how successful the beer would be, saying the demand was three times as much as they expected, prompting distributors to run out of the golden ale.
While some brewers may try to rush a pilsner and tap it after it set for three days, Summit insisted on six to eight weeks.
"Our sense of history and tradition in classical styles are so steeped, we just didn't compromise," he says.
The history and tradition in brewing mirrors the beer's deep family ties. Stutrud, a native of Wahpeton, N.D., says he's been working with his relatives for almost a decade to cultivate barley for Summit beer.
"Finally my cousins are happy with me for giving them credit," Stutrud says with a laugh.
Josh Stutrud says his family has been growing barley for generations on the family farm 15 miles northwest of Rugby, N.D., but he didn't always know which beer their product was used in.
"Now I can grab a can of Dakota Soul and say, 'This has my barley in it,'" he says.
"Malt is the soul of beer and malt is made from barley, hence the name Dakota Soul," Mark says.
The barley is called Moravian 37. Combined with Loral hops, it gives the beer "a nice, spicy hop finish," Josh says.
Mark says the Czechoslovakian-style pilsner "incorporates a level of roundness and smoothness in the flavor profile ... crisp, slightly aromatic, not overwhelming."
With an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 4.8 percent, it doesn't pack the punch many craft breweries seek.
"This is your everyday beer," Mark says. "It's the foundation or a benchmark. Even in the cold months there's no reason someone wouldn't drink a pilsner because they are quenching their thirst ... It's the kind of beer that's not so strong, you can enjoy a handful of them without getting inebriated. It's not like drinking a couple of double IPAs. This is for the beer drinker."
We asked Summit Brewing Co. Founder Mark Stutrud what his favorite Summit brew would be with each of these summer activities.
• Grilling brats: "Actually, the brats would be cooked with Dakota Soul. You don't want to have a higher degree of bitterness (IBU). One of the things with cooking with beer, like marinating brats, you don't want to use something that's intense with hops. When you reduce it, it actually intensifies the bitterness."
• A day at the lake: "In the morning if you have stuff to do, you don't want anything too heavy, too alcoholic. When you're halfway through your chores, you can reward yourself with a Keller Pils."
• Perfect match with walleye: "Golden Fruited. It's an American golden ale, light, with a bit of peach and apricot in the flavor. That's a fantastic outdoor beer."