Lost Sanity Brewing 2

Doug Fenske (back left) and his son Caleb Fenske (back middle) are opening Lost Sanity Brewing today in downtown Madelia. Also pictured that helped with the opening are from left, Courtney Davis, Tim Fenske, Candy Fenske, Melissa Fenske and Joseph Fenske. Photo by Jackson Forderer

MADELIA — Caleb Fenske and his dad, Doug, say the name of their new brewery — Lost Sanity Brewing — seemed apt for what they were doing.

"I come home from work and then work here more. Who but someone who lost their sanity would say, 'I want to go home and do more work,' " Caleb said.

"And dad's near the end of his career and is getting into this."

The brewery, which opens Friday in downtown Madelia, has four initial beers on tap: Hopzophrenia IPA, Botched Lobotomy Brown Ale, Catatonic Cream Ale and Personality Disorder Porter.

"We asked the public to help name our beers and those are names people came up with. They came up with a lot of fantastic names," Caleb said.

They hope the brewery will add to a downtown that already has vibrancy. A large portion of the downtown burned down in February 2016 but has been rebuilt.

The popular Fox's Pizza Den and La Fiesta Mexican restaurant are close by. The nearby Legion and bowling alley are active. The brewery won't sell food but encourages people to bring food in or have pizza delivered from local establishments.

"We didn't want to take business away from local places. We can work together for the whole downtown."

The road to opening the microbrewery was similar to most small breweries — a home-brewing hobby that grew. Caleb started brewing in 2002 after buying a kit from the former Don's Hobby shop in Mankato. A few years later, he switched from using syrup mixes to using raw grains.

He also liked the hobby because it kept him involved with his younger brother, Nathan, who joined him in brewing — even when Nathan was deployed overseas a couple of times. The two would video chat while Caleb brewed at home and Nathan critiqued from Iraq.

Caleb's hobby grew to the point he built himself a half-barrel brewery in the garage. "I set it up so I could log onto a mobile device from anywhere and control my brewery. It was just kind of a geek thing but it was fun."

He said learning to brew can't come from just reading some books and watching some videos. "You have to screw up and learn from your mistakes. I've made a lot of batches I'm not proud of and a lot I am proud of."

The key, he said is to keep track of the difference.

"I taught a class at Brew & Wine Creations (219 South Victory Drive in Mankato) and I always told people your best tool is a notebook. You have to document everything you do so you remember what worked."

He said that jumping to production level brewing is a whole different game than home brewing. "Not everything translates exactly from home brewing to a brewery. The biggest difference is just the scale, instead of 30 pounds of grain, it's 300 or 400 pounds. All those logistical things become a reality, how to get rid of the grain (remains), storing water, all that stuff."

To start with they'll serve from their taps and distribute kegs to some local bars and restaurants. They hope a bottling or can operation can be added when they save up some cash. "Even a small manual bottler is $18,000. It's the route most new breweries take — you start and build up some cash."

He and his dad each own half of the business. Doug has a lifetime of business management experience. "I'm the brewer but I haven't run a business before," Caleb said.

Both are keeping their regular jobs. Doug is director of printing services for Minnesota State University and Caleb is a highway engineer at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Asked if he was ready for the grand opening, Caleb said: "That's a relative term. We are opening on Friday. I'm kind of a perfectionist so I could have brewed another 20 years and probably not be ready."

They'll keep brewing new beers and in coming months see what customer favorites are. "We'll see what sells and what people like and that will decide what our flagship beers will be."

Their hours may be tweaked in the future but for now they're open Thursdays 5-9 p.m.; Fridays 5-10 p.m.; Saturdays noon-10 p.m. and Sundays noon-6 p.m. They are at 12 West Main St. Phone: 642-2337. facebook.com/LostSanityBrewing.

Caleb said there's a possibility they could add Wednesday hours. "On Wednesday nights our Main Street is packed and people are waiting to get into Fiesta's and Fox's. So we'll see."

Follow Tim Krohn on Twitter @TimKrohn

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