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New Richmond native Siats brewing something special

Nate Siats stands in front of one of four large copper tanks that are involved in the brewing process at Summit Brewing. Photo by Dave Newman

Summit Brewing will release its newest specialty brew, Belgian Style Abbey Ale, during the week of July 23.

The new beer is the brainchild of New Richmond native Nate Siats. At 26, Siats already has four years of experience working as a brewer at Summit Brewing in St. Paul.

Anyone wanting to sample Siats' new brew will have the chance on Thursday, July 26. Summit Brewing is holding several release parties to introduce the limited production beer. One of those parties will be held at the Old Saloon in New Richmond, from 6-9 p.m. on July 26.

To say Siats is enthusiastic about his job is an understatement of grand proportions. He lists off chemical formulas and brewing processes with gusto. Becoming a brewer is far from Siats' original career plan, which was to become an accountant.

After graduating from New Richmond High School in 2004, Siats attended the University of North Dakota. It wasn't the right fit for him, so he transferred to UW-River Falls. During his sophomore year, he became interested in home brewing. The seed was planted. The next year, he took a trip to Ireland. After seeing the variety of beers available there, he made the decision on his flight home that he was going to become a brewer.

His plans progressed quickly. He switched to Century College, getting an associate degree in business management. He did online courses through the American Brewers Guild, receiving a diploma in brewing science.

He finished those in May, 2008. The next month, he began an internship at Summit Brewing, two weeks after his 22nd birthday. Within a few months, he was hired, becoming the youngest of the seven brewers on the Summit staff.

"I didn't want to become an accountant," Siats said about his college experience. "I was spending more time brewing than I was on school work."

Siats is ravenous in pursuing more education. He just finished his bachelor's degree in business management from UW-Stout. This month, he's starting work on his master's degree in brewing and distilling from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He will do most of the course work online, but each year he'll visit Scotland for specialized classes. A candidate has to be sponsored by a brewery to get into this program and Summit is sponsoring Siats in his quest.

Siats also understands the business plan behind Summit. The craft brewery has seen its place in the market grow steadily. Last year Summit brewed 105,000 barrels. This year, the brewery plans to produce 115,000-120,000 barrels. The production side of the plant can bottle 500 brews in a minute, or approximately 2,000 cases in a day.

The Belgian Style Abbey Ale is the 10th beer in Summit's Unchained Series of small-run specialty brews. It will be the second brew developed by Siats in the series. In 2010 he came up with the idea for Imperial Pumpkin Porter, which was well received by beer connoisseurs.

Siats takes pride that several of the ingredients for the Pumpkin Porter were from Wisconsin. The collection of spices that he chose came from a spice broker in Milwaukee. The pumpkins were grown in Wisconsin. One of the brewers owns a farm near Turtle Lake and he grew the pumpkins that were used in the brew. The English-style porter was a dark, full-bodied brew with hints of chocolate that provided an undertone for the spices.

Summit Brewing offers tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for those who would like to know more about the brewing process.

Siats began working on the Belgian brew idea more than six months before production began.

"I didn't know a lot about Belgian beer. I wanted to try something new, something out of my comfort zone," Siats said. "I got the idea when Thomas Weyermann from Weyermann Malts was at the brewery to sample and discuss some of their new offerings. One of the malts he brought was an 'Abbey' style malt. Upon the first sampling I thought this was something I have never tasted from malt before. I wanted to make a beer I was unfamiliar with, after all that's what I believe this Unchained Series is about: trying new and inventive styles."

The brewers hold weekly meetings and Siats used that input to help plan his recipe. He ran two different batches through a pilot brewing process within Summit before deciding on his final recipe.

While Siats is quickly becoming an accomplished brewer, he said he is just beginning to learn all there is to know about the beer industry.

"I know the best learning you can get is hands-on training, and there is no better place than working at one of the best breweries in the country," Siats said. "I am very happy where I am here with the position I am in now and the support I get from my boss to pursue higher education in the field. I can see myself working here for the rest of my life. I could also see myself someday starting my own brewery/distillery, but much later down the road. Right now, I love the work I do and the people I work with."

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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