Gun Flint Tavern & Brewpub
Cook County’s First Craft Brewery is Now Served
By Dave Grandmaison
The word is out… Grand Marais has definitively placed itself on the Minnesota Craft Beer Map! With this weekend’s grand opening at the Gun Flint Tavern & Brewpub and the nearly complete construction of Voyageur Brewing Company… Grand Marais might just be your next Minnesota “brewcation” destination.
Most of the folks who have traveled up Lake Superior’s North Shore and down the Gunflint Trail to access their favorite routes through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness have made a stop at the Gun Flint Tavern in downtown grand Marais. The “Tavern”, as many call it, has featured a creative menu, great atmosphere, and live entertainment since 1998. They’ve also provided an impressive list of craft beer for the weary voyageur who – if you’re anything like me – has been day-dreaming about burgers and beer for the past 2-3 days.
But I digress.
We connected with head brewer Paul Gecas to get a better feel for his vision and the 16-year journey this project traveled from a mere idea to a delicious reality.
DeXp: Let’s get right into it Paul – how did you first get into brewing?
Paul: My dad [GFT Brewery Consultant Greg Gecas] has been home brewing my entire life and was active in the Northern Ale Stars home-brew club, so i grew up helping him grind grain and mash-in, and developed an appreciation for the hobby. I began brewing on my own when I was in college and not long after that I decided that once I got enough experience, I wanted to test the waters and see if I could turn it into a profession.
DeXp: How would you describe your brewing style?
Paul: From when I first started brewing I’ve viewed it as a huge creative outlet, making my own recipes and experimenting with as many different styles as I could. I don’t know if I could pin down my style in a specific way, but one of the biggest reasons I’m drawn to brewing is the innovative nature behind it–the constant experimenting and refining of a recipe, and finding new and exciting ways to push the bill.
DeXp: Where do you get your inspiration?
Paul: I love looking at a recipe I’ve come up with to think about what else I could do to it, what other flavors or techniques I could use to enhance it. I think this has a lot to do with growing up in a family of good cooks. My mom [Barb Gecas] inspires me to no end with her cooking knowledge and her skill of pairing different ingredients and flavor profiles together to create an impressive meal. That played a large part in my desire to experiment right off the bat and create my own recipes as a home brewer. Additionally, I am constantly learning from the brewing industry, in part because I love beer, but also because I find the culture fascinating. I love seeing what brewers in Minnesota are doing with what resources they have, and I am always impressed with the level of quality and passion of the beers being produced here. Most impressive and inspiring to me though, is the way Minnesota brewers are willing to experiment with new processes and ingredients.
DeXp: What has been the greatest challenge in opening a brew pub?
Paul: Starting this brewpub has been such a huge endeavor and the challenges have been numerous. Because I don’t have the formal experience in starting a brewery, I’ve been learning a lot as I go. My background growing up on a resort has helped a lot as far as troubleshooting is concerned. One of our biggest hold ups has been because our equipment was sourced from New Zealand. It is all very high quality stainless steel that is well built with solid welds, but looking for replacement fittings, gaskets, and other odds and ends has been a continuing struggle for me. Doing nearly everything on our own is definitely rewarding but it has been very frustrating at times too. Luckily whenever I had a problem I could bounce it off of a number of other brewers I know, and they were all super helpful and quick to respond! For that I am super grateful and it makes me really excited to join such a supportive collaborative community.
DeXp: Hearing about all that work makes me a little thirsty, Paul. What will your flagship beers be?
Paul: For flagships, our main beer will be Sawtooth Mountain Pale Ale, a smooth well balanced American Pale with a lot of late hop character. As a small scale brewpub we are hoping to play around a lot with different recipes and plenty of one-offs, but the Sawtooth will be a standard for us.
Thanks to Paul & the Gecas Family for bringing us another great reason to stop in at the Tavern after a paddle through the Northwoods Canoe Country. If you want to stay in touch with the Gunflint Tavern & Brewpub check out their Facebook Page.