Dave Torgersen’s 30 years in the United States Army took him and his wife, Debbie, to dozens of far-flung locations. Everywhere they went, there was beer.
When Dave finally retired from the armed forces, they looked around their home in the northwest suburbs and immediately saw an opportunity. It’s 5.1 miles from Spring Lake Park to the next closest brewery (Invictus Brewing), which was totally at odds with the warm, collective culture they’d found in their travels in the British Isles.
“You can take 12 steps down an alleyway and run into three pubs,” Dave says. “Stopping out of the rain can turn into three or four hours.”
Good beer, good friends, good cheer: Those are the tenets the new Torg Brewery is built upon. These are, of course, borrowed from the Torgersens’ time touring the U.K. and Ireland, but it’s also inherent in the pair’s surname. In Old Norse, “Torg” means “plaza” or “town square,” and once they realized that, the Torgersens felt a pull to to bring a well-wooded, congenial taproom to their space off University Avenue in Spring Lake Park.
Unlike a plaza, Torg’s taproom is not “one, big, great open cafeteria” (Dave’s words). Instead, the space breaks off into a cozy maze of small meeting rooms furnished with second-hand furniture. In one alcove, there’s a grandfather clock splitting a pair of conversational two-tops. In another, a low, sturdy table is flanked by two retired church pews. The setting was meant to recreate a scene the two saw in a pub in Dingle, Ireland, where a band sat around a huge, clawed table and began to play for the throng.
“We’ve been scouring Craigslist for old wood pieces,” says Debbie. “We wanted to incorporate that openness in the taproom.”
Dave has a particular reverence for the camaraderie he felt in the Army, and Torg is designated as an oasis for his brothers and sisters at arms. If you’ve served, you get a discount. Though they’ve been open for business since September 22, Torg will hold their grand opening November 8-11—Veterans Day weekend.
Camaraderie is everything, regardless of what your stance on the military is. Torg is about coming together. To put it in Dave’s words: “It just makes your life richer.”
Debbie heads up Torg’s brewing operation. A homebrewer since 2012 and a graduate of Siebel Institute, she brewed with the woman-owned nanobrewery Sidhe Brewing (since closed) to get used to her own 10-barrel system. She’s thankful to St. Paul’s Lake Monster Brewing, who helped her ease the growing pains, and she’s been steadily at work ramping up Torg’s tap offerings.
Right now Torg has seven beers on tap, though they plan on scaling to 12, with six on nitro. Most of the beers, unsurprisingly, fall in the easy-to-access European traditions. Guilty Marder is a roasty, molasses-sweet Dunkelweizen, a rarity in most craft beer taprooms. Even rarer is Three Dogs and a Squirrel, a brassy and nut-flavored ESB.
“We’re focusing on serving well-balanced beer that appeals to people who haven’t had craft,” Debbie says. “We see this as a doorway into styles.”
The most surprising beer in the lineup is a slightly nontraditional brown ale on nitro. Squirrel Nutkin is jet-black and silky, bordering on a stout. Other adventures outside the classics are not so masterful. Admittedly not a fan of contemporary hophead culture (Dave: “We’re not big on IPAs”), Torg’s Bearded Preacher’s Wife is a strange and watery take on the West Coast version of the style. It seems obligatory, and less-sexy options like the Libidinous hefeweizen and Brigid’s Bathwater Irish stout will give you the experience that the space dictates.
Beyond the husband-and-wife owners, Torg is a true family affair. Dave and Debbie have five children of their own. Their daughter did the logo and art. Their oldest son designed the brewery’s website. Their son-in-law runs the taproom. It’s a legacy they hope will translate their European sensibility to the denizens of Anoka County.
“Beer is great,” Dave says, “but there has to be a story behind the beer. This is ours.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed Anoka’s 10K Brewing as Torg's closest beer-making neighbor. It isn't! Thanks to reader Steve Tietz for the heads up.