In 1994, Mark Glewwe’s interest in brewing beer in his Spring Lake Township home got out of hand fast. When he pitched the idea of running a tap from the basement through a hole in the kitchen counter, his wife, Laurel, told him to get out.
“After two months, he’d filled up his second fridge,” Laurel Glewwe said with a laugh.
So began Glewwe’s Castle Brewery, now celebrating 25 years of business making root beer and other sodas. Mark Glewwe and his son, Erik, built a brew house out back where the father began making his own root beer. Other flavors like cream soda and ginger ale followed.
The business helped fund his son’s college years and spawned a monthly open-house tradition of music and soft drinks on the brew house porch. The next open-house event is set for 1-5 p.m. Sunday, June 30, with music from local act Lehto & Wright.
Twenty-five years ago, Glewwe said, most of the U.S. only saw the likes of Budweiser, Miller, Corona and other standard, nationally sold fare. But he sampled local beers with unique flavors during a trip to Great Britain. He and his wife also enjoyed the mead.
“We thought, well, if we can’t buy this stuff in the U.S., we’ll make it,” he said. “I knew apple orchard people and beekeepers. We started doing the research on the history and kept stumbling over the Prohibition era, where people brewed root beer and their bottles exploded.”
Laurel Glewwe, the brewery’s vice president of operations, said that’s when brewing root beer clicked for her husband. If bottled too early, the soda’s carbonation balloons past the bottle’s capacity, causing it to burst. Mark Glewwe said a case of root beer indeed exploded in his closet once.
“But Laurel and I are still together,” he said.
“It’s good soda if it doesn’t explode,” his wife added.
Prior Lake High School graduate Bo Claymore said he’s been a Glewwe customer since he was 4.
“Their soda remains No. 1,” Bo Claymore said confidently. “I have yet to taste a better root beer.”
The essential ingredient is honey, a nod to the couple’s fondness for mead.
“The secret to mead is fermented honey. By chance, we wondered what honey would do to our soda,” Laurel Glewwe said.
It ended up enhancing the flavor and, more importantly, made the flavor linger. Glewwe said that while it sounds trivial, the lingering flavor makes the root beer unique.
“Someone will buy a bottle or a sample, and I’ll turn to them and tell them to kiss someone,” she said. “It’ll be a sweet kiss. It’s a kissable soda.”
The Glewwes initially brewed root beer for family and friends. The farmers market in Prior Lake caught wind of the product and invited the fledgling brewers to set up a table.
The Glewwes then got requests for other pop styles. The full list currently includes cream soda, black cherry soda, ginger ale, raspberry ginger ale and a limited supply of ginger beer.
Claymore said the Glewwes gave him their only blue bottle for root beer refills when he was young. They then bought him another so he could always have one between wash-fill cycles; the Glewwes sanitized one bottle, and Claymore went home with the other.
“They’re really good people,” he said.