Talking Waters marches onward: Demand for quality craft beer stretches beyond western Minnesota
Partners Phil Zachman, John Skoglund and Patton have seen steady growth in the sales of Talking Waters craft beers from the day they opened their doors in downtown Montevideo in July 2016.
“All three of us realized there was a lack of good beer in rural, western Minnesota,” said Nick Patton.
Five years later, only one thing has changed: The demand for quality craft beer extends beyond the western Minnesota prairie they call home.
Partners Phil Zachman, John Skoglund and Patton have seen steady growth in the sales of Talking Waters craft beers from the day they opened their doors in downtown Montevideo in July 2016. They’ve added vats and production capacity to grow from brewing 89 barrels of beer in the first six months of operations to a 700-barrel-a-year pace today.
They opened up with expectations that their downtown taproom would account for 95% of their sales. They’ve since discovered that the demand for their product extends as far as the metropolitan area to the east, and throughout much of western Minnesota. Today, about 50% of their product is sold off-site through restaurants, bars and liquor stores, and the remainder at the taproom. Patton said he would not be surprised to see the ratio of outside-to-taproom sales rise to 60-40, possibly 70-30 in the years ahead.
Good beer explains much of the venture’s success. Talking Waters has built a solid reputation in the craft brewing industry for its beers. Along with continuing to brew their favorites, the partners continue to offer new beers on a regular basis.
Patton and Skoglund both came into this venture as passionate home brewers, and Zachman quickly caught the fever as well. They love to research and experiment.
They also credit their success to the rise in craft brewing all around the state, and the willingness of fellow brewers to share information and ideas.
“It’s more collaborative than competitive,” said Patton of the craft brewing industry. “It’s like the rising tide lifts all ships,” he explained. Brewers realize the importance of quality, and know the industry will not grow if customers encounter inferior products.
Talking Waters’ name is all about Montevideo’s location near Lac qui Parle Lake , which is translated from French as “the lake that speaks.”
The partners chose the name to emphasize their local ties and rural identity. It also speaks to their own appreciation for the outdoor opportunities the rural location provides. Their marketing encourages customers to enjoy outdoor adventures and to let Talking Waters be a part of them.
Embracing their rural community was beneficial to the company when the COVID-19 pandemic closed the taproom. Sales of Talking Waters growlers and canned beers took off.
“We couldn’t keep the fridge full,” Zachman said.
“The people in our community were major supporters,” Patton said. No doubt, the customers came because they love the beers, but it was also evident that they were buying it to support Talking Waters, Zachman said.
The surge in counter sales during the pandemic helped build the momentum toward a greater share of outside sales overall, they said. Sales at restaurants, bars and liquor stores elsewhere also represent some of the best advertising the business enjoys, the partners added.
Talking Waters has become an important contributor to the local economy. A staff of nine assist the partners with everything from distribution and marketing to tending the taproom.
The taproom’s presence in downtown Montevideo draws traffic. It’s not just local residents discovering what downtown Montevideo has to offer. Drop by on a Saturday, and you will be surprised by how many out-of-town visitors are there to enjoy the brews and friendly, taproom environment, they explained.
Zachman owns Jake’s Pizza , located adjacent to the taproom. He admits that he was skeptical when Skoglund and Patton approached him about the idea of buying the current Talking Waters building and opening a taproom and brewery in Montevideo. Patton said lots of people told him that a brewery is a great idea, but not in a rural community of 5,000.
Today, “people tell us we didn’t think you were going to make it, but we’re glad you did,” Patton said.
“I think it happens weekly,” Zachman added.
This story was originally published in the West Central Tribune's IMPACT edition on Oct. 23, 2021. More stories in this section can be found at https://issuu.com/westcentraltribune/docs/impact_2021