When Bear Cave Brewing opens on May 4th, it will mark the official transformation of the former Firestone Tire Center into a spacious 11,000 square-foot, four-level brewpub with patios at street level and on the rooftop.
This isn’t your typical brewpub, either–owner Jillian Link has created an upscale yet relaxed experience via a self-pour system for craft beer, wine and cocktails, accompanied by a menu featuring Neapolitan pizza and elevated appetizers.
Even more significant, the brewpub embodies the vision of her late husband Nathan Bergeland, who passed away in January from glioblastoma, a type of cancer. The idea for the brewpub began in 2019 after the couple visited a brewery with a self-pour system in California.
“It’s been a long journey. I’m excited to carry on what Nate had started and welcome the community in,” Link says.
Bear Cave’s first recipe and flagship beer, Nate’s Passion, is a Hazy IPA that honors Bergeland’s life and work..
“He was a homebrewer and enthusiastic about beer. IPAs were always one of his favorites and he liked passionfruit,” Link says, “And he would always ask people what they are passionate about.”
Finding the right place
The search for a location for Bear Cave Brewing led Link and Bergeland to downtown Hopkins. There, they found a dilapidated building that originally opened in 1945 as a Texaco Service Station, and remained a tire and auto service business through the years. After hiring an architect, Bergeland and a friend did the entire demo of the building in 2020, Link says.
“We just knew it was the place when we walked in, despite the mold and mildew and rain coming through,” she says.“We were looking for a building that we could lovingly restore.”
Now, the spacious building fits about 500 people across four levels–starting with the airy and bright main floor featuring an open kitchen in the back. The basement is dimly lit for a cozier speakeasy atmosphere, and contains the brewpub’s namesake–a mounted black bear that Bergeland, an avid bowhunter, brought back from Canada.
Bear Cave’s third floor houses a beer hall-themed event space. On the top level, a heated lounge area leads out to Bear Cave’s dog-friendly rooftop patio, which offers a menu of gourmet dog treats from Must Be Ruff, a local business based in Brooklyn Park. Link has plans to book live music for the patio in the future.
Craft beer and drinks accompanied by a farm-to-table menu
There are 52 self-pour taps spread throughout Bear Cave, pouring craft beer, wine and cocktails. To get started, tap-tenders stationed at various locations throughout the brewpub will check-in customers and give them a wristband that’s good for up to 40 ounces of drinks (depending on the beverage’s ABV). These staff members will also be on hand to help novices avoid overly foamy pours. Each table will have an order and pay system accessed through a QR code for food.
“We’ve designed it to be self-service and fast. It’s on the guest’s terms,” says Dan Murray, general manager.
Head brewer Charles Chapman, previously at Falling Knife Brewing Company, plans to tap a seltzer, NA cream ale, and a Belgian trippel when the brewery opens. Bear Cave’s taplist also features several hazy IPAs, including one that combines Galaxy, Amarillo, and Sabro hops, and three that isolate each of those respective hops to compare their profiles.
With a 15 barrel main system accompanied by a two barrel pilot system, Chapman says he plans on having eight standard beers with six rotating on tap. “I love classic styles that bring in modern techniques,” he says.
Bear Cave will feature guest taps for wine on opening night, but this will eventually change. Link, who owns Wooden Link Vineyards in Barrett, will begin production of wine next year and plans to have Wooden Link product on tap in 2024.
The brewpub’s kitchen has a gas brick oven for pizza, and the menu will also feature appetizers including salads and small plates. Link says Bear Cave deliberately chose not to install any fryers in order to keep their food on the lighter side. The menu will be seasonal and use as many local producers as possible, including Bakersfield flour, Alemar cheese, and produce from Hidden Spring Farms.
“I want to challenge people’s perceptions of what pizza can be while offering fan favorites,” says chef Marc Paavola, who is also the consulting chef and operation manager at Emerald Lounge in St. Paul.
One standout from Bear Cave’s menu is the leek cream pizza topped with a variety of mushrooms, Reblochon cheese, fennel and asparagus slaw. On the dessert menu, a peach and raspberry pecan crisp is a nod to the annual Hopkins Raspberry Festival, which began in 1935.
“Nate and I wanted to create a space to bring people together to reconnect, especially after these past two years,” Link explains.
Link says she also plans to find ways to give back to the community, and one of Bear Cave’s first events will be a fundraiser for the Hopkins Historical Society to support their move to the former masonic lodge at 907 Mainstreet.
Head Brewer: Charles Chapman
Beers: Nate’s Passion (Passion fruit/Peach Hazy IPA), Bear Slayer (Hazy IPA with Citra, Mosaic, Azacca Hops), Everyday A’Brusselin’ (Belgian Trippel), Superluminal Velocity (Hazy IPA with Galaxy, Amarillo, and Sabro hops), ALL Citra (Single hop Hazy IPA), ALL Mosaic (Single hop Hazy IPA), ALL Azacca (Single hop Hazy IPA), Lime, Orange and Lemon Seltzer, NA Cream Ale and more to come
Address: 1201 Mainstreet, Hopkins, MN 55343
Food: Neapolitan pizza, salads and appetizers focusing on regional ingredients