Whit Wort Brewing Company became Gibbon, Minnesota’s first brewery on June 10th. Owners Chad Laidlaw and Chuck Wachter have high hopes that the brewery will bring visitors, liveliness, and job opportunities to the tightly-knit town of approximately 800 people.
Laidlaw, head brewer and majority owner of Whit Wort Brewing, started out as a homebrewer.
“My first brew turned out like crap,” admits Laidlaw. “And I thought, I can do better. So, I did some research, practiced and eventually moved onto all-grain brewing.”
Laidlaw’s practice and research paid off. He won first place at Northern Brewer’s homebrewing competition at Union 32 in 2018. As the winner, Laidlaw was able to brew his beer, Island Hopper Blonde, on the brewing set up at Union 32. Island Hopper Blonde is currently on tap at Whit Wort.
With this achievement under his belt, the next step was starting a brewery of his own. However, the journey wasn’t an easy one and Laidlaw experienced one of the greatest types of loss and grief along the way.
“Originally the brewery was going to be mine and Kathy’s, my late fiancé. But once she passed, I took some time off to be with my family,” shares Laidlaw.
Laidlaw has ensured that Kathy will always have a place in the brewery. He has displayed one of her motorcycles in the taproom.
Laidlaw eventually asked his friend and fellow motorcyclist, Chuck Wachter to join him in his brewery endeavor. After four years of hard work, loss, and sleeping on air mattresses in their brewery-to-be, Laidlaw and Wachter got the business up and running.
Neither Laidlaw nor Wachter are from Gibbon. However, when Laidlaw originally went to check out the space, he was drawn in by the kindness from everyone in the small Minnesota town.
“The town has been waiting for us to open ever since I brought it to the town meeting,” says Laidlaw. “They realize what a brewery brings to a town: traffic, money, jobs. There are other shops and restaurants that people will go to after coming to the brewery. It feels like the town is starting to rebuild.”
The people of Gibbon waited excitedly for Whit Wort to open its doors—that day came abruptly and unexpectedly.
“June 7th was our final inspection and we would have bet everything on not getting approval to open,” admits Wachter. “But then [the inspector] goes, ‘congratulations you guys are open!’ We went into rush mode to open that Friday. We mentioned it to a couple local people and it was a soft opening. But the town came out for it!”
During their soft opening on June 10th, Whit Wort had four beers on tap; eventually, they plan on expanding to ten beers, all brewed on their 3-barrel system. Their microbrewing setup is represented in their name, according to Wachter:
“Whit is an old English term for micro, small, tiny and you know what Wort is. Our translation therefore is “Small Batch” or “Small Brew.”’
Their eclectic, 1,900-square-foot taproom is filled with reused and repurposed items.
“A lot of breweries that you go to are new, matching, and clean—” Watcher starts to say.
“Well, we are clean!” Laidlaw interrupts with a laugh. “Our brewery is just a little unique.”
Laidlaw and Wachter wanted the pieces in the taproom to represent the building’s history. The 90-year old space is equipped with mismatched barstools and recycled decor. For example, their menu is made out of a 90-year old dining room table.
Whit Wort’s unconventional, raggle-taggle taproom will be filled with live music every Thursday. Along with beer, seltzer, and soda, visitors can also enjoy pizza, bavarian pretzels, and other bar-type snacks.
“Our mission is good times, good friends, good people,” Wachter shares.
“We just want it to be a comfortable place to hang out!” adds Laidlaw.
Wachter and Laidlaw are tentatively planning for a grand opening for mid-September. However, Whit Wort Brewing is currently open for anyone hoping to enjoy a beer in the taproom or to take a growler or crowler to go.
Brewer: Chad Laidlaw
Beer: 3 Legged Bunny (Light Lager), Gibbon Red (Red Ale), Down and Dirty (American Porter), Island Hopper Blonde (Blonde Ale), Hard Seltzer
Address: 1043 1st Ave Gibbon, MN 55335
Hours: Thursday-Saturday from 2pm to 10pm. *Hours will vary based on events including extending hours if people are hanging out and having a good time.*