X marks the spot: Founding couple Megan and JD Park on bringing the craft beer scene to Minnetonka
The clock strikes noon. Unmapped Brewing, located in Minnetonka’s Glen Lake neighborhood, opens its doors for the first time ever. A line of thirsty people streams out the door, and that line continues to form for nine hours straight. All hands are on deck, but the two beers on tap cannot seem to get poured fast enough. Seven days later, the bestselling No Trace runs out. The citrusy, hop-forward IPA, already a crowd favorite, was expected to last for three weeks.
If someone described this scenario to Minnetonka couple and co-founders of Unmapped Brewing, Megan and JD Park, a few years ago, they probably would’ve laughed.
But that’s how the scene at Unmapped Brewing’s soft opening June 17 unfolded.
“It exceeded all my expectations,” Megan said. “To see the line through the door throughout the whole day was pretty mind-blowing.”
“It was a top 10 coolest moment in my life for sure. I got chills, actually, opening the door for the first time and everyone cheered,” JD recalled.
Now, the Parks, alongside head brewer Derek Allmendinger, have upped the production ante for the brewery’s grand opening Aug. 19.
Unmapped will feature 10 beers at the grand opening, but eventually there will be 12 beers on tap—six flagship beers and six seasonal rotating brews. The bestselling No Trace American IPA is already a “classic,” according to JD, and a close second is the light and refreshing Topo Wit, a Belgian-style witbier.
Even though JD Park and Allmendinger are self-proclaimed hopheads, their common goal is a diverse tap list that offers something to everyone. The goal is for everyone to find a tasty beverage, “no matter who you are, your taste in beer, maybe you’ve never even had a craft beer, maybe you’ve never even had a beer before,” said JD.
In addition to a wide-ranging menu that beckons all taste buds, the Parks agree another unique aspect about Unmapped is their neighborhood location. The vast majority of other Minnesota breweries, in the west metro and beyond, are located in walkable downtowns.
The Parks fully embrace Unmapped’s location and demographic and welcome their anticipated reputation as a local watering hole.
“I think it’s a place to be. You can bring your dog or your kid and have a place to just be. Be yourself and enjoy a fun time,” JD said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone doesn’t think this is a bar. This isn’t a bar. This is a community gathering place.”
The Parks have already seen this happening, with the regulars who live up the road and walk or bike down.
That’s not to say reaching this point has been easy. Unmapped Brewing has been years in the making.
The process began in 2014. At the time, the Parks both had office jobs. But JD, an avid homebrewer, was eager to turn his hobby into a profession.
“I convinced myself this is what I want to do in my life. This is my dream to open my own business and do something I’m passionate about, which is beer,” JD said of his “epiphany moment.”
His wife was not as easily persuaded.
“I think I was JD’s biggest critic,” Megan admitted. “I was probably the hardest sell on starting up this brewery.”
But when JD presented a business plan to Megan months later, she started to take the entrepreneurial endeavor seriously.
“I was like, ‘alright, we’re gonna do it.’ And here we are,” Megan reflected. “So worth it.”
The first step was fundraising. The Parks managed to raise the amount they needed to turn the dream into a reality with the help of about 60 investors who donated a minimum of $5,000 each. The trade-off for these “founding owners” is a lifetime of beer on the house.
In late summer of 2016, the Parks signed their lease at 14625 Excelsior Blvd., the former location of Kraemer’s True Value hardware store. Construction began in January 2017.
“When we saw this place, we just knew it was the place we needed to be—in our hometown, where we live,” JD said. “It was a win on every front and we knew when we saw it: this is the place for Unmapped.”
Getting the space squared away was one step, but the next big learning curve for the Parks was how to actually make beer.
“Both of us were not involved with the professional brewing industry at all,” JD said. “Home brewing does not a professional brewer make.”
The Parks credit Allmendinger as the mastermind behind Unmapped’s recipes. With a resume that boasts Surly, Summit, Schell’s and Excelsior Brewing Co., they were thrilled to welcome him to the Unmapped team.
Along with embracing the inevitable busyness that comes with opening a new business, the Parks also have their hands full with their 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Amelie, at home.
“We do joke [the brewery] is our second child, and honestly, it’s been probably more work than our baby is,” Megan said. “She’s an awesome little one.”
“You gotta have one parent here to watch one child and one parent watching the other child,” JD chimed in.
The couple balance work and home life by frequently bringing young Amelie with them to Unmapped, where she can often be spotted playing in the taproom.
The Parks, who at first bonded over their love for the outdoors, are charting new territory by delving into the brewery scene headfirst.
“That mindset of exploration is what we try to incorporate in our brand,” JD said.
Up next for the brewery is going on tap at restaurants, and hopefully selling canned and bottled beer in liquor stores within the next two to three years.
But for now, get a taste at the grand opening Saturday, Aug. 19. In addition to outdoor beer tents, there will also be food trucks, live music and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider at 11:45 a.m.
On-site parking will be limited, but more spots are available within walking distance at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and First Minnetonka City Bank. Walking or biking is encouraged.
Regular hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
More information and other upcoming events can be found at unmappedbrewing.com.
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