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Dining: Rendezvous bringing community together one beer at a time

Doug and Sue Toth hope Rendezvous Brewing is the perfect name for Hackensack's newest hangout.

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Doug and Sue Toth stand in front of the next batches of beer for the Rendezvous Brewing Co. that officially opened Aug. 1, 2020, in downtown Hackensack. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch

HACKENSACK — The support was immediate and it’s only grown.

That was the sentiment of Sue Toth, who co-owns Rendezvous Brewing in downtown Hackensack with her husband Doug.

The couple didn’t like the word retirement so they chose Rendezvous instead. While the support has been quick, the start-up wasn’t thanks to COVID-19. The brewery opened June 27, 2020, for takeout only. It then opened July 3 with socially distanced seating and officially opened Aug. 1, 2020.

And while the prolonged opening wasn’t ideal, Rendezvous’ location might be as it’s just off the Paul Bunyan State Trail overlooking Birch Lake and the Birch Lake Park.

“We knew we wanted to settle back here, but we weren’t really ready to retire,” Sue said. “Doug had been home brewing for forever and we saw this building. It was the building that we really wanted. It’s across from the playground. The Lucette (Paul Bunyan’s wife) statue is right there. The boat launch is right there and then there is the Paul Bunyan Trail.”

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Doug added there aren’t many breweries near a lake either and Rendezvous has both a trail and a lake.

The title Rendezvous is a family tradition for Sue as her grandparents owned a restaurant in Hackensack by the same name in the 1950s. It also summarizes the culture and atmosphere the Toths hope to create at the brewery, which is simply a comfortable meeting place for friends, families and even strangers.

The first beer created at Rendezvous is an homage to the old restaurant called Chapter One. It’s also the best-selling beer as Doug procured the recipe from the old restaurant days.

“That’s our best seller as it’s a right-down-the-middle-of-the-road beer that everyone who isn’t a craft beer drinker enjoys,” Sue said. “I wouldn’t call it a light beer, but it has the basic beer flavor. We call it a Hackensack Pale Ale.”

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The Big Ivan from Rendezvous Brewing is a Russian Imperial Stout. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch

Doug, a transplant from Michigan who was a project manager in Eagan, handles much of the brewing. Rendezvous has 11 beers on tap. It also serves Killebrew Root Beer and Ya-Sure Kombucha.

“We do a lot of classic beer flavors and beer styles,” Doug said. “We do some sours because people really want them. We just did our first lager and sold our first batch in just about a month, so 10 kegs just like that. People loved it.

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“We’re not trying to compete with the big breweries in the Cities. We just try to do real simple beer-flavored beer. We do some fun stuff, too. We did a Russian-style stout, but some of those trendy things we just don’t do.”

Sue, who grew up in Hackensack before going into finance in the metro area, believes Hackensack is the smallest town that has a brewery, but both Toths believe it’s in the perfect location between Walker’s Portage Brewery and the Snarky Loon in Jenkins.

“We’ve had a lot of community support and the city council backed us right away,” Sue said. “We had a sign up in the window a year before we opened so people were constantly looking in and peeking at the construction. They just needed something new and different.”

RELATED: Biz Buzz: Brewery to open in Hackensack in 2020
Said Doug: “That community support is so important. Giving people a place to go. There are lots of tourists and lots of people that live here that don’t come to town. Just having that place to hang out and play games was important.”

Doug said the early support eased his nerves about jumping from a homebrewer to mass production. He said the jump took courage.

“I talked to a lot of people who had made the jump from homebrew to production brewing. A lot of people online were incredibly helpful. At some point, you just go, ‘Well, here we go.’ In fact, the Chapter One, everyone said get a recipe you know. Brew it and just plan to dump it because it’s not going to be good. Then you’ll learn and will adjust over time. Our first Chapter One came out and we said, ‘we’re not dumping this. This is really good.’ It was supposed to last three months by my projections. It was gone in three weeks. So right away the town was very supportive.”

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The interior is sleek and classy. By preference, it lacks the northwoods feel as the Toths wanted something different than the usual woodsy overkill.

Games and a lending library are available along with the park across the way to entertain the younger family members.

“Those things are important because we’re very much a family place,” Doug said. “In fact, there was a guy who we had come with a food truck and his truck broke down. We tried to call and call him and when we finally got ahold of him he said, ‘I can’t get my truck fixed. I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ Well, we told him, we don’t care about that. We just wanted to know if he was OK.”

There is also a party and meeting room in the back for larger groups like groom’s dinners and Tuesday night trivia.

“The town is really becoming much more active,” Sue said. “They have a real active arts council and we have music in the park every Friday night from 5-7 p.m. That’s really nice. We put out extra tables so they can listen to music just outside or in the park. It’s a nice community event and brings the town together.”

And bringing the town together was one reason the Toths opened Rendezvous.

Rendezvous Brewing

Owners: Doug and Sue Toth

What: Local brewery with 11 different beers on tap

Location: 112 First St. S., Hackensack

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

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