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Food & Drink

Heggies is Taking Over Twin Cities Taprooms

Why is the pizza pride of Milaca suddenly available at so many breweries? Racket investigates.

Lakes & Legends

Every Twin Cities brewery with a social media account seemed to be posting about Heggies last month.

First came Lakes & Legends (February 7), who were getting lovingly roasted in their Instagram comments for serving the triangle-cut Heggies you see above. Next was Tin Whiskers (February 15), who sounded the emoji-laden alarm, “🍕🍕🍕Now serving Heggies Pizza 🍕🍕🍕.”

On February 22, Insight Brewing shared a photo of the chicken Alfredo Heggies they were cooking up in the taproom that week (though I’d later learn the brewery actually started serving Heggies in December). And a mere 24 hours after that, it was Wabasha Brewing bragging about their brand-new pizza corner: “Now serving Heggies Pizza all day, everyday in the taproom.” 

A Baader–Meinhof situation? Perhaps. But any journalist’ll tell you that three’s a trend, and we have here four Twin Cities breweries that are suddenly serving Heggies. What’s going on?

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My initial hunch was that Heggies was pushing into the taproom market. While there are a handful of brewpubs and taprooms with kitchens in the Twin Cities, the vast majority don’t serve their own food. Some have snacks—those Von Hanson’s seasoned pretzels are practically ubiquitous—but most rely on food trucks to feed the masses. 

It would make sense, then, for Heggies to deliciously insinuate its way into breweries, in the same way it has so many dive bars and other kitchen-less establishments throughout the Midwest. But Eric Schmidt, cofounder of Insight, says they who reached out to Heggies—not the other way around.

Insight’s Heggies relationship actually goes back several years, almost to the brewery’s opening in November 2014. “Back then, there were way, way, way fewer food trucks,” Schmidt says. “So we thought, ‘All right, how can we get some food in here?’”

To answer that question, they looked no further than Grumpy’s, where Heggies has been a barroom staple for years. Everyone loves Grumpy’s; everyone loves a Heggies with their beer. Problem solved. Insight started serving the frozen pizzas the next April.

But after the food truck boom, Schmidt says, Insight got to a point where they could have a truck outside serving people seven days a week. “We didn’t want to compete with our food trucks,” he says. So they discontinued Heggies.

“I love food trucks,” says Lakes & Legends co-founder Ethan Applen. “And at the beginning, we felt we’d always work with food trucks.” That’s among the reasons they didn’t put in a kitchen when the Loring Park taproom opened back in 2015.

Of course, scheduling trucks presents its own set of challenges. At Lakes & Legends, they don’t have a big parking lot—trucks have to use street spaces in front of the taproom. It’s a feat of coordination to get trucks out there every night of the week, and sometimes, due to scheduling conflict or miscommunication, trucks don’t show up. In the winter, hardly any mobile kitchens hit the road.

And then COVID hit. Fewer people were stopping by the taproom, and food trucks didn’t want to come out to serve just a handful of people, even in the warmer months.

“During the pandemic, they needed good enough traffic to make it worth it for them,” Applen says.

Insight was dealing with the same issue, which is why, late last year, they re-introduced the frozen-pizza favorite.

“We just pulled it out of your playbook from seven years ago,” Schmidt says. “Maybe we’re a little bit ahead of the curve, by accident.”

Applen says it just makes sense for Lakes & Legends to have some sort of food available, whether it’s a food truck parked out front or a pizza waiting in the freezer. “For me it’s always: How to we get people to stay? I want it to be the full experience, where they can not just have beer but also eat,” he says. They don’t want people to have a beer, and then leave to go eat somewhere else. “And that happens a lot.”

At Insight, the workaround is that they’ll happily cook you a Heggies, but only when there’s not a food truck to compete with. They have four pizzas all the time, along with a “pizza of the week,” one of the pizza company’s more specialized offerings like that chicken Alfredo.

It’s been a huge hit for Insight so far, and they’ve already more than doubled their initial pizza order. “The minute that first one of the night comes out, and people start smelling it—bam, that’s all it takes,” Schmidt says.

“I think we need to change our name to Insight Brewing and Pizzeria, or something,” he laughs. “It’s just so many pizzas.”