Hangin’ with Klecko: A Conversation with Matt Reichter
Traditionally, when writers meet, they meet in bars.
In Paris, it wasn’t uncommon to stop at the Ritz and find Ernest Hemingway celebrating happy hour with F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In New York, Norman Mailer could be found pounding a few with the likes of Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison.
In St. Paul, that trend seems to be changing. Accomplished writers are living healthier lifestyles by getting together for breakfast.
In fact, just recently I stopped in at the Day By Day Cafe for pancakes and ran into Matt Reichter, one of the Capital City’s premiere history writers.
I got turned onto his work when my son-in-law from Nebraska told me that he found a fantastic beer history website. A site created by Matt (www.mnthen.com).
Klecko: Matt, it’s a lame opening question, but I have to ask. How did you become one of St. Paul’s premiere history writers?
Matt: More often than not, I find something I’m interested in writing about and once it’s complete I troll it in front of potential takers, or at least people I hope will pick up the story. My first success came when I did a piece about biking in the 1890s.
It focused on the scofflaw riders. These people were rebellious and I really enjoyed presenting them to people. The story did great online, well enough in fact that I ended up getting an email from the Minnesota Historical Society asking me who I was. After introducing myself, they invited me to do a presentation for their History of Hip series.
Klecko: That’s great, are you able to do this as a full-time gig?
Matt: Not enough to make a living, but it does help supplement things a bit. To pay the bills I drive truck third shift.
Klecko: You realize Elvis subsidized his recording career by driving truck, right?
Matt: I grew up on the east side of St. Paul, where much of the history is passed on by old people. I loved listening to them but wanted to take it to the next step, so I got a degree in history at Metro State.
Klecko: I know you’re well known for researching beer history. Why did you get so involved in that topic?
Matt: As a history writer, it’s fun and smart to stay in front of trends. Most writers like to tell a story that hasn’t been told. In 2011 when the Surly Bill passed and they received their taproom license, I knew that it would become a big deal, but I’m not sure anyone really knew how big it would get. But that’s great. It’s good for Minnesota and beer geeks.
Klecko: When you head to the taproom, do you have a favorite?
Matt: There really are a lot of good ones, but I am partial to Flat Earth. In addition to making fine beer they’ve been good to me. When I got my degree in museum studies from Oklahoma University, my thesis was focused on setting up pop-up museums at unusual venues.
I sent an email to Flat Earth and explained that Theodore Hamm’s grandson was kidnapped in their parking lot. And I’d love to set up an informative display. They said yes, and even helped me promote it. That was cool.
Klecko: Didn’t they make you audition or go through some red tape?
Matt: In many places I’m sure they would of. In fact, the review board at Oklahoma University was kind of dumbfounded. They found it hard to believe that I was able to secure a venue like that, but I just told them the truth. It sounds corny, but on the east side neighbors do their best to help each other out. Flat Earth are good people.”
Klecko: I bet there’s all kinds of interesting beer history most of us don’t know.
Matt: Probably. Not long ago I got to write about Susannah Tepass. She ran the Northwestern Brewery in Stillwater in the mid 1800s. One of the interesting things that I’ve been learning is that the brewing community has been ahead of the curve in terms of gender equity. It wasn’t uncommon for woman to hold top positions in the brewing community.
Klecko: Have you been doing any other hospitality stories lately, other than beer?
Matt: As a matter of fact I recently did a phone interview with your friend, Marjorie Johnson.
Klecko: I know that wasn’t a short conversation.
Matt: Yeah, I think Marjorie discussed baking and blue ribbons for 90 minutes. When she was done, she apologized for keeping me on the phone for so long, but I assured her it was an honor. I got to tell you, I would have loved four more hours with her.
One of the things that intrigues me about her is if she puts her mind to something, it happens. Her story is interesting because it came out of nowhere and blew up overnight. She’s a big deal.
Klecko: It’s time to shut this down. In closing, any books ideas around the corner?
Matt: Yeah, I don’t want to give up the topic, so I’m thinking about something dealing with the end of prohibition. In March of ‘33 Roosevelt allowed near-beer to return to regular beer. There’s gold in that topic.
And with that my friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed another Klecko conversation.
Matt is a brilliant mind and Minnesota is blessed to have his interest.
Until next time…