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Downtown Minneapolis Hewing Hotel, with Aufguss sessions and wellness therapy, is quickly becoming a “Euro style” sauna party headquarters

light steam graphic

-Minneapolis, MN February 3, 2018.

“Zaire should be more of Zeese in every city”  proclaims Alexander Troitzsch, a German native who relocated to Minneapolis ten years ago.  Alexander is gazing around the Rooftop of the Hewing Hotel, Downtown Minneapolis, MN, taking in the view, in anticipation of our sauna session.  Many dozens of invited sauna enthusiasts are gathering on this Saturday evening before Super Bowl, being held just over our right shoulders, blocks away at US Bank Stadium.

Four sauna revelers, pre sauna.  From left, Glenn Auerbach, Alexander Troitzsch (Aufguss leader) enjoy a locally crafted Fulton 300 “on ice” with Grant Auerbach, and Evan Mair


Sauna Society Builders

We are “getting into the sauna” thanks to Sauna Society Builders and the Hewing Hotel.  John Pederson, founder of the 612 Sauna Society and Sauna Society Builders, curated this sauna party.  He understands the powerful goodness of gathering on a Saturday evening before Super Bowl, not to get hammered and pound beers. but to expand a healthy, fun lifestyle.  “SSB partners with leaders in the business and healthcare community to improve access to steam-based health traditions.”  As JP checks in sauna guests, pounding fresh snow off their boots, we look around and see the infectious smiles.  Many are in anticipation of their sauna session.  Others are wrapped in towel or bathrobe, radiating glow from the endorphin rush of a good sauna round.

The Hewing Hotel rooftop

The 6th floor is “VIP Access only.”  The layout has a Euro feel, but it offers a higher blend of Bold North rustic vibe.  Rooftop facilities include a private bar, featuring custom cocktails with liquor from nearby Tattersall Distillery, a lounge area with Faribault Mills blankets and throws strategically placed, his and her locker rooms, and as the cherry on top: a generous sized rooftop sauna with transom windows revealing skyline views.  The outside patio area wraps around the rooftop deck, boasting breathtaking vistas of Downtown Minneapolis.

It’s late afternoon.  Guests to this sauna party are here for a wellness infusion.  Many have wasted no time soon after arrival.  Dozens  have already changed out of their street ware and are relaxing in and around the rooftop hot tub or outside cooling down (properly!) after a hot sauna round.  Some are sipping a signature cocktail from the bar.  These are experienced wellness doers.  They are drinking plenty of fresh water.  One bather wrapped in a towel, steam billowing, with the skyline in the background, raises his glass in a mock toast:  “to hydration!”  Everyone laughs.  Other sauna bathers, fresh from the hot room, are dousing themselves with fresh snow over their heads and bodies: “This is nature’s luffa” proclaims Scott Olson, legend of the fitness industry, as he scrubs himself with mounds of fresh snow.  He casts a big smile: “Are you going to the Luminary Loppet after this?  Last year I closed it down.  Tonight is magical!”  As big snow flakes cascade down upon us, we are experiencing  a top notch 612 (Minneapolis) sauna.  This is Minnesota.

The Aufguss Ritual

The ‘Aufguss’, or ‘bursts of steam’, is an authentic and historical well-being ritual that involves water containing essential oils being slowly poured on to hot stones in the sauna.  Tonight, thanks to Sauna Society Builders, we are being treated to not one but two saunamesisters administering the Aufguss Ritual.  Alexander Troitzsch and Caroline Lange are taking turns.  In true German fashion, like trains running in and out of Munich Central Station, Aufguss times are posted and begin on time.  We gather in the hot room as the saunameister begin the ritual with a short explanation.  “We ask that if you become too hot, that instead of leaving the sauna, you come down to the floor and sit like this.  It is cooler down here and you will be able to enjoy the full Aufguss experience.”  Then it begins.  Scented water is ceremoniously poured on the sauna rocks.  The wonderfully hot, scented steam is directed towards the bathers, using a rhythmical movement of a towel, creating an intense and enjoyable multi-sensory experience.

Circulating hot air as part of Aufguss ritual in sauna

Alexander brings us through three separate rounds of water on the sauna rocks.  Each round is complemented with a very traditional process of towel waving and whipping, promoting air circulation.  The Aufguss therapy session lasts about 10 minutes.  Meditative silence.  “I am going to leave the sauna now.  I will knock on the door after 1 – 2 minutes, signaling that this Aufguss session is over and you may go outside and enjoy cooling down with fresh air and cool water.

Ahhhh… A sauna session to a higher degree.  With big smiles and more “ahhhhh” I extend myself past the knock on the door for  couple more minutes.  Exiting the hot room, I join Alex and a couple other sauna bathers outside on the outdoor patio.  Endorphins rushing, laughter, relaxation.  Everybody is outside with the snow falling, and everyone seems to have enjoyed this Aufguss session.  The next morning, I get to interview Alex for this article:

You’ve experienced Aufguss extensively in Europe.  How did last night’s experience at the Hewing Rooftop Sauna compare?

We had a great time last night at the Hewing Rooftop. People were able to connect, relax and experience 3 Aufguss sessions. They enjoyed the impact of the Aufguss steam treatment and felt happy, relaxed and connected when it was over. That’s the most important thing. Overall, it’s pretty exciting and rewarding to introduce the Aufguss experience to people who have never experienced it before. In Germany you would probably push the heat in the sauna to a higher temperature, considering that most people are used to the Aufguss treatment and come with certain expectations.

How surprised were you regarding how receptive folks were to the sauna party last night?

It made me feel really good to see that people reacted so positively. A woman said: “This is the best sauna experience I ever had in my life”. There’s really a lot of potential to provide the Aufguss experience to a broader audience. Today our life is stressful and an Aufguss treatment is like a “mini vacation”. It relaxes you completely  and you will have a great night of sleep back home in the evening.
Alex whipping towel action as part of Aufguss ritual at the Hewing Hotel rooftop sauna.

How does the Aufguss ritural change your experience of a sauna session?  Is it critical or just a good enhancement?

There is sauna and there is Aufguss sauna, two totally different experiences in my opinion. When you go for a regular sauna visit, you warm up, chat a little bit with other people and leave the sauna when you’re done. When you participate in an Aufguss, you have a facilitator guiding you through a journey, it’s almost like a ritual, and you fully connect to your body, deeply relax and train to extend your comfort zone. It can feel inconvenient at times sitting in a room full of hot steam and experiencing the hot winds. The Aufguss brings you to a different state of mind. For me it’s a spiritual experience that enables you to connect to your core.

No rush, digging ourselves over many hours

Most sauna bathers were in no hurry.  Very European of us to want to hang around, actually connecting with people we don’t know, relaxing, unwinding and enjoying the moment.  Scott Pollock, Director of Exhibitions, Collections & Programs, Swedish Institute, Minneapolis along with his wife Anne and I are talking about lake ice in Northern Minnesota.  With a big smile, it all catches up to Scott, as he proclaims: “this reminds me of 218, right here in the heart of 612.”
On the rooftop, we were presented with Nature with a capital N.  Snow falling, fresh air.  Celebrating Minnesota and all that our weather offers us.
Who needs crowded bars and hooting and “who hooo?”  Thanks to Sauna Society Builders and the Hewing Hotel, we have an awesome wellness experience right here, our own “mini vacation” right in the shadows of downtown.
Hewing Hotel rooftop hot tub


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