It took me longer than most to develop an appreciation for beer. People would say, it’s an acquired taste. I’d just scoff and think, I’m just going to keep drinking my incredibly expensive and overwhelmingly strong vodka-cranberry, thank you very much. Then, after moving to Minneapolis and becoming friends with many beer-connoisseurs, I’ve discovered – beer is pretty terrible, when you’re drinking terrible beer. There are so many different kinds of great beer, no matter your taste there is almost certainly a kind out there that you will genuinely enjoy drinking.
As it turns out, I chose a good time to begin my exploration (read that as consumption) of beer. I moved to Minneapolis in 2010 and the following year Minnesota passed the “Surly Bill”, which allowed breweries to begin selling pints of their beer on site. Many attribute the passing of this bill to the proliferation of small-scale breweries in Minnesota. Between 2011 and 2012 the amount of beer (measured by the barrel) produced in Minnesota increased by 81%. So, I’ve had a lot more to choose from with over 60 breweries (large and small) in the state as of 2013.
The thing I love the most about this trend is the new life these breweries breathe into some of our less-adaptable buildings. Breweries need a lot of space, tall ceilings and sufficient air circulation – some specifications like what a former warehouse, hospital, or manufacturing plant might offer. I’d like to do a series of blog posts after I visit some of our Minnesota breweries to give you a taste of how brewing in Minnesota is quickly becoming an adaptive reuse success story. Here’s a couple of the places I’ve visited so far…
The first brewery to open a taproom after the passage of the “Surly Bill”, Fulton is located just outside of Target Field. My first visit to Fulton was our as last stop on GetKnit’s event, Rails and Ales. It was a packed house and I really didn’t get feel for the brewery, so naturally I had to go back the following week. Fulton Brewery was started by four friends out of a one-car garage in the Fulton neighborhood of Minneapolis. In 2009, the group decided to begin distributing their home-brew, before they knew it their beer was being tapped at over 60 local establishments. The following year, they signed a lease for the building in Minneapolis’ North Loop to begin brewing their beer independently (prior to this they were relying on a contract with a brewery in Wisconsin for the large scale production of their beer).
When the 2011 passage of the “Surly Bill” came along they were ready and willing to open their taproom to the public. It has become so popular that they added a deck in 2013 which creates a cozy space with views of downtown and Target Field. I wasn’t able to find much information about the building itself. Hennepin County states that it was constructed in 1955 and being that it is located in the “warehouse” district, I’d venture a guess that its original purpose was of the warehouse-variety. The renovation was mostly done by the brewery owners with consultation from DJR Architecture, INC.
Similar to Fulton, three friends (and eventually a fourth investor) started with a home-brew that they began distributing and eventually opened their brewery in Northeast, Minneapolis. The brewery and taproom, which opened in February of 2013, is pretty fantastic. My first visit was this past weekend for their Oktoberfest celebration, which featured food-trucks, music and of course, beer. We spent most of our time on the patio, but I did get a chance to check out the taproom as I joined the crowd around the bar to purchase a beer. It features a large mural painted by local artist, Adam Turman, a bar made from the floor of a former bowling alley and very little separation between the seating and the actual brewery equipment.
Located at the corner of Central Avenue NE and Broadway Street NE, 612 Brew is the anchor tenant in a building aptly named “The Broadway”. The building was constructed in 1921 and was the originally home to a mattress factory. It went through many different commercial uses and was eventually purchased in 2012 by First & First, a local development firm that specializes in adaptive reuse of existing buildings. The firm is led by Peter Remes, who seeks out distressed, under-appreciated buildings and transforms them into creative, contemporary spaces that pay homage to their former purposes. He also emphasizes public access in his projects, with the majority of them including some type of public gathering space. An excellent example of which is the beautiful plaza just outside The Broadway, where my friends and I spent our time on Saturday. It includes an amphitheater, seating and a fountain made with stones salvaged from the former Metropolitan Building, which was torn down the 1960’s.
The story of Day Block Brewery is almost inseparable from the building it is located within – the brewery is even named after the building. It was 2005 when Jeff Hahn purchased the Day Block Building with the intention of renovating it to house his web development company, Internet Exposure. The building, built in 1883, was deteriorating and its handsome Queen Anne details hiding behind signage and billboards. The building was constructed for use as a hospital, but it would go through many uses, most notably known as the home to Frank’s Plumbing. When Hahn decided to purchase it, the building was overflowing (get it?) with plumbing parts and equipment.
Hahn worked with CityDeskStudio and Rolf Lokensgard Architecture, among others, to rehabilitate the building to its 1883 charm. The rehabilitation won a Heritage Preservation Award in 2007 and the building reopened housing Hahn’s company on the third floor, an event space on the second floor and retail at street level. The original tenant was Spill the Wine, but when they terminated their lease in favor of moving to their current location along Lake Street in Uptown, Hahn saw an opportunity to explore his hobby of brewing beer on a larger scale. Day Block Brewing opened in January of 2014 and, unlike many of the taprooms popping up around Minnesota, this brewery offers a full service kitchen and is open every day of the week. I had a fluffy German pretzel when I was there, but word on the street is the pizza is pretty fantastic.
This brewery is really something to see – seriously, go there now. It’s located within Crown Center, a former iron working factory built in 1904. The massive complex has a total of nine buildings, Bauhaus taking residence in the largest which was used for the manufacturing of airplane wings during WWII. Hillcrest Development acquired the property and rehabilitated it to the tune of $10 million dollars in 2008. Other tenants in the complex include a medical device company, a furniture company, architectural firms and the most recent addition is an urban garden dubbed “The Shed”.
It was a Thursday night that my friend and I decided to check out Bauhaus Brew Labs. My first impression was how big the place was – come to find out it is one of the biggest taprooms in Minnesota. It has a really great ambiance, and since it was a particularly beautiful September evening we started by sitting out on the outdoor “beirgarten”. As I looked around at the décor, games and overall size of the brewery I thought, this place must have some really great funding for a start-up. Bauhaus is owned and operated by the Schwandt/Haines family and after securing funding for their brewery they started a Kickstarter campaign solely to raise funds to make their brewery special. The Kickstarter was very successful earning almost double their goal.
This little “research” project really solidified my hypothesis that craft breweries and preservation is a match made in heaven. I wonder do you like going to these breweries, do you like the special character and charm that they have? Well, a lot of that comes from the fantastic buildings they are making use of – so aside from having great taste in beer, you should also consider yourself a devoted preservationist. Every time you raise a glass at one of Minnesota’s awesome breweries, pat yourself on the back and know that you are supporting the preservation of this great state’s history.
Until next time…