Beer drinkers in Minnesota now have more choices than ever before. From Hamms to Grain Belt and Summit, the land of 10,000 lakes has a long tradition of brewing that is experiencing a boom in business.
A change in state law has created the perfect business conditions for local craft brewers. In the land of sky blue waters, there are 73 licensed breweries and 16 new ones opened last year alone. Now, there's even one that specializes in gluten-free brews.
New craft breweries continue to pop up across the Twin Cities, and for the ones that have been around for a few years, business is hopping and some are already expanding.
One year ago, the first pint of beer was pulled from the taps the warehouse in northeast Minneapolis that houses the 612 Brew -- but while it isn't the first beer taproom, it certainly won't be the last.
"If you look at what craft beer drinkers are doing, they're always looking for something new and they're always looking for the adventurous beer," Robert Kasak said.
Fulton Brewing was actually the first tap room to open its doors, but Surly Brewing can be thanked for lobbying to change a prohibition-era law so that beer can now be consumed where it's brewed.
"I think it's just great to have people come in and be able to look back there and see the tanks and see the guys working," Mikey Salo said. "It makes you feel a lot closer to the product."
Unlike brew pubs which serve food, tap rooms are a direct line to all that fizzy fare. Often, they are little more than extensions on a working brewery.
"It's nice to have a place to clear out all the grain, clear out all the pallets, set up some tables and have people come in and enjoy our product and see what we're doing."
So, what makes a tap room different from a bar?
"They have just their stuff and it's fresh. They make it; they sell it," Dave Gerber explained. "There's not a lot of other stuff. You're not going to get a whiskey sour here. You're not going to get a hamburger. You come for the beer. That's it."
From Victoria to Excelsior and all the way to Stillwater, new taps are opening up -- but northeast Minneapolis has become the epicenter for craft beer.
"There are a lot of choices," Emily Olsen said.
Yet, Salo said he isn't worried about market saturation just yet. Unlike the competition one might expect, there's actually a strong camaraderie among metro brewers. In fact, they'll even lend ingredients in a pinch.
"We want to see craft beer grow in Minnesota," Kasak said. "We want to see the success of our fellow brewers too."
Last fall, Surly brewing broke ground on a new destination brewery near the soon-to-open Green Line light rail. The company also just announced a deal to offer their beer on all Sun Country flights.
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