30 years of beer: A Summit Brewing timeline

MarkStutrud

Summit Brewing Company founder Mark Stutrud // Photo by Aaron Davidson, The Growler

Summit Brewing Company owner Mark Stutrud refers to himself as a non-conformist. Proof of that is on display in Summit’s Beer Hall, where a framed letter from the Brewers Association from 1983 strongly suggests he not open his St. Paul brewery. Fortunately for Minnesota beer fans, Stutrud ignored the letter, and his Extra Pale Ale (EPA) went on to influence a generation of local beer makers.

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Three decades later, tanks of EPA tower over Stutrud’s brewhouse, a far cry from the small University Avenue space he occupied from 1986–1998. Summit recently ranked as the 29th largest craft brewery in the country, and their collection of medals for beers like EPA, Great Northern Porter, and True Brit IPA is a reminder of their ongoing success. Besides achieving recognition for their beers, the brewery has also received numerous awards for their business practices, community efforts, and workplace environment.

As Summit celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, they continue looking forward. They know the industry is always changing and, despite EPA being a hallmark of consistency, that the business itself needs to constantly adapt as breweries and beer styles come and go.

Here’s a look at the history of Summit against a backdrop of the changing landscape of Minnesota beer.

30 Years of Beer: A Summit Brewing Timeline

1983

“The letter”

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Summit founder Mark Stutrud receives a letter from the Brewers Association aimed at dissuading him from opening a brewery.

1984

What’s In A Name?

SummitNameList

Despite the Brewers’ Association’s warning, Summit founder Mark Stutrud continues down the “long and hard road” toward starting a brewery. One of the most important early steps? Choosing a name. This document shows the many names Stutrud considered before settling on Summit Brewing Company.

 

Branding begins to take shape

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In this rejected design, you can see what would become Summit’s original logo beginning to take shape. 

1986

Summit’s First Home

old brewery

Summit moves into its first location at 2264 University Avenue West. Today, the building is for lease, having most recently been home to Spiro’s Mediterranean Market.

Brewing Begins

1stfermenterSummit’s first fermenter arrives.

MarkUniversity in the kettleMark Stutrud inside the brewery’s first boil kettle, which was purchased from a brewery in Heimertingen, Germany.

1st hop billCROPSummit’s first order of hops.

The First Two Kegs

Summit sells its first two kegs of Extra Pale Ale to Johnny’s Bar, which was located across the street from the brewery.

…And The Third Keg

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Apparently the customers at Johnny’s liked what Summit was doing, because the day after purchasing Summit’s first two kegs of Extra Pale Ale, Johnny’s followed up to buy the third.

Minnesota Brewing History: James Page Brewing Opens

JamesPage

James Page Brewing Company opens on Quincy Street in Northeast Minneapolis.

1987

Bottling Begins

Summit begins bottling Extra Pale Ale and Great Northern Porter. Seen here is the original six-pack design for Extra Pale Ale.

The first big win

SummitHistory-2Great Northern Porter wins a gold medal at the 1987 Great American Beer Festival.

The original Great Northern Porter six-pack design.

1989

Minnesota Brewing History: First Brewpub Opens

TapsCoaster

Taps Waterfront Brewery and Comedy Club opens in Old Saint Anthony as the first brewpub in Minnesota. Sherlock’s Home Brewpub opens later this year in Minnetonka.

1991

First Expansion

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Summit’s first expansion grows their annual capacity from 5,000 to 12,000 barrels.

1992

Minnesota Brewing History: Say Hello to Pig’s Eye

PigsEye

Minnesota Brewing Company, operating out of the Schmidt brewery on West 7th Street in St. Paul, introduces Landmark and Pig’s Eye Pilsner.

1995

Minnesota Brewing History: Fitger’s Brewhouse Opens

Fitger's Brewhouse - Maki 3FEAT

Fitger’s Brewhouse opens in Duluth.

1997

Breaking Ground

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Summit breaks ground on a new brewery in the Crosby Lake Business Park near the Mississippi River in St. Paul. Seen above is an invite to the groundbreaking ceremony.

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An aerial view of the site before construction of the new brewery began.

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An artist’s rendering of the new brewery.

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A bulldozer preparing the new brewery site for construction.

Minnesota Brewing History: Brewing Ceases at St. Paul Hamm’s Brewery

Hamms

A 137-year brewing tradition on the site of the Hamm’s brewery in St. Paul comes to an end when Stroh’s shutters the brewery.

1998

Moving Day

Unfininished brewery2Following construction and three months of test brewing on their new system, Summit moves into the new brewery, which is still their home today.

SummitSignSign for the exterior of the building.

signhangingHoisting the sign into place on the new brewery.

2000

Minnesota Brewing History: Craft Brewers Guild

MN Craft Brewers Guild State FairFEAT

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is founded.

2002

Minnesota Brewing History: Brewing Ceases at West 7th Street Schmidt Brewery

Schmidt

After many changes of ownership over the years, brewing operations cease at the Schmidt Brewery on West 7th Street in St. Paul when Minnesota Brewing Company (makers of Pig’s Eye and Landmark) closes the brewery.

2003

Welcome, Damo

SummitHistory-29 (1)

Current head brewer Damian McConn, or “Damo” as he’s known around the brewery, joins Summit as a production and project brewer. He becomes the head brewer in 2013.

Oatmeal Stout debuts

Lucite Insert copy

Summit debuts Oatmeal Stout on draft at limited locations.

2005

Minnesota Brewing History: Surly brews first batch

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Omar Ansari and Todd Haug brew the first batch of Surly beer at their original Brooklyn Center location.

2006

20th anniversary

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To mark their 20th anniversary, Summit hosts the Big Brew party on Harriet Island with 11,000 attendees.

2007

Minnesota Brewing History: Lift Bridge and Flat Earth open

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Both Lift Bridge Brewing and Flat Earth Brewing open in 2007, bringing the brewery total in Minnesota to seven.

2009

Brewers Unchained

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Summit launches their Unchained Series, which gives brewers free rein to create unique and one-off beers.

2010

Taking Home More Hardware

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2010 was a good year for Summit’s flagship Extra Pale Ale, taking home a gold medal at the World Beer Cup and a silver at the Great American Beer Festival.

2011

Minnesota Brewing History: The taproom era begins

Legislation to allow breweries to sell their own beer onsite in a taproom, is signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton. Summit would open their taproom about a year later.

2012

Enter Sága

OriginalSaga

Summit adds Sága IPA to their year-round lineup.

2013

That’s A Lot of Beer

SummitCellar

Summit expands their cellar and purchases a dozen 600-barrel fermenters that raise their annual capacity to 240,000 barrels per year.

2014

A Fresh Look

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Summit revamps their logo and branding to the look and feel seen today.

Yes We Can

Summit First Cans

Summit releases their first cans with Summer Ale, Extra Pale Ale, and Sága IPA.

2015

Summit Expands Again

St. Paul Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer, Summit Brewing Company Founder and Owner Mark Stutrud and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman cut the ribbon on Summit's expansion facility.

Summit officially cuts the ribbon on a multi-year expansion project that includes space for its canning line, administrative and sales offices, and an industry training room for wholesaler and retail partners. 

2016

Marking 30 Years of Beer

Summit Brewing 30th Anniversary Double IPA // Photo via Summit's Facebook

Summit announces a year of special releases and events to mark their 30th anniversary.

Minnesota Brewing History: 115 and counting

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Thought Summit may be able to claim the title of the first modern craft brewery in the state, they have plenty of company these days. As of September 2016, Minnesota is home to 115 breweries and counting.

Keith Grauman also contributed to this report.

 
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