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.

Timeline

1983

“The letter”

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?

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

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

1986

Summit’s First Home

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

Summit’s first fermenter arrives. Mark Stutrud inside the brewery’s first boil kettle, which was purchased from a brewery in Heimertingen, Germany. Summit’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

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

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

Great 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

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

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

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 opens in Duluth.

1997

Breaking Ground

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. An aerial view of the site before construction of the new brewery began. An artist’s rendering of the new brewery. A bulldozer preparing the new brewery ... [ Read more]

1998

Moving Day

Following construction and three months of test brewing on their new system, Summit moves into the new brewery, which is still their home today. Sign for the exterior of the building. Hoisting the sign into place on the new brewery.

2000

Minnesota Brewing History: Craft Brewers Guild

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is founded.

2002

Welcome, Damo

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.

2003

Oatmeal Stout debuts

Summit debuts Oatmeal Stout on draft at limited locations.

2005

Minnesota Brewing History: Surly brews first batch

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

2006

20th anniversary

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

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

2009

Brewers Unchained

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

2010

Taking Home More Hardware

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

Summit adds Sága IPA to their year-round lineup.

2013

That’s A Lot of Beer

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

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

Yes We Can

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

2015

Summit Expands Again

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

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

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.

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

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.

Minnesota Brewing History: 115 and counting

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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