On the heels of winning their third straight Great Snowshoe Award at Winterfest last week comes news that Barley John’s Brew Pub is expanding its operation, adding a production brewery and taproom. Exciting news, yes. Not as exciting for local fans of Barley John’s: the new facility is being built across the river—not the Mississippi, but the St. Croix. New Richmond, Wisconsin is the future home of the 13,000 square-foot facility, which is currently planned to put out at least 7,000 barrels in its first year with a total annual capacity of 10,000 barrels. Barley John’s co-owner, John Moore, will break ground on the new brewery this spring, with distribution tentatively beginning in the fall.
Due to current restrictions on brewpubs in the state of Minnesota, Barley John’s didn’t have a lot of other options when it came to planning their expansion. When the “Surly Bill” was passed in 2011 allowing Minnesota breweries to open taprooms, a related bill which would’ve allowed brewpubs to distribute their beer through wholesalers fell by the wayside, not even making it out of a commerce committee discussion.
Previously, Moore had made it very clear that if the laws in Minnesota were not changed, he would be forced to make any future expansion plans in Wisconsin rather than staying closer to home. Unfortunately for Minnesota residents, Moore stayed true to his word, stating, “I would rather have done it here, two minutes away, but that’s not the way it is. The law is not in favor of brewpubs. It’s in favor of breweries.”
Luckily for local residents, Moore and his wife, Laura Subak, will continue to run their New Brighton brewpub, which is close to their home in Northeast Minneapolis. When the new brewery opens in New Richmond, Barley John’s will also be able to distribute beer in Wisconsin, giving Minnesotans the opportunity to purchase Moore’s beer in nearby border towns as well. For now, though, that is as close as Barley John’s will come to being distributed in Minnesota. Coincidentally, one of Moore’s neighbors at the new facility is 45th Parallel Spirits, owned by Paul Werni, who is also a resident of Minneapolis. Werni, too, started his business in Wisconsin due to restrictive Minnesota liquor laws.
Barley John’s Brew Pub was founded by Moore and Subak in 2000, and in addition to the brewpub, there is an on-site vegetable garden providing seasonal produce and hops for use in their cooking and brewing. The brewpub features four flagship beers, as well as anywhere from four to seven seasonal brews at any given time. The 2014 Great Snowshoe Award was given to Barley John’s at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s Winterfest for their Rosie’s Old Ale, which they describe as “the original Wild Brunette, infused with three separate additions of candi sugar and champagne yeast.” The beer is then bourbon barrel aged for one year, but only makes an appearance every three years because the barrels are reused for three different beers. Barley John’s previous Great Snowshoe award winners were Dark Knight Returns (2013) and Dark Knight (2007, 2012), which happen to be the other two beers that are aged in those barrels.
On August 20th, a large crowd of community leaders, family, and friends gathered near the corner of Wisconsin Drive and Madison Avenue in the New Richmond Business & Technical Park (New Richmond, Wisc.) to celebrate the groundbreaking of a 13,000 square foot beer production facility and taproom for Barley John’s Brewing Company. Co-owners John Moore and Laura Subak, a husband and wife team, announced the project last February and the groundbreaking caps two years of dreaming and planning. The brewery has the capacity to produce 10,000 barrels per year.
Beth Thompson, New Richmond’s community development director, emceed the ceremony. Local dignitaries included Mayor Fred Horne and members of the city council, New Richmond city staff, New Richmond EDC Commissioners, New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, New Richmond Area EDC board members, County Board Chair Roger Larson, County Supervisor Daniel Hansen, St. Croix EDC board and staff, State Representative John Murtha, State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, and Jesse Garza from U.S. Representative Sean Duffy’s office.
The couple has owned Barley John’s Brew Pub in New Brighton, Minnesota since 2000 but Minnesota law restricts brewpubs to on-site sales, meaning beer produced at brewpubs is not available in other bars and cannot be sold as a packaged product in liquor stores. This provided New Richmond with the opportunity to recruit the micro-brewery to the business park. Barley John’s connection to Paul Werni of 45th Parallel Spirits, also located in the business park, established another pathway to make the brewery a reality.
Derrick Building Solutions, LLC (New Richmond, Wisc.) is the general contractor for the project. It carries a price tag in excess of $3.5 million. Using Wisconsin Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) law, the City of New Richmond wrote-down the cost of the lot and waived water and sewer access fees. First National Community Bank teamed up with Wisconsin Business Development on financing through a Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan. The Regional Business Fund, Inc., serving eight counties in west central Wisconsin, also financed a portion of the project. The Small Business Development Center at UW-River Falls provided financial forecasting services to Moore and Subak.
Barley John’s Brewing will produce its four signature styles of beer, including Little Barley, IPA, Wild Brunette, and Old 8 Porter. Seasonal beers will be added in the future. Products will be available in cans, kegs, growlers, or on tap.
Consumers can sample Barley John’s products at a taproom in the production facility. Taprooms are an important amenity for micro-breweries. They usually overlook the brewing operations to give customers a firsthand look into how beer is produced. Taproom patrons enjoy the freshest beer on-tap and brewers obtain feedback on limited-run, experimental beers.