Bigger and Better: Minnesota Breweries Build for the Future

All around the state, Minnesota’s breweries are expanding brewing capacity and putting ambitious distribution plans in place.

By Jeremy Zoss
Photos by Joe Alton

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Four months after opening its small North Minneapolis brewery, Boom Island Brewing’s founder Kevin Welch knew that he would need to expand. Welch and his family—who are also his business partners—planned to start small and grow slowly, learning how to run a business, building relationships, and gradually increasing capacity and distribution.

“We’ve gradually been expanding ever since we started, of course,” said Welch. “We started with two 7 barrel fermenters that I built myself. Now we’ve tripled [that].”

On track to brew 1,000 barrels in 2013, Welch expects that Boom Island will double production when the company moves into its new location a few blocks away from the original space. The new space is roughly 4,000 square feet at 2014 North Washington Avenue. With the expanded operation, Boom Island Brewing will be able to grow its offerings in several ways. Welch said the expansion will allow him to bring his Belgian-style beers to new on-sale and off-sale accounts. The company also plans to package beers in 12 oz bottles for the first time, although they’re still deciding which beers to offer in the smaller vessel.

“We have a lot of 8% and 9% [ABV] beers,” said Welch. “We may do some lower alcohol beers. We need more happy hour candidate beers.”

Another benefit of the expansion is that it will allow Boom Island to build its first taproom, which Welch expects to be complete by year’s end. The taproom will have a European vibe, room for around 50 patrons at a time, and views of the open floor plan brewery.

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Boom Island is just one of the many breweries around Minnesota that have announced plans to grow, and the trend extends from the smallest breweries in the state to the largest. Patrick Sundberg—owner of Jack Pine Brewery in Baxter, Minnesota—told The Growler by email that his small brewery has doubled in size and hopes to start selling bombers this winter.

“I’ve upgraded both kettle and mash tun to true 3 barrel size,” said Sundberg. “Going from double-batching to fill a fermenter to single brew day length is a dream! The brewery started with four fermenters and now has eight, plus two 3 barrel brite tanks.”

Regular readers of The Growler are likely familiar with some of the larger brewery expansions in the works. Construction of Surly Brewing Company’s new destination brewery in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis is now underway and scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014. Fulton Brewing Company has a new 51,000 square foot facility in the works in Northeast Minneapolis, which will increase its in-house production capacity to 20,000 barrels. The new location will be a production-only facility—Fulton’s existing brewery and taproom will remain in operation near Target Field.

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