With “craft beer” becoming a household phrase, it’s not just start-ups enjoying the increased awareness. Summit recently upgraded their facilities, Surly opened their regarded destination brewery, and Lift Bridge continues to expand. Joining in that club of veterans taking their beers to a new level is Barley John’s—albeit in a different fashion.
With capacity maximized at their small New Brighton brewpub, established in 2000, Barley John’s sought an alternative expansion. Limited by brewing capacity and legal restrictions, they decide not to follow the “satellite location” blueprint of Town Hall. Barley John’s will instead open a separate production brewery in New Richmond, WI, 45 miles east of the Twin Cities.
Construction began in the fall of 2014 and has continued through the relatively mild winter. Recently installed at the worksite were the walls and a roof that will form the new brewery. With tanks scheduled to arrive in May, Barley John’s has an eye toward brewing by the end of that month. Brewing in the existing 1,180 sq foot brewpub is done on a 3.5 bbl system, while the 14,000 sq foot production brewery will be able to brew up to 10,000 bbl annually upon start-up, and space to hit 30,000 bbl annually down the line.
But why are they opening a production brewery, and why in Wisconsin?
The brewpub in New Brighton is maxed out in both customer space as well as brewing capacity. “It became apparent that we’d need a new brewing system [for growth],” says John Moore, and the prospects of remodeling the already popular restaurant or building a new one didn’t excite him. “It seems silly to throw down all that money to open another restaurant,” because “the end game has a cap with a brewpub.” Under current law, brewpubs in Minnesota are limited to brewing 3,500 bbl of beer annually. Preferring to keep the original brewpub a unique space that wasn’t replicated, he looked in a different direction. “It just seemed like a better path to business expansion and stability.” Off-site sales have a high impact on name recognition.
The brewpub in New Brighton will remain a restaurant-focused pub featuring garden-grown ingredients and the same cozy confines. The production site is to be focused on growth.
After three years of planning, New Richmond “fell into my lap,” he says.
“Part of the reason in going to New Richmond was because of Paul Werni (owner of 45th Parallel Distillery and a fellow Minnesota resident) [told me] it was a good city to work with,” says Moore, “and he’s been right—they’ve been fantastic.”
Brewpub owners are not allowed ownership in another brewery, which means the two businesses will be separate legal entities with different ownership. The brewpub is now owned solely by Laura Subak, Moore’s wife, while the production brewery is owned by Moore.
The two Barley John’s will share a name, but each business has different staffing, equipment, branding, and ownership. However, some leeway between businesses is allowed. The brewpub and brewery will both sell the same flagships, but they are beers “of the same recipe,” though created at different establishments. “We can say that they’re similar beers but they’re not the same because they’re not brewed in the same facility.” Technically, the brewpub could even sell an Old 8 brewed in New Richmond, but they would sell it as a guest tap rather than a house beer.
The branding is key in separation, and it starts with the logos. “In New Brighton if you make a beer, you just name it. You don’t have to get label approval.” The brewpub logo didn’t take to their 16 oz. can design, and the beers produced in New Richmond will feature a beer gnome character next to the familiar names of Little Barley Bitter, Wild Brunette Brown Ale, and Old 8 Porter. The only beer name to change is that New Richmond will produce the Stockyard IPA recipe under the name of Stocky IPA instead. This is unrelated to the brewpub/production brewery issue, rather Trader Joe’s already distributes an oatmeal brown ale by the name of Stockyard, and Moore chose the new name to avoid confusion.
The cans will be filled via rotary filler and sold in 4-packs in both Wisconsin and Minnesota.
After working with limited space for 15 years, the new business clearly excites Moore. Where the brewpub was retrofitted from an old A&W stand, the New Richmond site is being custom built with future expansion in mind. It is 98% made by US-based companies, with construction done by New Richmond area contractors and equipment coming from Marshfield, Milwaukee, and Hudson. “The way I figure it,” explains Moore, is “if I’m not helping to provide jobs for the guy that’s going to drink the beers, how is he going to pay for them?”
They expect to hire around ten new employees, including a head brewer with production brewery experience.
The taproom will feature an indoor fireplace and an outdoor patio. The large lot includes 40 apple trees and is near the earlier mentioned 45th Parallel Distillery. Further connecting the neighboring businesses, this year’s Dark Knight porter is barrel-aged in a 45th Parallel bourbon barrel, and Moore plans to further develop that relationship once they open for business in the spring.