First Look: Copper Trail Brewing Company’s new taproom in Alexandria

Photo by Ale Adventures

I

f there’s been one constant at Copper Trail Brewing Co. since they opened in 2016, it’s been growth.

“Our plan was—start up, get the loan […] and as we get comfortable with our system, we’d add [additional] tanks,” Graf recalls their plan from 2016. But business at Copper Trail took off much quicker than they’d expected—within 11 months of opening, the small strip mall brewery had already reached full capacity and hit the three-year growth mark of their business plan.

Adam and Samantha Graf at the edge of the brewery floor in Copper Trail Brewing Co.’s new downtown Alexandria taproom // Photo by Ale Adventures

“It was insane—we were like ‘We need more room. I don’t know how, but we need more room, [and] we need it now,’” Graf recalls.

On Friday, August 30, founders Adam Graf and Dave Gibbons proudly re-opened the doors of Copper Trail in a new, larger taproom in downtown Alexandria, Minnesota.

“We looked at a couple of different options,” he continues. “Someone had approached us about a brand new building, and that was insanely expensive. We had looked at adding a mezzanine in our other space, which was way too expensive […] we started looking at an off-site distribution site, [but] there was a lot of overlap in costs.”

Photo by Ale Adventures

Photo by Ale Adventures

An old lumber yard in downtown Alexandria caught their eye. Located at the corner of Broadway and 3rd Avenue—around the corner from the town’s famous Big Ole Viking Statue—the space had been sitting vacant for five years. Now, Copper Trail has a 10-year lease on the space with an option to extend it if the business proves successful. “[It’s] super cool, because we want to be here a long time.”

The fresh lease has allowed Graf and Gibbons to make some changes and improvements in their new taproom—lessons they learned from their previous space.

Bar layout and overall taproom flow are two major improvements. The order station is now front and center with two tills allowing for two lines to form. The menu and taps are both on the wall directly behind the tills, the former clearly visible to customers in line and latter easily accessible to bartenders with less congestion.

“We were pretty full [on grand opening day],” Graf’s wife and Copper Trail’s social media manager/marketer Samantha says, “and we still had a lady with a baby stroller glide through here […] and I’m like, that’s exactly what we wanted!”

Bathrooms are another improvement. “We always had a pinch-point at the bathrooms going to our offices,” Graf says of the old taproom. Separate men’s and women’s restrooms with a common handwashing station in the hallway allow for more people to use restrooms with smoother traffic flow.

Tap lists sit on either side of the Copper Trail behind the bar of their new taproom // Photo by Ale Adventures

Aesthetically, Copper Trail’s taproom is a little old and a little new. “We had industrial-meets-craftsman over at the other space,” says Graf. “We definitely brought a lot of that with us.” The bartop, built with wood from Samantha’s dad’s farm, will be a familiar piece as will the giant “Enjoy the Journey” sign on the northernmost wall. The tables and chairs—built by Graf and Gibbons—were built from wood leftover from the former lumber yard; windows and a half-garage door allow for much more light than the previous taproom; and a patio offers additional seating outside.

More space means more beer. “We’ll be expanding our brewing—we’re estimating about—three times this year,” says Graf, who holds the title of head brewer though he shares the responsibilities with Gibbons. To accomplish that, they’ve added a 15-barrel system (previously belonging to F-Town Brewing in Faribault) to their 7-barrel system. The larger brewing system will also allow for more beer options and varieties. “We’ve got a list of, probably, 30 beers out there that we want to try out—nitros, sours, […] black IPA. You don’t see a lot of those.”

Expanding into a new taproom is a lot of hard work. But it’s also rewarding. “We put a lot of time, heart, blood, sweat and tears into seeing people enjoy all this,” reflects Samantha. “It’s satisfying.”

Copper Trail’s new downtown taproom // Photo by Ale Adventures

Brewers: Adam Graf, Dave Gibbons

Beers: Kolsch, Irish Red, Blueberry Wheat, IPA, Milk Chocolate Stout, Smash Pale Ale, Strawberry Light Ale, Huckleberry Wheat Ale, Rye Beer infused with Morel Mushrooms

Grand Reopening: Friday, August 30, 2019

Address: 205 Broadway St., Alexandria, MN 56308

Hours: Mon–Thu: 3pm–10pm; Fri–Sat: 12pm–11pm; Sun: 12pm–6pm

A Blind Tasting beer festival

Taste & Rate 48 Minnesota Oktoberfests

Sept. 20, 2019 | 5:30–9pm
Upper Landing Park
Tickets: GA $40 | DD $20