From garage, to bowling alley, to brewery taproom: Lazy Loon Brewing in Glencoe’s path to opening (and surviving)

Jonathan Leuck of Lazy Loon Brewing in Glencoe, Minnesota // Photo by Tony Saunders

Jonathan Lueck of Lazy Loon Brewing in Glencoe, Minnesota // Photo by Tony Saunders

Now Open (Or Damn Close) is supported by underwriting partner Maltwerks, a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. The Growler maintained full editorial control over the content.

Jonathan Lueck’s persistence combined with his passion for crafting—creating beer and woodworking—can be found at Lazy Loon Brewing Company. Lueck’s day job, an attorney and CPA focusing on taxation and business law, helped him navigate federal, state, and city regulations for several years before he opened a taproom with a full kitchen in the former Agri-Fleet building in downtown Glencoe in January 2020. And now it’s helping him keep Lazy Loon going through a pandemic.

“My daytime job is always a challenge and you have to figure out a way to adapt. In the case of the brewery, we began focusing on the food immediately. How do we make the best of the situation?” Lueck says. He also tried new marketing tactics like creating daily specials and pushing out ads in newspapers and Facebook.

“We’re thankful that we put in a full kitchen. We essentially turned into a take-out restaurant and got busier. We went from being open four days a week to every day. Beer sales had dropped quite a bit. You couldn’t give people a sample to choose a growler so they had to buy it blind.”

He came up with the name and image of Lazy Loon to represent Minnesota, as well as to instill an element of relaxation. The cozy taproom seats about 50 (and now half to maintain 50% occupancy) and the newly created outdoor patio space accommodates about 50 people. Lazy Loon’s menu includes burgers, crispy chicken sandwiches, chicken strips with sides including fries, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings.

“In Glencoe, there are bars with good food, and diners with good food and no alcohol. This is the only place where you can have beer and burger without going into a bar atmosphere. It’s family-friendly, kid-friendly—and the community has been really supportive as well,” he says of patronage since the brewery opened in mid-January.

While labor-intensive, Lueck likes how his two-barrel system gives him the flexibility to turn out small batches and makes it easier to experiment. Plus, Lueck says he’s “MacGyvered” his computer system to tie into the power, which lets him turn on and off the heating element to control the temperature of the mash.

The most popular beers are Lazy Loon’s crisp lager, dunkel, and Oktoberfest, which Lueck plans to bring back in the fall. “We currently have a hard seltzer, which is like a white wine for the non-beer drinker. It’s been very popular this summer,” he says.

For those who have recently discovered Lazy Loon, what they might not know is that the brewery began in 2014. With a plan to watch the market for interest, Lueck first obtained federal and state variances to get licensed from his home in Victoria. His brewing equipment was physically set up separately from his house.

When it was time to grow, Lueck and his wife Tammy purchased a bowling alley in Norwood Young America in 2017 with the intention of moving the brewery there.

“We had our beer on tap at the bowling alley. It led to some confusion when people walked in expecting a brewery, but then there was a bowling alley,” says Lueck. This led to the decision to find a separate home for the brewery and bringing the equipment on-site also meant they could only serve Lazy Loon beer at the bowling alley.

The couple found a building in Glencoe about 15 minutes away from the bowling alley in 2018. The city put them in touch with the owner and they worked with the city council to update the city’s liquor ordinance to open a brewery and taproom in town, he says.

Due to state laws, one cannot own a bar and a brewery, so Jonathan’s wife became the sole owner of Lazy Loon Bowling, while Jonathan owns the brewery.

It took longer than expected to open the taproom since the couple and their three sons Tyler, Matthew, and Nicholas took on most of the work building out the brewery—from construction to design and putting in a kitchen. The attention-grabber is the bar top made from a tree Jonathan found on the ground of his parents’ home, finished with a natural, jagged edge.

The outdoor patio area built at Lazy Loon Brewing during the coronavirus pandemic // Photo via Lazy Loon's Facebook

The outdoor patio area built at Lazy Loon Brewing during the coronavirus pandemic // Photo via Lazy Loon’s Facebook

In early June, Lueck and his sons built eight gazebos with sand in between them for kids to play in once outdoor dining was allowed. The outdoor patio space also has Adirondack chairs around a fire pit.

Nicholas says he’s not surprised his dad’s love of beer and brewing led to the family operating a brewery. “He’s always working on developing what he enjoys doing into a business.”

With the brewery and taproom open again, Jonathan says he’s looking forward to focusing back on brewing, with the goal of having a range of beers on tap from light to hoppier options, along with a couple of porters and a fruitier beer. Nicholas is working on expanding the menu.

“This summer we’ve had nights where I’ve created and tested out some new food items. We will have people try them and give us their feedback to determine what adjustments need to be made and what we should add to the menu,” Nicholas says.

Nicholas recently created the barnyard burger—a bacon cheeseburger with bbq pulled pork, sliced breaded chicken with a fried egg. In response, Jonathan came up with the hog barn burger: brat patty, bacon, pulled pork, honey bbq and hashbrowns and mozzarella cheese on brioche bun.

“We like to challenge each other with different creations. We’ve come out with different hamburgers and steak sandwiches during this time,” Jonathan says.

Lazy Loon Brewing in Glencoe, Minnesota // Photo by Tony Saunders

Lazy Loon Brewing in Glencoe, Minnesota // Photo by Tony Saunders

Brewer: Jonathan Lueck

Beers: Pre Prohibition (lager), Cross-check (Pilsner), Head Pin (a lighter IPA), Flipper (hard seltzer), Cascade (lager), Lazy Loon (lager)

Address: 610 13th Street East, Glencoe

Hours: Tue–Wed: 4–8pm; Thu–Fri: 4–9pm; Sat: 11am–9pm; Sun: 11am–7pm; Check on Facebook for the latest hours.

Online: Website, Facebook

Maltwerks is a Midwest malt house focused on genuine relationships in offering quality, locally produced, traceable malt. Maltwerks maintains close relationships with local farmers so brewers know exactly what barley was used and the characteristics they can expect. Maltwerks is a partner in globally sourced commodities and carries a wide variety of spices and botanicals for diversity in craft brewing.