Nordeast: Then and Now

Northeast is the once and future home for brewing in Minneapolis.

By Jeremy Zoss

In the press release announcing that 612 Brewwould locate its new brewery in the heart of Northeast Minneapolis, the company referred to the area as the city’s new “Brew District.” That title was in reference to the high concentration of new beer businesses starting up in Northeast, including Indeed Brewing, Northgate Brewing and Dangerous Man Brewing Company.

Once all the new breweries are up and running, Northeast will unquestionably have the most breweries and taprooms of any region of the city. However, Northeast deserves the title of Minneapolis’ Brew District not just because of its future, but its past. According to “Land of Amber Waters” author and beer historian Doug Hoverson, Northeast has always been at the center of Minneapolis’ beer industry. “The brewing history of Nordeast, once you get past prohibition, that is the Minneapolis history,” said Hoverson. “[After that] there’s nobody else out there.”

The Past

You don’t have to be a big beer fan to be aware of Northeast’s brewing history. The Grain Belt sign that greets visitors as they cross from downtown to Northeast is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Decades after brewing ceased on the property, the massive complex between Marshall Street and the river still bears the Grain Belt Brewery name. Visitors to Psycho Suzi’s patio often walk past Gluek Park, the former site of the Gluek Brewery. Brewing history is everywhere in Northeast. According to Hoverson, the reason brewing developed in Northeast is simpler than you might think.

“Part of the reason Northeast ends up being where Minneapolis’ brewing industry is centered is not necessarily because of any great ethnic tradition up there,” said Hoverson. “It was simply that side of the river was the first side to be open to settlement, and was so by a good 10 years.” Because Northeast (then the city of St. Anthony) was amongst the first parts of Minneapolis to be settled, it has some of the first people looking for beer. The area also provided several logistical advantages – access to the river for shipping, springs for clean water and bluffs that made for good lagering caves.

The first brewery established in Northeast was the John Orth Brewing Company in 1850, later known as The Minneapolis Brewing Company and later still rechristened Grain Belt Breweries. Gluek Brewing Company opened in 1857 at Marshall and 22nd St. NE, and the Lauritzen Brewing Company opened at 1900 3rd St. NE in 1903. The latter brewery did not survive Prohibition, nor did any Minneapolis brewery located outside Northeast. For decades, Minneapolis Brewing Company and Gluek Brewing Company were the only breweries in Minneapolis.

As local beer fans are all aware, neither brewery still exists today. To put it simply, both struggled once television brought advertising from big national beer brands to Minneapolis and suffered from being the wrong size at the wrong time. Each was too small to compete with national brands, but too large to function solely as local breweries. “They were not viewed as trendy, modern, forward-moving beers. They were the beers that Grandpa drank,” said Hoverson. “Especially in the 1950s, when it’s all about being modern and the height of food was Wonder Bread, the height of beer was the lightest, cleanest beer with the least aftertaste. The beer that Grandpa drank wasn’t cool.”

The Gluek Brewery was sold to the G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1964 and later to Cold Spring Brewery, which temporarily operated under the Gluek name. Today, Gluek’s beer is brewed exclusively for Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar in downtown Minneapolis. Grain Belt was sold in 1975 and changed hands a few times until the label was purchased by August Schell Brewing in 2002, which brews the beer today. But the Grain Belt Brewery itself stopped producing beer in 1976, ending Northeast’s long brewing history (with a brief return in the late 1990s thanks to the short-lived James Page Brewery).

That is all about to change.

The Future

Northeast’s brewery scene is on the verge of a major return. As of this writing, there are still no breweries up and running in Northeast, but several are on the way. Indeed Brewing Company will likely be first, with its massive brewery scheduled to open in August. Indeed’s 12,000 square-foot brewery will feature a tap room with patio on day one, an in-house canning line and a 3,800 barrel capacity. Indeed’s brewmaster, award-winning Town Hall Tavern veteran Josh Bischoff, has announced the brewery’s first two beers, Day Tripper Pale Ale and Midnight Ryder American Black Ale.

Indeed’s founders said they initially planned to open their brewery in St. Paul or along the Midtown Greenway, but when they started looking in Northeast, the area shot to the top of their list. When they discovered their location in the Solar Arts Building at 711 15th St. NE, they knew they had found their home.

“Once we started looking here, things just clicked,” Indeed co-founder Tom Whisenand said.

Indeed’s launch will be followed soon after by Northgate Brewing, which founders Adam Sjogren and Todd Slininger hope to have open by early fall. The small brewery at 3134 California St. NE will focus on English session beers, and Sjogren and Slininger have hired a recent graduate of Chicago’s Siebel Institute to serve as brewmaster. Unlike the other upcoming breweries, Northgate won’t feature a tap room, although Sjogren said their space will allow for expansion and a tap room may be added eventually.

Once it opens in late fall, 612 Brew’s brewery will certainly be a popular destination, located at one of Northeast’s busiest intersections, Broadway and Central. The tap room will open first and offer up a menu of Indian food as well as pints and growlers of 612 Brew’s initial flagship beers, SIX American Pale Ale and Rated R Rye IPA. The tap room will also offer exclusive and seasonal beers that won’t be available anywhere else. 612 Brew’s founders hope to have their beers available in stores within a year.

By this winter, the Dangerous Man Brewing Company should be open at 1300 2nd St. NE. Unlike the rest of his Northeast brewing colleagues, Dangerous Man founder isn’t opening a production brewery. His tap room will be the only place to drink Dangerous Man beers, and Miller fought hard to bring it to Northeast. To open in the former bank where he’s building the business, Miller had to work with the city to rewrite city codes to allow him to open within 300 feet of a church – there’s one right across the street.

Along with Boom Island Brewery, which is less than a half-mile beyond Northeast’s borders, Indeed, Northgate, 612 Brew and Dangerous Man Brewing Company represent the new class of Northeast’s brewing tradition. Given the concentration of industrial sites in the region, its history and its promising future, it wouldn’t be surprising if even more breweries popped up in Northeast in the coming years. After all, where better to locate a new brewery than the Brew District?


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