The story behind Copper Trail Brewing, like so many others, is one of beer and friendship. Co-owners Dave Gibbons and Adam Graf were longtime friends and Alexandria natives. Both went to NDSU and when they returned to their hometown later in life, they ended up working for the same company. Already knowing that they work well together, the two bonded over a homebrewing passion that they quickly outgrew.
“The last time we brewed on the regular homebrew bucket that everybody buys, we did a triple brew day and we got it cranked out in seven or eight hours,” recalls Graf, a mechanical engineer by trade. “We sat back and said, ‘We outgrew this system.’” They put their skills together to customize a 10-gallon homebrew system and were soon doing double brew days on it, then working on the brewery business plan by night when the beer was finished.
“You take a lot of pride in doing things yourself,” says Graf. That sentiment has carried over from their customized homebrew system and into their new seven-barrel brewhouse, which is set to open to public on December 26. “We did all the design work and the layout ourselves,” he says. “We made the space what we wanted it to be.” Inside, they’ve turned the one-time sandwich shop into an open and inviting brewery. The building had drainage, vents, and other important infrastructure from its former tenant, simplifying the buildout process for Copper Trail.
“It’s fun to watch the first time everybody walks in because they’re surprised at the volume of the place,” Gibbons says. With open, 20-foot ceilings, it brings the customer into the brewery experience. “It gives full exposure when you’re in here,” he explains. “It feels like you’re in the brewery drinking.”
Alexandria’s chain of lakes influenced the “woodsman industrial” feel, and the name recalls nights spent by the lakes, enjoying beer with friends around a bonfire.
“Everybody is on their own unique journey and we’re here to pull everybody together and provide that atmosphere for them,” Gibbons explains of the brand. “To create that social environment where everybody can sit around a bonfire like we did in college and share stories. We want to be that spot for everybody else.”
As for the beer, there is no particular style focus, says Graf, who will be head brewer. Copper Trail will brew all manner of beers, from traditional pale ale to honey or fruit-influenced seasonals.
“As long as you can design a well-balanced beer where the flavors of the grain match and pair well with the flavors of the yeast and hops, that is definitely the art for us,” he summarizes. Depending on the season, styles may include an IPA, brown ale, wee heavy, or blonde ale. The duo will let consumers determine what beers stay on tap, with core brands being served in the taproom straight from the brite tank. To start, the brewery will serve their beer onsite only, expanding to local bars and restaurants as they gain experience.
That first impression when customers walk in is indicative or the overall focus, seeing the quality and craftsmanship from beer to bar top. “I think it shows in the taproom and will also show in our beer,” Gibbons explains. The do-it-yourself ethos will shine through in all that Copper Trail does.
Brewers: Adam Graf, Dave Gibbons
Beer: Irish Blonde, Nut Brown, IPA, and Scottish Wee Heavy
Address: 410 30th Ave E, #103, Alexandria, MN 56308
Hours: Thur–Sat 4–10pm, Sun 12–4pm