Vine Park is licensed as a brew-on-premises and, separately, as a 3-barrel microbrewery, with a St. Paul code allowing the unique arrangement. The two businesses are in the same building but cannot be used for each other’s products. The microbrewery uses all grain ingredients, while the brew-on-premises features mostly extract ingredients for the novice brewers who comprise most of their clientele.
As for the beer making, 2–3 customers typically gather at each of the brewery’s kettles and create the equivalent of 72 22-ounce beers that they will later bottle and bring home. The business holds a Class C grocer license allowing it to sell products that the customer uses to brew, all in a guided process where experts supervise customers. While a homebrewer has to pay close attention to every detail, in the social Vine Park set-up, that detail is left to the hosts while the brewers enjoy themselves. “We observe you and make sure you don’t screw anything up,” Grage summarizes. “It’s a lot like helping Grandma make cookies.”
“In 1995 when we opened, if you wanted a traditional German hefeweizen or a good Belgian saison you didn’t have a whole lot of options,” Grage remembers, and thirsty patrons would come to them for a hard to find style. The craft brewing boom has increased availability. Instead of seeking the enthusiast customer base, Vine Park now focuses attention on the experience they offer.
“Brew-on-premises is maybe looked down on a little bit,” he laments. “Homebrewers are told that you can’t brew good beer using malt extracts, you can’t brew good beer using dry yeast,” but, he emphasizes, “You can if you’re paying attention to the details and have the right tools and equipment,” both of which are Vine Park’s specialties.
“Microbreweries are sexy and romantic,” Grage admits, but that business isn’t for him. Thompson was more interested in the brewpub side of the business, and Justesen is now starting his own production brewery. As a homebrewer since 1990, Grage prefers to share his beer knowledge without the rigors of a taproom or large staff. There have been changes in the business—the styles of beers have changed and the introduction of growler sales in 2006 added a new dynamic that brought in neighborhood residents—but the concept remains a hands-on opportunity for people to gather and create something on their own. “Rather than buying stuff,” Grage explains, Vine Park offers experience and memories. Memories that are bottled, brought home, and shared. In the process, a few new homebrewers are likely to be born.
Special 20th Anniversary Events
Throughout the year Vine Park will be celebrating with special anniversary events and deals each month.
In March they are offering a growler punch card special that includes six growler fills and a growler coozie for $55. Other upcoming specials include:
March 31 – Donuts & Beer Brew Party
April 23 – Hard Cider Party
May 27 – Belgian Brew Party
June 17 – Limited Edition Wine Party
June 30 – Hopalicious Brew Party
July 1–8 – Half-price Root Beer
August 1 – Annual Brews Cruise
October 17 – Oktoberfest/Anniversary Celebration
September – $25 off brewing for all past & present military
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