Lift Bridge Brewery, Stillwater: MN Craft Beer
The Tap Room Returns to Stillwater, Minnesota: The town that claims to be the birthplace of Minnesota is now laying claim to the beginnings of an increasingly popular local industry – the tap room.
Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewery became the first in the state to take advantage of a 2011 law allowing local craft beer brewers to sell pints of brew on site. The new law is helping accelerate the growth of the craft brew industry that has seen significant growth in recent years – part of a national trend in home brewing that has now grown into new Minnesota craft beers.
“We started as a bunch of home brewers,” said Trevor Cook, Lift Bridge Brewery co-owner and vice president of marketing. “We have five partners. Several of the guys worked together and they would eat lunch together and talk about home brewing. They realized they all liked to home brew. One day they realized they wanted to do it more seriously.”
Their passion for craft beer brewing quickly grew into a steady following for Lift Bridge Brewery.
“We started in Brad’s basement. Then we quickly graduated to Jim’s garage,” said Trevor. “He oversaw the building of his house so his garage was really well lit and great for brewing. It was insulated so we could brew in the winter time. It wasn’t long before we wanted to move into a larger space.”
“In September of 2008 we were hunting around and met with contractors,” Trevor recalled. “But we didn’t want to bite off too much at once. We thought it would be better for us to see if anybody would really drink our beer before we invested in all of the equipment. We began by leasing the equipment and right away, we found people were interested. We had about 16 accounts and 35 on the waiting list. We realized we needed to do something bigger.”
That’s when Lift Bridge Brewery moved into its current location. Today, the Stillwater brewery features the state’s first tap room.
“Now people can see the craft beer brewing process,” said Trevor, pointing to the fermenters. “Before, we were able to offer visitors a three ounce tasting of the beer. Now they can come in and have a pint. They can test drive the beer and then take home a growler to enjoy.”
Lift Bridge Brewery fans come for a tasting and tour, and then visit often to try a varying line up of seasonal craft beers.
“Our Irish Coffee Stout is a favorite in the spring, especially around St. Patrick’s Day,” said Trevor. “We also have a popular winter Biscotti beer. Farm Girl continues to be our biggest seller and is available year round, but we’ve also grown beyond that.”
Today the craft beers are available in bars and liquor stores across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. But the tap room continues to be a favorite spot for Lift Bridge Brewery fans to try and then buy their favorite brews.
“Since we started we’ve added five fermenters. Everything we’re making we’re selling,” said Trevor. “We’ve extended our tap room hours and hired a tap room manager because people want to come and enjoy a pint in the evening. We started with five co-owners, and we now have five employees too.”
Lift Bridge can claim to be the state’s first tap room, but it has quickly been joined by others across the Twin Cities and the state. Over the past year, the number of breweries in Minnesota has grown by nearly a third according to the Brewer’s Association.
“People are looking at things differently since the recent recession. They’ve started looking locally and thinking more about what local businesses mean to their community,” said Trevor. “I also think people’s pallets are changing. They’re cooking more, and they’re looking for new tastes. That’s really helped the industry grow.”
As a result, many beer drinkers are favoring their local craft beers.
“Nationwide 93 percent of beer is now consumed from the major brewing companies and that number is going down,” explained Trevor. “Last year craft beers represented just five percent of the market and now it’s up to seven percent. If you look at the jobs in brewing though, 50 percent of the jobs are in craft beer. We don’t just push a button and know we’re going to get some type of lager in 18 days.”
The craft beer industry is also helping support other local businesses through unique events and partnerships that allow beer fans to try new brews while enjoying local food and activities.
“We held a baked goods cook-off in partnership with Chef’s Gallery (now Cooks of Crocus Hill) in downtown Stillwater. We sell a popular Biscotti beer for the winter season that goes well with baked goods, so we held an event to celebrate that beer and cooking,” said Trevor. “People are realizing they can cook with beer in mind now. We partnered with the Heavy Table and Chef’s Gallery for the competition and it was a popular event.”
It seems what’s good for the craft beer industry is good for the local community. As the industry expands, more people are experiencing local beer, food and shopping across Minnesota – a trend that continues to grow.
If You Go:
Lift Bridge Brewery’s taproom is open Tuesday through Saturday. Pints are available to enjoy at the tap room and growlers are available to enjoy Lift Bridge at home. Several brews are also available at local restaurants and liquor stores, including the popular Farm Girl.
Free public tours are available on Saturdays, and you must pre-register to enjoy the tour plus samples of beer.
Lift Bridge Brewery is located on Tower Drive in Stillwater, MN just off of Hwy 36 near Cty 5/Stillwater Blvd.
While You’re There:
Head to downtown Stillwater, MN to enjoy shopping, antiquing, dining and the sights along the St. Croix River. Many downtown restaurants feature Lift Bridge Brewery beers. Also check out Lift Bridge Brewery's events calendar to enjoy local tasting events.
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