A xraft-brew phenomenon was born when the so-called Surly bill passed in 2011, allowing Minnesota breweries to serve pints of beer on-site. And subsequently, a new kind of meeting and event space became readily available. The casual atmosphere is a builtin feature, but don’t be mistaken: Taprooms are a place where business gets done.
When Robert Kasak, co-founder and brewer, talks about 612Brew’s space that’s located in the Northeast quadrant of Minneapolis, he thinks of it as a four-sensory experience: “You get to smell the beer being made, you get to see it, you can almost touch it, right? And you get to taste the beer, too.” Only a year and a half old, 612Brew incorporates an astounding amount of history into its property. The amphitheater and fountain on the outside patio consist of ruin stones from the Metropolitan Building that was torn down in 1963. “You’ve got a literal piece of Minneapolis history sitting right in front of you,” Kasak says. And that’s not to mention the hand-made bar—custom-built from reclaimed bowling alley lanes—a 15-foot Adam Turman mural and eight mirrored fermenters that give the brewery a tasteful look.
To accommodate groups looking for a private space, 612Brew rented out the 1,000-square-foot space that butts up against the taproom with a view and access to the patio. The Cellar, named for the bourbon barrels that will cellar beer, opened in mid-October and features a private bar, antique church pew seating around the perimeter with bistro tables, a sliding door from 1924 that connects to the taproom, audio-visual equipment and a projector with a drop-down screen for up to 50 people. “We host weddings [up to 200 people in the taproom/patio], we host corporate functions, we’ve even had expos here,” Kasak says. “You name it, we can host it.”
Bemidji Brewing Company
“In downtown Bemidji there’s not a lot of places that you can rent for meetings and events. There are bigger convention centers, but those are for large groups,” says Tina Kaney, co-founder of Bemidji Brewing Company. So, the 1,200-square-foot taproom with a 50-person capacity has proven to be the perfect solution for those in need of a smaller and more casual meeting space, which can be rented out during non-public hours.
In the heart of downtown Bemidji, on 4th St. and Beltrami Ave., the brewery is just one block away from Lake Bemidji. “We’ve seen [the taproom] be somewhat of a showpiece for other business or economic development,” Kaney says.
Day Block Brewing Company
While Day Block Brewing Company is new to the brewpub scene, the building itself has been standing since Leonard Day slapped his name on the building when that was what people did to claim their property. The large windows and brick décor of Day Block, located in east downtown Minneapolis, is as popular of a draw as its distinctive pizza and beer.
Day Block’s taproom is separated from the dining room by a sliding garage-style door and features a 150-inch, roll-up screen projector. The taproom has capacity for up to 90 (or 65 seated) and peers into the brew house where the beer is made. “We do a lot of corporate events, dress rehearsals, dinner rehearsals, we’ve done a lot of happy hours for the University of Minnesota and different organizations downtown,” says co-owner Jeff Hahn.
Excelsior Brewing Company
“It’s a really casual atmosphere. If people have been to the brewery before, they say it reminds them of rolling open the garage door of your best friend’s garage and having a couple beers,” says Jennifer Johnson, senior brand manager of Excelsior Brewing Company. The 2,000-square-foot taproom—which is nestled in Excelsior Bay on Lake Minnetonka—is available to rent during non-taproom hours Sunday to Tuesday (8 a.m.-11 p.m.) and Wednesday to Friday (8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.), and fits 125 standing, 50 seated. Included with the taproom rental is the full-service bar (which includes water and soda along with Excelsior’s suds, of course); patrons have the option to bring in a licensed caterer.
Lift Bridge Brewing Company
You’ve got options when it comes to the cozy, Stillwater-based brewery. Lift Bridge Brewing Company’s 1,000-square-foot taproom features a bar, a big-screen TV for presentations and picnic-style seating for 50 people. “Usually people will come in, do a meeting there and then join that up with a tour, maybe a sampling or flight option for their employees or guests,” says CEO/co-founder Dan Schwarz.
The brewery space boasts 5,000 square feet of industrial setting with fermenters, kegs, brewing equipment and is suitable for groups of up to 150. As far as food and other accommodations go, Lift Bridge is pretty flexible. Beer is à la carte (with the option for tokens), there’s an open-door policy for food (from homemade to catering) and other services can be made available like a dedicated server, private brewery tour, custom gift baskets, portapotty rental, hand-wash station, tent and a selection of outdoor games.
Summit Brewing Company
Unique to Summit Brewing Company is the fact that the St. Paul brewery rents out The Ratskeller to business, technical, professional and nonprofit groups that, according to the website, “demonstrate a commitment to the local community or has a direct impact on the brewing industry” free of charge and with discounted beer (and free water and root beer) for up to 150 on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. “[Donating the room] was always part of the mission when we built this facility in ’98. … So in addition to having our tours in that space, we also welcome community groups,” says Marketing Coordinator Carey Matthews. “It’s definitely a unique place and we hope that having it here for the nonprofits helps incentivize folks to come out and help support these nonprofits.”
Tin Whiskers Brewing Company
“The taproom, in the past and what it’s becoming now, is a place of community and gathering,” says Jeff Moriarty, president and 1/3 co-founder of Tin Whiskers Brewing Company in downtown St. Paul. The 1,300-square-foot taproom with 17-foot ceilings is big enough for 103 people (70 seated) and features that flexibility that comes with renting out a space in a brewery; you’re welcome to bring in your own food or catering (Black Sheep Pizza and Sawatdee Thai are two local options that happen to share the same block). Equipped with audiovisual capabilities, Tin Whiskers is able to host meetings and presentations on Monday, Tuesday and Sunday evenings. “It isn’t a bar. It is, but it isn’t,” sums up Moriarty.
NEW BREWS ON THE BLOCK
Badger Hill Brewing Company
Badger Hill Brewing, with plans to open in November, can be found tucked in between Canterbury Park and Valleyfair. “There’s actually a lot of team-building opportunities for fun in that weird southwest corridor of Shakopee,” says co-owner Britt Krekelberg. Add Badger Hill to the list, with features that include a pub space with 20-foot ceilings and 28-foot bar and interconnected lounge area with 12-foot ceilings, TVs and soft seating. The taproom is set apart from the production area, but a large glass wall lets you look into the brewing space and can be rented out during business hours Monday through Friday for up to 100 people.
Gull Dam Brewing
Gull Dam Brewing opened to the public on October 11 in the Brainerd Lakes area and features a two-level, 3,500-square-foot event center suitable for weddings, parties and corporate events. The 4,800-square-foot brewery and taproom is located amongst the brewing equipment and can also be rented. President/Vice President Mark and Barb Anderson plan to work with resorts around the area to host off-site meetings and social events. “There are so many new breweries that are starting nowadays,” says Mark Anderson. “When people hear the name Gull Dam, they turn, look and ask, ‘What did you just say?’”