The North Loop beer boom
If you wanted to go to a brewery in the North Loop, you only had one option a few years ago. Now more and more breweries are staking their claim in the burgeoning neighborhood instead of Northeast Minneapolis.
Ryan Petz, CEO of the neighborhood’s original brewery, Fulton Beer, said instead of a sole brewery separated from other taprooms, they find themselves these days among growing numbers of brewers. The added competition has helped, not hindered their business.
“We’re not out on an island. We are a region,” Petz said.
When Fulton began brewing in its North Loop facility in 2011, the neighborhood wasn’t what it is now, but the Minnesota Twins were playing their first season at Target Field and Petz said that gave them hope things could turn around.
What the neighborhood did have was a bunch of warehouses, buildings with the right infrastructure for breweries. The Warehouse District’s historic structures, with their tall ceilings and durable construction, lend themselves to taproom and breweries, Petz said.
“At the end of the day those are where the buildings are and that’s where the breweries will go,” he said.
Twins games and the right building also drew Modist Brewing, a brewery that opened last spring off Washington Avenue at 5th & 3rd in the neighborhood. Co-founder and head of sales John Donnelly said their building, a previously vacant 18,000-square-foot warehouse, had everything they needed, from a thick concrete floor and loading docks to a tall ceiling and the necessary square footage. Northeast Minneapolis has plenty of industrial buildings, he said, but it’s saturated with taprooms.
“We thought, ‘Why not look at the Warehouse District?’” he said.
Modist got a warm welcome from Fulton, which they partnered with to win last year’s In Cahoots, a festival at Red Stag Supperclub that pairs breweries across the city to collaborate in brewing a beer specifically for the event. When they opened, Donnelly and Dan Wellendorf of Modist said they even borrowed some ingredients from Fulton.
“We’re there all the time. They’re here all the time,” they said. “We’ve been so tight since day one.”
The connections don’t end there. Donnelly and Modist co-founder Kale Anderson are former staff members at Lucid Brewing, a brewery that moved from Minnetonka to the North Loop to open up a new taproom and brewing operation last year. The taproom, known as Inbound Brewco, is located on the north side of the neighborhood at 5th & 7th, about a block from Fulton.
Co-founders Jon Messier and Eric Biermann changed the name of the company to North Loop BrewCo to better reflect that they are a local company. The move allowed them to tap into a growing number of residents and get more feedback from customers.
“The North Loop is known for great restaurants and with its (proximity) to downtown it looked like a good, fun market to be in,” Messier said.
The latest brewery to move to the area is Pryes Brewing Co., which is located about a block outside the North Loop near the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. Founder Jeremy Pryes opened the taproom, known for its Miraculum IPA, earlier this summer. He said the location is a “pivot point” for bar crawls between downtown and Northeast Minneapolis.
“We’re connecting all the breweries to the North Loop,” Pryes said.
Pryes previously brewed on the equipment at Inbound Brewco before opening his own facility, which he said was a truly lucky find. The brewery’s tanks are just six inches shorter than the building’s 25-foot ceilings. Before stumbling on the warehouse, Pryes had resorted to going door to door asking property owners to rent their building.
“When I figured how tall it was, that was it. It was perfect,” he said.
The neighborhood’s brewing scene continues to grow and diversify. Clockwerks Brewing, a steampunk-style brewery led by two homebrewers, opened on the opposite end of the neighborhood near 1st & 4th last fall. The Freehouse, a pub with an onsite brewery, opened at the end of 2013 and offers four core brews.
Given the North Loop’s sturdy infrastructure and rising popularity, Wellendorf said, there should be other taprooms opening soon enough.
“Since taprooms are on the climb, foot traffic becomes so important. The North Loop has the best combination of buildings and foot traffic,” he said. “I think the North Loop will keep being a destination for breweries.”