Minnesota craft beer scene boomed in 2013

MICHAEL RIETMULDER | Updated 12/30/2013

In Minnesota, 14 brewers opened operations in 2013, making it a very good year in the brewing universe.

The nano-brewery Bang Brewing opened in September in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul.
Kevin Duchschere

By all accounts it’s been another banner year for Minnesota beer. The state’s collective brew IQ continued to rise, and seemingly every new bar or restaurant eagerly touted its local tap selection.

The big-league festivals put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and the Beer Dabbler each sold out, collectively drawing 16,840 beer fans. The phrase “craft beer boom” was used by the local media approximately 2,487 times (well, probably) in the never-ending stories about new breweries, surging demand or Minnesota’s brew-conomy (roughly 8,000 jobs strong and counting, says the Brewers Association).

So how about one more beer article to close out 2013?

From taproom tours to big-talkin’ mayors, we look back on the year in craft beer.

New additions

At least 14 new beer-makers fired up fermenters in 2013. By mid-February, northeast Minneapolis established its “brew district” with Dangerous Man and 612Brew joining Indeed to form a taproom trinity within about a mile from each other, and beer lovers quickly started making beer-hall crawls by foot, bike and party bus. This month Sociable Cider Werks opened its apple graff brewery and taproom, blocks from 612Brew, bringing another potable attraction to the neighborhood. But the start-ups weren’t confined to Northeast, as breweries sprouted up everywhere from Moorhead (Junkyard Brewing Co.) to Victoria (Enki Brewing).

Doubling down

Counting newbies isn’t the only way to measure our beer scene’s growth this year. At least 10 breweries enacted or announced expansion plans, in some cases more than doubling the amount of beer they are able to produce annually. That list includes [deep breath] Brau Brothers, Excelsior, Castle Danger, Indeed (twice), Town Hall, Summit, Fulton, Boom Island, Bent Paddle and Stillwater’s Lift Bridge. Not to mention Surly’s planned granddaddy of a growth spurt, which picked up in October when the fawned-over brewery broke ground on its future $20 million Minneapolis digs.

Beer City, Minnesota

Minneapolis and the Twin Cities metro area might be ground zero for the recent waves of new breweries, but Duluth is the “Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota.” Or so said Duluth Mayor Don Ness back in February. With the lakeside Canal Park Brewery (which opened in late 2012) and this year’s red-hot rookie Bent Paddle joining stalwarts Fitger’s Brewhouse and Lake Superior Brewing Co., he’s got a decent case. Following Ness’ bold proclamation, Fitger’s brewmaster Dave Hoops paid homage to the cool-guy civic leader with an immaculate golden IPA dubbed the Mayor.

St. Paul: Sleeping no more?

Despite Great Waters, Flat Earth and flag-bearing Summit, the state’s capital city has been a little behind the beer curve. But that could be about to change. This year the St. Paul City Council passed a series of measures easing taproom and zoning restrictions for microbreweries. In September, the husband-and-wife-run Bang Brewing opened its nanobrewery in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood and a handful of others — including the nearby Urban Growler and Burning Brothers — look to follow, waking up St. Paul’s beer scene.

Looking ahead

Not only did 2013 bring a new crop of breweries, but at least 12 more suds artists are in the planning stages. Among those in waiting are Day Block Brewing Co., which is moving into the old Spill the Wine space in Minneapolis’ Downtown East district, Hopkins’ LTD Brewing and the state’s first co-op brewery, Fair State Brewing Cooperative. With luck, Minnesotans will stay thirsty in 2014.