Over the last five years, the craft brewery movement has grown exponentially in Minnesota. The Associated Press says licensing records show two-thirds of Minnesota breweries have opened just since 2010. So, we decided to help you – and your livers – keep up with the taproom trend by stopping by some of these Twin Cities brewhouses. Next up is one of the first breweries to come on the scene, Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewing Company.
Stillwater is a place rich in brewing history.
Prior to prohibition the city was home to three breweries, all of which operated at the same time. But, after prohibition ended, there hadn’t been a brewery within city limits.
Lift Bridge Brewing Company moved into their Stillwater location five years ago, but began conceptually almost 14 years before that.
In 2001, co-founder and CEO Dan Schwarz became part of a small poker league that consisted of neighbors and friends. As the group played, they learned a number of them used to homebrew.
“So, we decided to get our gear together, recipes and stuff, and brew some beer,” Schwarz said.
One of the players, Brad Glynn, had a connection to the industry through his father. Using this connection, the group began talks with Jeff Williamson when he was with Flat Earth Brewing Co.
In 2008, they began contract brewing with Flat Earth. And then, in 2010 Lift Bridge had their own home near downtown Stillwater.
Lift Bridge Brewing Co.
Owners: Trever Cronk, Brad Glynn, Matt Hall, Jim Pierson, Dan Schwarz,
Brewmaster: Matt Hall
Location: 1900 Tower Drive W., Stillwater
Hours: Taproom: Tuesday – Thursday: 5 – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 12 – 10 p.m. and Sunday: 12 – 6 p.m
You’ve touched on the fact that Stillwater was alluring because of the brewing history in the town, but why did you decide to open here after working with Flat Earth?
Well we, all five of the co-founders, were all originally from Stillwater or live in Stillwater. So, we were kind of wondering why didn’t Stillwater have a brewery? We stared looking into it and just thought [a brewery] would really go well with the community here, and so we decided to start our own home town brewery.
I think the community would definitely agree with you! Tell me, where did the name Lift Bridge come from?
Lift Bridge obviously references the lift bridge in downtown Stillwater. That bridge went in in the 1930s. We wanted something that kind of represented the area but not specifically Stillwater. So it could be more representative of the St. Croix Valley and kind of the river lifestyle, but obviously still see it as a big tie to Stillwater.
In the years since you’ve opened there has been a number of breweries pop up. How do you differentiate yourselves?
It’s a little weird calling it a “differentiator” now at this point, but I mean we’ve been around now for six years. We’re kind of in on the front end of any of that craft beer boom. In fact, I think we were the newest brewery for an entire year, which you don’t hear about that anymore. But you know, I think one of the things we really focus on is creating approachable beers that have lots of flavor profiles. So you don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy the beer, but if you are a connoisseur you can certainly see the depth of the beer beyond just the entry level. And then also just having a variety.
Since you were at the beginning of this “boom,” what have you seen change in the industry?
Awareness from the consumer standpoint. A lot of people know what an IPA is. So you don’t have to explain what that is. Or what craft beer is or what local breweries are. So, I think consumer awareness has just been ramped up tremendously. And it’s been good for us and I think it’s great for the industry in general.
What is it about Minnesota that draws these breweries? Why is craft beer so big here?
I think, you know, we maybe were a little bit later to the game, number one. So, it’s catching up a little bit here. Secondly, I know a lot of people are very proud of Minnesota and want to support local brewery, local industry. So you combine the two and it’s really lit everything on fire.
Definitely. Minnesotans are very proud to promote a locally made product. So, let’s move on to the beers.
Listen below to hear Schwarz describe the beers.Comments (8)