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.

Until 2010.

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.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

 

Lift Bridge Brewing Co.

Follow them: on Twitter @LiftBridge, Facebook at Lift Bridge Beer Company or visit their website Lift Bridge Brewing Company.

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

Contact: 1-888-430-2337

Click here to see more photos from Lift Bridge Brewing Co.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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.

What are you brewing seasonally?

Listen below to hear Schwarz discuss the seasonal beers on tap.

That sounds delicious. Will they sell the coffee used to make the beer?

I believe they are.

So, what would you suggest for someone who says they don’t like beer?

Well, whether it’s here or at any brewery, I’d probably recommend they try out a flight. It’s what I usually do if I go to a new brewery because then I can get a picture of what they all have, and you’re dealing with 4 – 6 oz. samples so it is a little bit more manageable size. And if there is something that you like better than the others you can maybe order a pint of that later. So, that’s what I usually recommend.

What would you suggest for someone who claims to be a bit of a beer snob?

You know I usually start by talking with them. The first thing I like to talk about with them is hops. Like, are you a hop head or not? Because if you’re looking for something really hoppy, I would probably start directing them to our Hop Dish IPA. Another seasonal beer I didn’t mention is our Batch 800, which is a double IPA. That is about 10 percent alcohol and just chocked-full of hops. Very aromatic. It’s really a nice, yummy, hoppy beer. So, if they liked hops I would probably direct them down that road. If you’re more of the malt side, probably headed more toward Silhouette. Something that has those layers – the roast, the chocolate, the cocoa, some dark toffee.

Often I find that people who identify as “beer snobs” are really into IPAs. Why do you think IPAs are getting so much attention from consumers?

I think a hoppy beer is a little bit easier to execute. The hop becomes a predominate flavor. So, if you are looking for something a little bit safer, you’ll end up being happier with that. Especially if you like hops. I’m not exactly sure why hops are so popular now. I mean, I like hops too, don’t get me wrong. But I kind of found my own craft beer journey circling around. I went from super hoppy to can’t be hoppy enough and eventually went more on the malty side. Then, I ended up doing a full circle back to lager and pilsners. I find myself kind of cycling around. And maybe that is just where a lot of people are now-a-days – the hops. Hop Dish is very, very popular.

That makes sense. And it really is a distinct flavor. So, that being said, what is your most popular beer?

Our Farm Girl Saison is our most popular beer both here and also at bars and restaurants. You’ll find it distributed most places. I think it’s just so approachable and there is the additional flavor layers. And for me, it’s such a great food beer. It’s great with spicy flavors. It goes really well with beef, pork and that kind of stuff. Even salads. Like a nice vinaigrette. It works really well. So, that one has been great for us.

That’s great! How about your most awarded beer? Which brew is that?

I mean I think the Silhouette barrel-aged stout is probably the most recognized nationwide. Right now it is in the top 250 in the world, rank wise. But an award I’m particularly proud of is for Hop Dish IPA. In 2013 we won a Charlie Award for that. A Charlie Award is voted on by chefs in restaurant tours for their favorite beers. So, people with such fine palates who see a lot of beer think that’s the best. So that’s really pretty cool to be recognized for that.

Absolutely! That’s definitely something to be proud of. How about you? What is your favorite beer?

That’s a good question. I usually tilt this one the ear and say if I were stuck on a desert island and could pick only one beer, I would have to go with Farm Girl. It’s just a sessionable beer and really just super easy to drink and refreshing. If you’re going to do a double IPA, as awesome and special as that is, you get a little burned out on the hops. So, yeah, I always kind of go back to Farm Girl.

So, I have to ask…the mini doughnut beer at the Minnesota State Fair. How did that all come about?

We had the guys from the Ball Park Café approach us about doing a beer for the State Fair. We talked about it quite a bit and one of the ideas we threw out was the mini doughnut. It’s kind of a staple at the State Fair. And also something that would go well with beer because you have that bready, caramelized dough. So there are a lot of flavor components that work well together, even the sugar and cinnamon. So we started playing around and prototyping some recipes, and we felt like we were pretty close. Then we did the cinnamon and sugar dipped rim and that just really brought everything together. It’s one of those beers that it’s the perfect beer for that place.

Do, or will, you ever sell it in the taproom?

We could, We just feel like it’s perfect for the State Fair. We’ve had small amounts left over at the end of the fair. We usually try to serve it right after the fair so that it’s gone and then we don’t have to deal with the question of “Do you have any more?” It was really a fun project and it’s been super well received. So, we get a lot of comments on that beer.

I can see why. It really is such a fun, interesting beer. So, lastly, if you were to describe your taproom in one word to someone, what would that word be?

Quality. We’re just really concerned about making sure the beer is as good as it possibly can be out there and just that people have a great experience.

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