WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) – Minnesota got in early on the craft beer boom. Surly, Summit, even Schell’s, which has been in New Ulm since 1860, is considered a craft beer.

By those standards, Steve Merila is still relatively new to the scene.

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Before starting Big Wood Brewery three years ago, he was president of a hardwood flooring distribution center.

“At that time my customers were guys that came in vans and picked up flooring. And then when the recession hit, my guys were just guys that came in vans and complained,” Merila said. “So, I said ‘Hey, let’s cheer them up with beer.'”

It worked. The beer was a hit. And after a meeting with some other brewers Merila decided to jump in with both feet.

“So, I left there, called my brewer and said ‘Hey, we’re going to be in a festival February 3,'” Merila said. “He goes ‘That’s 23 days from now.’ I go ‘How long does it take to brew beer?’ He says ’21’ I go ‘Alright, let’s take the weekend off and start on Monday.'”

Don’t let his easy-going nature fool you.

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Merila has helped grow Big Wood into six states and over 20 creatively-named beers. But he’s quick to return-serve if you call them suggestive.

“Big Wood Brewery came from the wood flooring industry. Oh, you’re talking about Morning Wood. It’s a coffee stout. I never even thought of it,” Merila said with a grin.

But at Big Wood, they say the names don’t matter if you don’t have good liquid in the can. And that passion for the product is what keeps them crafting new brew.

“What really inspired me was I saw blue-collar electricians, framers drinking craft beer and I’m like ‘Hey, this is going somewhere, everybody is going to be doing it someday,” he said.

Big Wood Brewery has a tap room in downtown White Bear Lake, you can find more information on their website.

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Learn more about Big Wood’s background and beers from co-owner Jason Medvec, head brewer Ty McBee and assistant brewer Tim Daglow in our Local Tap Talk feature on Big Wood.