News & Updates

Barley John’s to Build Brewery in Wisconsin

barley_johns_frontNick Halter’s Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal article (Barley John’s Brew Pub plans Wisconsin brewery) rolled across my screen and brought up some truly mixed emotions. Barley John’s hosted one of MNBeer’s early get-togethers and I’ve been drinking their beer and enjoying their excellent food for years. I love those guys and that place. So while it’s awesome to hear that they’re planning to forge ahead with a production brewery, it’s really a bummer that it won’t be in Minnesota.

Barley John’s John Moore has made no bones about the fact that he wants to expand and that he’d go to Wisconsin if we didn’t change our laws in Minnesota. Under current state law, he can’t package and sell his beer to a distributor, retailer or bar. True to his word a Barley John’s production brewery will open in the spring in New Richmond, Wisconsin. The 13000 sq/ft location will include a taproom and an overall capacity of 10000 bbl. According to the article, Moore plans to produce around 7000 bbl in the first year.

“I would rather have done it here, two minutes away, but that’s not the way it is,” Moore said. “The law is not in favor of brewpubs. It’s in favor of breweries.”

Barley John’s still won’t be able to distribute beer in Minnesota, but will sell in Wisconsin. Moore said Minnesota residents will be able to buy his beer in border towns.

Brewpubs have been fighting this fight in Minnesota for years. Long before anyone ever thought the Taproom Bill would ever be a reality, legislation to allow brewpubs to distribute was moving along nicely, and may have even been railroaded by the desire to sell pints at the brewery. (To read a little more about unique brewpub legal issues, check out this article by Elliot Ginsburg and Erin Conway.)

In 2006, a fairly politically active Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild was very close to making this happen. Shouldn’t we change things before we lose another brewery and it’s associated employees, taxes & revenue to another state? What happens when Minnesota’s two largest brewpubs reach the cap of 3500 bbl/year?

Folks, let’s not lose another brewery to Wisconsin.


  1. Amen.

    Minnesota has undoubtedly already lost potential breweries to other states with friendlier liquor laws.

  2. Drew Anderson says:

    They’re leaving the restaurant open, right?

    1. chopandbrew says:

      THIS is a good question!

    2. ryan says:

      Yes. They plan to continue with the brewpub in Minnesota and launch a separate taproom & brewery in Wisconsin.

      The interesting thing is that technically they could, sort-of still do it here if they made some changes. From a legal standpoint, they’d have to stop serving guest beers, wine & spirits. (Do they do the latter two? I only drink Barley John’s beer when I go there.) They’d also be limited to one location and that would probably mean moving as they’re lacking the space to grow any larger.

      That being said, I don’t blame them for feeling the need to leave. Like I said, this was close to happening a number of years ago. And remember when the “Surly bill” was being discussed? I’m told that at one of the hearings, beer fans filed in and spoke passionately about pints at the brewery, but filed out en masse before the discussion of brewpub changes. Needless to say, I can see John’s frustration.

  3. Karl says:

    Mr. Moore might want to look at the MN law about who can’t hold a retail liquor license in MN. Specifically the part about any person who has a direct or indirect interest in a brewer. Otherwise, A-B and MillerCoors would have retail liquor licenses too. He won’t be eligible to hold an on-sale liquor license at the brewpub.

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