Category: beer laws

2014: A Great Year of #MNBeer

YIB2014 was a busy year for beer. So busy, in fact, that I second guess myself as I sit down to write this… did I forget anything? Let’s hope not. It was a banner year for new breweries and a number of projects are hot on their heels for 2015. This year was once again the year of the taproom with a variety of openings from new brewers as well as established breweries. Needless to say, we don’t see the trend ending in 2015.

The number of breweries grew significantly this year with the addition of about 21 new breweries and brewpubs in the state. Our new brewery count includes Bauhaus, Burning Brothers, EastLake, Fair State, Gull Dam, Insight, Lazy Loon, LTD Brewing, Lupine Brewing, LynLake, Maple Island, Montgomery BrewingPryes, Schram Vineyard Winery & Brewery, Sisyphus, Take 16, Tin Whiskers, Urban Growler, and Waconia. Bank Brewing also built their own brewery after brewing at other facilities for several years. We also added two new brewpubs to the ranks with the all new Day Block Brewing and a new brewery at the well-established Grand Marais watering hole, Gun Flint Tavern.

At least nine breweries moved into newer, larger locations and countless expansion projects took place over the course of the year. Try keeping track of every brewery that got new tanks… we dare you.


Growlers at Lift Bridge

You still can’t buy off-sale beer at a liquor store on Sunday. Unless you like the 3.2 grocery and gas station options, you’re out of luck on a Sunday. Our friends, MNBeerActivists, fought the good fight, but it just didn’t happen this year. You can’t buy a growler on Sunday, either. You can, however, buy a bottle of wine at a farm winery in Minnesota on a Sunday.

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane and touch on our top stories from the previous 12 months, shall we? Later this week we’ll explore a few predictions for 2015.

January – Roseville’s Pour Decisions and Bent Brewstillery joined forces under the Bent Brewstillery moniker. Nearly a year later, it seems entirely natural to see Bent Brewstillery Maroon & Bold and other brews on the shelf  that scream “Kris England made me” on the shelf next to Dark Fatha and Nordic Blonde.

Runner up: Day Block Brewing launched as a new brewpub/pizza joint in the old Spill the Wine location on Washington in Minneapolis. Beer flights, bacon flights and great pizza? I’m in. They’re also positioned nicely for the launch of the new Vikings Stadium opening in 2016.


Barley John’s… Wisconsin

FebruaryBarley Johns announced plans to open a brewery in Wisconsin. Owner John Moore has never minced words about the fact that he feels that changes to Minnesota law favor breweries over brewpubs. “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.”

MarchFinnegans Reverse food truck took a twist on the traditional food truck by gathering food for the hungry. Launched in March, Finnegans set a goal for the truck to raise $5000 that month. Very cool concept.

AprilMinneapolis Town Hall Brewery reopened after a massive reconstruction. We missed them when they were closed. A lot. Not missing a beat, they followed up the reopening with an amazing Barrel-aged Week.

MayWe learned more about what goes on in August Schell’s “E” cellar. Schell’s Noble Star series of Berlinner Weisse beers have been a fascination for the MNBeer crew since the start.

Endion Station Public House, DuluthJuneThe Fitger’s Brewhouse crew announced the opening of Endion Station Public House in the historic depot that the organization had purchased in Canal Park.

JulyCrafted to Last, a Minnesota beer documentary, made its debut in the Twin Cities and Duluth. No doubt filmmaker Dave Okar worked his ass off on this one. Visit their Facebook page for details on getting your hands on a copy of the film.

AugustThe Land of 10,000 Beers returned to the Minnesota State Fair, adding Firkin Fridays and rare flights to an already amazing Minnesota beer experience. Sadly, 2014 was also the year that some asshole chose to rob said exhibit. 🙁

September – September was the month that it seemed as if a new brewery opened each week. Pryes Brewing, Fair State, Gull Dam and Maple Island. Not bad.

OctoberMinnesota breweries brought some nice bling home from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Badger Hill and Steel Toe took home gold medals, Indeed and Town Hall took home silver medals and Summit and Bent Paddle won bronze medals.

NovemberAugust Schell Brewing Co. announced plans to buy the historic Grain Belt sign, preserve it and eventually light it up again. The sign has been dark since the mid-90s.

December – You might have missed this one, but take note… Surly Brewing Co. opened a taproom in SE Minneapolis.

Photo: Dan Kearney

Yes, that’s a tent. Photo: Dan Kearney

Sunday Growler Sales

brewhousegrowlerIf you haven’t already heard, there’s a bill in the Minnesota legislature that would allow breweries to sell growlers on Sunday. It’s a small step – it’s not full-blown Sunday sales, but it would at least put Minnesota breweries on the same level as Minnesota farm wineries, who are allowed to sell their products on Sunday.

It makes sense, right? When I head up north on vacation every summer, I think nothing of stopping into Forestedge Winery in Laporte to grab a bottle on a Sunday. Shouldn’t the brewery down the road in Walker (Leech Lake) be allowed to sell me a growler on Sunday as well? Nobody opposes this, right?

Wrong. Apparently there’s a group working behind the scenes to squash this legislation, allegedly due to potential contract re-negotiations. Which have what to do with growler sales exactly?

It doesn’t matter, does it? Please take a few minutes to call or email your state representatives and let them know that you support Sunday Growler Sales!


No Homebrew Sampling at this Year’s Deer River BBQ & Brew Fest

This year’s Deer River BBQ and Brew Fest will be without one of it’s starring attractions – this year’s homebrew competition will go on, but sampling homebrew to the public will not. We’ve seen issues with sampling homebrew come up for the past few years, and unfortunately this comes as no surprise.

Hello everyone. You may have seen the article in Saturday’s edition of the Grand Rapids Herald-Review that announced we are suspending homebrew public sampling at this year’s event but don’t worry. The homebrew judging event will proceed as planned and beer will be available for sale.

During final preparations for this year’s event it was discovered that Minnesota’s interpretation of current state statutes is that a home brewer or organization cannot give away samples of homebrew to people beyond the brewer’s family, as home brewed beer is not regulated in the same manner of professional breweries. More information will be available at the event Saturday if you would like additional details.

While disappointing, it is a small setback to what is a great event. We have a great lineup of BBQ teams who are ready to pair their low and slow ribs, brisket, chicken and pork with the live music of MESH. Home brewers will compete for prizes and bragging rights as well. Many folks will be camping on the site; BBQ smokers, brewers and their families.

See you on Saturday!

Much like 2010’s Artenbru, this event could very well have two-fold issues. Aside from the interpretation that homebrewer’s can’t share samples with the general public, this is also an event with a ticket price, which very well could be interpreted as payment for beer. Right, wrong or otherwise, this event will be shifting gears this year. What do you think?

Minnesota Brewpub Distribution

Thanks to Elliot Ginsburg & Erin Conway for their contribution. Elliot and Erin are associates at the law firm W. Michael Garner, P.A. ( W. Michael Garner, P.A. specializes in franchise, dealer, and distribution law, and the firm has also done legal work for breweries. As we see a proliferation of taprooms in Minnesota, I think one of our next steps needs to involve addressing how brewpubs in the state have grown and evolved. Read on for a legal perspective on brewpub distribution. Cheers!

By Elliot Ginsburg[1] and Erin Conway[2]


Mike HoopsGenerally, states divide the alcohol industry into three tiers: manufacturing, distribution, and retail.  Historically, this was done to prevent large manufacturers from vertically and horizontally integrating, thereby reducing competition and choice, and increasing price.[3]  If brewers could own wholesalers, for example, they could push out competing brewers and increase prices artificially.  The three-tier system was also embraced by many states to encourage moderate consumption and an orderly collection of tax revenue.[4]  The key to the three-tier system is that no business operating in any one tier can have an interest in a business in any other tier.[5]

While some argue that the three-tier system is antiquated and no longer serves a purpose,[6] presumably, the three-tier system is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

Brewpubs, however, do not fit neatly into any one tier.  Brewpubs operate as manufacturers in the sense that they brew beer for off-site consumption, and they also operate as retailers in the sense that they sell beer directly to consumers.[7]  In some states, brewpubs can distribute their brews through wholesalers to other retail facilities[8] but many states allow brewpubs to sell beer only on-site for on-premises or off-premises consumption.  Minnesota, for example, allows brewpubs to sell beer only on-site for either on-site consumption, or off-site consumption in growlers or large bottles.[9]  Thus, Minnesota brewpubs are more like retailers than traditional “production brewers.”  Production brewers produce beer and self-distribute or sell their brews to wholesalers who then sell to liquor stores and bars to sell to consumers.

Minnesota brewpubs, including Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery and Fitger’s Brewhouse, tried to pass a law in 2011 to allow brewpubs to distribute their beers through wholesalers.  The Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association (the “MBWA”) opposed this legislation for reasons discussed below and the bill did not make it out of committee.

The question that this article addresses is whether brewpubs in Minnesota can find a way to distribute their brews through wholesalers, while maintaining the integrity of the three-tier system and allaying the MBWA’s concerns.

Taprooms & Growlers Approved in Bemidji

Good news from the Bemidji Brewing Company – the Bemidji City Council has approved ordinances allowing taprooms and growler sales within the City. With that move, a large hurdle to growth has been removed for Tom, Tina and Bud as they continue to brew out of the Harmony Co-op shared kitchen.  Things are looking promising, though;  in this clip from Lakeland Public Television, Bud hints at a move to a permanent location to allow increased production and of course, a taproom.

Here’s to continued success, Bemidji Brewing Co.!