Tag: kickstarter

Bemidji Brewing Company

Paul Bunyan & Babe are just blocks away

Do yourself a favor and spend some time in Bemidji; you won’t be disappointed.  It’s a pleasantly bustling, yet relaxed town with plenty of nature around to admire and get lost in.  In fact, if you stop by on a weekend you can sample the Mexican-Scandinavian fusion food truck, the Local 303.   The novelty of a lefse fish taco made with walleye should alone be reason enough to bring you in, but I’ll give you more: it will soon be the only place to find the beers offered by the Bemidji Brewing Company.


The seeds of the Bemidji Brewing Company were sown while Tom Hill, Tina Hanke and Justin (call him Bud) Kaney were in college.  There, they experimented with homebrewing and developed a passion for good beer and always harbored an inkling they would someday make a living out of it. Their careers took them, collectively, across the country from Alaska to Rhode Island, Texas to Montana and gave them some great experiences with craft beer.  In those years, Tom became a Certified Cicerone and worked at Northern Brewer while Tina and Bud had become well-practiced in community organizing, programming and marketing.  Feeling need for a change to the daily grind, the three chose to come back to their Northern Minnesota roots (Tom and Bud are BSU grads) and make their passion for beer into a full-time endeavor. The first step, though, would be getting back to Bemidji.  When they decided to launch the business, Tina and Bud were in Missoula while Tom was in Saint Paul.   These geographic limitations meant Skype meetings and document sharing were the norm while the three of them hashed out their plan for the brewery.  They launched (and successfully funded) a Kickstarter project [see the MNbeer.com profile of the Kickstarter trend here] and their nano-brewery was off and running.

Running in place, that is.  With a plan, but without a facility, the three were entertaining the thought of working from a shared-space when, by pure serendipity, Harmony Co-Op  in Bemidji opened the doors to their Community Kitchen.

Harmony Co-op Corner

One of the co-op’s visions for the kitchen is to be the extra push needed for a food producer to get a professional business off the ground and Bemidji Brewing’s plan presented a great opportunity for both the brewery and the co-op.

Making it work

This fortune came with a unique twist when it came time to obtain federal approval.  The TTB informed them they were the first brewery in the country to operate out of a shared space and as such, required more detailed assurances than normal.  Harmony Co-Op proved to be a steadfast supporter and was willing to assist with making necessary adjustments to obtain the federal approval. Working within a shared space means, among other things, Bemidji Brewing needs to clear out at the end of a brew day, so their equipment needed to be nimble, compact and for the most part, portable.  They found this in a custom-built steel brewing stand that is equipped with two burners and can hold three 30-gallon kettles. Perhaps most importantly, the entire stand can be loaded in and out as needed. To utilize the available fridge space in the co-op they use 26-gallon keg-style fermenters and a caged area in the existing walk-in cooler will house the finished product.

Finally, the three founders of the Bemidji Brewing Company are back, settled in, and finished with Skype meetings and long trips away from home.  The facility is set and the equipment is at the ready.  Federal approval came in August 2012 and now with state approval pending, Bemidji Brewing is only waiting to start selling beer and become a success story for the Co-Op’s Community Kitchen.

Expect to see Bemidji Brewing beers on tap this fall at select Bemidji locations. Keep up with the latest on their website  and on Facebook.

FermenterBrew Stand


Kickstarting Breweries: The New Trend?

Thanks to new contributor Danika Peterson for this one. Catch her on Twitter at @Danika_Peterson

Update: Blacklist Brewing Co. just completed a successful Kickstarter project a few days before deadline. Congrats guys.

Lucid Brewing was the first brewery in Minnesota to run a successful Kickstarter campaign.  Last November, Lucid was able to raise $10,590 toward the expansion of the brewery and a community brewing space.  Since then, two other breweries in Minnesota have run successful Kickstarter campaign: Bemidji Brewing, and Jack Pine Brewery.

It hasn’t always been that easy to raise money.  As recently as last May, Steel Toe Brewing attempted an ambitious $35,000 Kickstarter fundraising drive.  Their drive did not succeed.  This means even though they took in $10,783 in pledges, they got nothing out of the fundraising, because Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal.  Either you raise the money or you don’t.  There is no in between.  All pledges they received were refunded.

Lucid owner, Jon Messier poses with one of their Kickstarter rewards.

Lucid owner, Jon Messier poses with one of their Kickstarter rewards.

Lucid admits to taking a strategic position on fundraising by reviewing all of the successful brewery fundraising drives on the books, and taking ideas and points from each of them.  Lucid Owner Jon Messier also says that at least one other Minnesota brewery seeking Kickstarter funds contacted him.  Patrick from Jack Pine Brewery came to their Minnetonka brewery for a tour and a conversation while Jack Pine was still in the homebrew stage.  Lucid says they were more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with an up-and-coming brewery.

Lucid already had a brewery and a business plan, so their Kickstarter fundraising was all about building a community brewing space where future breweries or the next great homebrewer could flourish.


Currently Badger Hill brews their beers under Lucid’s roof, but Messier says that he hopes they can encourage and mentor dozens more breweries in the future.  “The goal of our Kickstarter was to build creative community around the brewing industry.”

“Our goal is to have three, four, five breweries in the building, and kind of create a creative atmosphere for brewers,” said Messier as he described their goal for their community space.

Lucid's pilot brewery

Lucid’s pilot brewery

As a part of their community brewing vision, Lucid, Northern Brewer and others, is a part of the Iron Brewer Competition that is underway right now.  Homebrewers and aspiring breweries have the chance to have their brews brewed by Lucid.  Until August 9, go-getting brewers can fill out an application at www.ironbrewermn.com.  And then by August 10, up to 24 potential brewers will be chosen for the competition.  The winner of the entire competition will have 60 kegs of their beers distributed to local bars and restaurants, but perhaps more importantly be distinguished as “The Iron Brewer Minnesota.”

Even though Lucid broke incredible ground by being the first brewery in the state to be funded in such a way, they say that the money doesn’t go nearly as far as someone may think.  They raised just over $10,000, but ended up spending about $4,000 on the printing and shipping or the rewards for their donors.  Their rewards included t-shirts, pint glasses, stickers, the naming rights to one of their fermenters, the first run of growlers and more.

Lucid’s electrical system.  $10,000 buys and installs about four of these nodes.

Lucid’s electrical system. $10,000 buys and installs about four of these nodes.

Even if rewards were not an issue, money in a brewery doesn’t go too far.  This (photo on left) is Lucid’s upgraded electrical system.  Jon pointed to about four of these one-inch squares when asked how far $10,000 really goes.  Those electronics run just one tank.  Based on the high costs of running a brewery, Messier doesn’t think that anyone will ever be able to raise enough money to completely fund a brewery.  “You’d be hard pressed to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter for a brewery.”

But, even more than the money, Messier thinks that the greatest benefit to a successful Kickstarter driver is incredible community interest.  “It’s great to build a loyal fan base, and some loyal customers.” But, Messier admits creating a business off of donations may be difficult,  “I wouldn’t start a business based on results of Kickstarter.”

Right now, Blacklist Brewing is just days away for the conclusion of their Kickstarter drive.  Their drive ends on August 10.  What makes their fundraising drive different is not only the merger of brewing and art, but that once you reach a certain donation level, you can receive a minimum of six unique 22-ounce bottles, which are planned to come out of their brewery monthly.  These beers may not be available in stores, allowing you to have a very rare beer in a very rare bottle.

As for right now, Kickstarter appears to have a moderate interest from breweries in the state, even if it may be for smaller projects.  So, even if Kickstarter may not be fully funding anyone’s business model anytime soon, they can still provide both the brewer and the donor a significant benefit.