One of the things I really enjoy about the ongoing craft-beer boom is the unique and creative taprooms that are springing up all over the Twin Cities area.
I like to imagine I’m entering the modern-day equivalent of a speakeasy – minus the police raids and mob ownership of yore, of course – when I patronize an industrial-area or garage-like craft-beer taproom.
Craft brewers – usually defined as small and independent beer producers – are finding ways to use dormant spaces like these to set up their beverage laboratories as they aim to serve people interested in exploring new flavors and varieties.
Locate and enter a nondescript industrial building located near a Shakopee glass factory, for example, and you are in the taproom of Badger Hill Brewing, with its gleaming, stainless steel pipes, tanks and other brewing vessels on the other side of a huge, glass wall.
Sip on a High Road Everyday Ale while you imagine that on weekdays, working inside that brewery-under-glass, are a family of mad doctors in lab coats, concocting not monster mash but brew mash. “Dr. Beerstein, phone call on line 1,” you picture them announcing over the PA system.
This is the ambiance of your typical craft-beer brewery these days.
Yes, there’s a renaissance in beer brewing, and it’s happening in our own back yards. U.S. beer sales overall may be in decline, according to a recent article, but the glaring exception is in craft beer, which has 2,700 breweries and new ones almost every week – 1,000 new brands launched last year, many with higher-than-traditional prices. Americans are drinking less, but are choosier about what they’re drinking, it seems.
Minnesota is no stranger to this trend. According to the Brewers Association, for the year 2013 Minnesota ranked 17th nationwide in number of craft breweries. But it ranked 10th in barrels of craft beer produced per year, at nearly 368,000, helped no doubt by the exceptional Summit Brewing of St. Paul.
This not only has led to small startups like Badger Hill, but also new and magnificent brands and taprooms like Surly Brewing’s.
And here’s one more impressive spin-off to the craft-beer boom: the announcement this month (February 2015) that the 168-year-old Rahr Corp. is planning a $68 million expansion of its malt manufacturing facility in Shakopee, largely because of the craft-beer craze, which is expected to help cause a 5 to 10 percent increase in demand for malt, a beer ingredient, over the next decade.
Drink unique and flavorful local beer and create jobs in the process: Now, there’s an economic stimulus I can get behind.