On a winter day’s dusting, I found myself venturing to the city that lays claim to being the birthplace of Minnesota – to take in the historic sites, beautiful downtown, antique shops and of course Stillwater’s own Lift Bridge Brewery and taproom. Lift Bridge has the honor of being Stillwater’s first post prohibition era (Prohibition ended December 5th 1933) brewery and Minnesota’s first brewery to take advantage of 2011’s so-called Surly Bill – allowing them to have a taproom.
As the name suggests Lift Bridge is engrained in the storied city and their goal of being the premiere regional brewery has certainly come to fruition and offered the city of Stillwater and St. Croix Valley something they can be proud to call their own. Lift Bridge began as many breweries do, with five friends sharing a passion for home brewing – so, of course the only course of action one (or five) could take was to open a brewery and share their passion with the masses.
Now five and a half years into their existence, they are one of the old dogs on the block of the Minnesota craft beer scene. Lift Bridge was preceded only by a handful of breweries in the current craft brewery boom that began with Brau Bros. & Surly in 2006. With the beginnings of Lift Bridge coming in the form of contract brewing with Flat Earth Brewing Co. out of St. Paul, they then focused on building a reputation and following with their flagship beer, Farm Girl – an approachable Belgian Saison. CEO Dan Schwarz explained that many domestic drinkers found Lift Bridge’s beers to be quite approachable and they saw a lot of cross-over drinkers. Moving beyond Farm Girl – a great beer in her own right – Lift Bridge has kept the craft beer community intrigued with offerings like the year round Hop Dish, an American IPA with 7 variety of hops; and with limited edition beers like Commander, an English Barleywine; and two of my favorites: Silhouette a Russian Imperial Stout with complex coffee, toffee and licorice notes (a bourbon barrel aged Silhouette was available at the taproom at the time of my visit – GO NOW); and the 3rd annual release (coming soon – March 8th release party) of their appropriate seasonal offering Irish Coffee Stout, a Russian imperial milk stout, whiskey barrel aged and cold press coffee – there is a variety for every palate. Dan attributes the variety of beers Lift Bridge offers to the distinct tastes and personalities of himself and his co-founding members.
Upon entering Lift Bridge’s brewery you note immediately the comfortable and welcoming ambience in the taproom – wide open windows allow for an invasion of natural light and a wooded cabin feel with bench seating, you will get to know your neighbor and be happy about it. Three tours run on Saturdays at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm – but pre-registration is required. The drive and pre-registration is well worth the effort and trip to Lift Bridge – and with cask and specialty brews like the Batch 500 Double IPA only available at the taproom, it pays to be early.
(Image from City Pages)
I recommend attending the tour given by Bryon Wheaton (@BryonWheaton); he is knowledgeable, engaging and ensures an entertaining diatribe on the origins of beer while you sip on a flight of Lift Bridge’s current selection. Look for Pathway Pilsner (light lager) and Irish Coffee Stout on your next tour.
(Dan Schwarz, yours truly, Jennie & Bryon)
Lift Bridge beers can be found in most Twin Cities liquor stores. And for the much anticipated summer beach season, Farm Girl is available in cans.
March 8th Irish Coffee Stout release event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/irish-coffee-stout-release-event-tickets-10299248329?aff=es2&rank=3&sid=77ef62029fda11e3a9aa123138106897
See Lift Bridge at the 8th Annual Brewers Bazaar: Saturday, May 17, 2014.
Don’t miss out on Lift Bridge’s Mini Donut beer at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.
Lift Bridge Brewing Company, 1900 Tower Drive West, Stillwater, MN 55082
- Tuesday-Thursday 5-10PM
- Friday-Saturday 12-10PM
- Closed on Sunday and Monday
For a current list of taproom beers: http://liftbridgebrewery.com/#brewery/tap-room
Cheers to you for reading me.
For more beer geekery:
Instagram: tallpour – http://instagram.com/tallpour/
On a recent trip to the ‘great plains’ of southwestern Minnesota – one which was taken with the intention of running a 5K and turned into a weekend of paninos, burgers and – to my great surprise and elation – a trip down craft beer memory lane. In a college town (SMSU) known for it’s entrepreneurial ice cream business (Schwan’s) as much as the stench that can sometime emanate from the corn processing plant, the town will now be known as the home of one of Minnesota’s veteran breweries, the expanding but small at heart Brau Brothers Brewing Co. As it happened, a college buddy knows Trevor Brau (one of the brothers – obviously) and we were able to take a personal tour.
Walking into the former Runnings building, I had no idea what to expect. My eyes were drawn directly to a large deep red antique fire engine, Old #56 from Lucan – which will now serve the brothers as their bar and tap area. The 37,000 square foot facility will house more fermenters and will allow the brewery to brew specialty beers for the taproom. The space will also feature soda and will have a restaurant to boot (thanks to the so-called ‘Surly Bill’) – with a menu created by head brewer Dustin Brau. As we walked the brewery grounds – with construction ongoing – I realized how innovative this family was. The Braus still utilize land in Lucan to grow hops to be used in their fresh-hopped 100 Yard Dash – which they process on a conveyer system they created using kegs and other pullies. Later on the tour, while sipping on Brau’s White Cap (Crystal Wit beer) and enjoying the hop aroma filled cooler, I found out the previous brewery was barely the size of the room I now found myself freezing in. With seven times the space, the brewery also has a section for all sorts of swag below a glowing neon Brau Brothers sign.
Brau Brothers Brewing has come a long way since they started in nearby Lucan (pop. 220) in 1998 as a brewpub (BrauHaus) and expanded to a production brewery in 2006. Beyond having great beer, the Braus hold a special place in my heart. My journey into craft beer, as with many beer geeks, started with Sam Adams – the readily available, extremely successful Jim Koch-led brewery out of Boston, Mass. But my introduction into the Minnesota craft scene some 8+ years ago began with Brau Brothers Scotch Ale and Cream Stout (now retired and refashioned under Bancreagie & MooJoos, respectively) – these beers were a revelation of high quality beer, made locally and drank locally by the students at SMSU – including me.
The Brau Brothers new restaurant-brewery-taproom opened October 4th(soft opening). Until I am able to emote in person the thanks they deserve – CHEERS – wishing Brau Brothers Brewing Company a great opening and for making a great product right in southwestern Minnesota!
1101 East Main Street Marshall, MN 56258
Follow Brau: @BrauBeer
Follow Me: @TallPour