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Roll Out the Barrels

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Minnesota has a rich beer-making tradition, with the state at one time being home to more than 120 breweries. Pummeled by Prohibition, the Great Depression, industry consolidations and competition from national brands, the state’s breweries had declined to four by the 1980s.

Thanks to the emergence of today’s craft brewers, though, the industry is making a major comeback in Minnesota. Jan Saxhaug’s cover story in the December issue of Trends magazine puts the latest count of state brewers at 65, including operations with hard-to-forget names like Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth, Junkyard Brewing in Moorhead and Pour Decisions Brewing in Roseville.

As Saxhaug puts it, long gone are the days when companies like Hamm’s, Grain Belt and Schmidt ruled the Minnesota brewing scene. Nowadays, craft beer is king, and the economic impact of the craft brewing industry is growing larger by the year.

How big? Well, beer production in the state has grown 83 percent in the last decade, climbing from 218,691 barrels in 2003 to 390,962 barrels in 2012. While the beer-brewing business can’t be considered a major employer in the state, the number of people working in the industry has doubled in recent years, growing from 250 in 2004 to about 500 last year. Many people, like Summit Brewing founder Mark Stutrud, think there’s room for even more growth.

St. Paul-based Summit and Schell’s Brewing Co. in New Ulm account for more than half of the state’s beer production. Remaining production comes from a variety of smaller microbreweries, brewpubs and contract brewing companies spread throughout the state, with notable concentrations in the Twin Cities and Duluth.

Read the full story here.

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