Reconsidering the meaning of a “Destination Brewery”


As pretty much everyone is probably aware by now, the “Surly Bill” passed at the end of May. Without getting into the politics of it, breweries that sell less than 250,000 barrels of beer per year (read: no major beer companies) will be allowed to sell pints of beer on-site. I am personally thrilled about this decision as a lover of beer and in particular of Surly. This passage of the bill will allow for Minnesota breweries to expand and better compete with other craft breweries.

Obviously, the face of all this has been Surly Brewing, with their plan to build a $20 million, 60,000 square foot “destination” brewery with the requisite restaurant, beer garden, events center and even a rooftop terrace. The potential for job creation and added tax base are compelling; such a plan would create 85 construction jobs and another 150 permanent jobs. I wrote earlier this year about the notion that rather than constructing a new “destination brewery” that Surly might be better served by reusing a historic building. The response was overwhelming, not only in support of Surly’s desire to build a brewery, but for them to put it into a historic building.

This is our business, advocating for historic properties across the state; Surly’s business is to make great beer and to make money in the process. We firmly believe that these are compatible goals. If Surly were to reuse a historic building for their “destination brewery” it is possible that they would be able to receive federal and state tax credits of up to 40%. Reusing historic buildings can cost less to construct as well as creating more construction jobs.

At the time I laid out two potential locations for such a brewery:

Schmidt Brewery (882 7th St W, St. Paul)

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Wald

The Jacob Schmidt Brewery covers 15 acres and is the anchor of the West End neighborhood of Saint Paul. Schmidt’s main brewhouse is a superb example of turn-of-the-century German breweries in the United States. Beer was brewed at the plant, under various owners, until 2002. The complex housed an ethanol plant until 2004. The Schmidt Brewery is currently being redeveloped by Dominium and the West 7th/Fort Road Federation; but we think there might be enough space there for all to go around. Rehabilitation of the complex would be a catalytic development for Saint Paul.

3M Campus (Bounded by E 7th Street, Arcade Street and Phalen Boulevard, Saint Paul)

3M, Bldg 20

It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to buy a building for $1. But that’s exactly what Ironton Assets Group did with the former 3M plant in Saint Paul. They are now required to find tenants to fill the site in order for the deal to go through. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create something NEW from something historic, and to integrate the legacy of this location while building a new economic vitality for Saint Paul, Minnesota and the Midwest.

Now that Surly and it’s nation of followers has convinced the state legislature to get on board; maybe it’s time for us to bring up a couple of other possibilities.

Minnesota Milk Company Building (370-380 University Ave, Saint Paul)

minnesota milk company detail.standard

Photo Courtesy of Historic Saint Paul

The former Minnesota Milk Company building could be a great candidate; it’s a very cool two-story Art Deco building on University Avenue, along the Central Corridor Light Rail line. The last tenant, Old Home Foods, closed its production plant in 2006. If you haven’t seen it up close, don’t miss out on the bas-relief sculpture of a young girl and boy holding a milk bottle. Surly might want to consider adding a mustache just so there isn’t any confusion.

Pillsbury “A” Mill Complex (116 3rd Avenue SE, Minneapolis)

A National Historic Landmark and once of the most iconic places in the Twin Cities, the Pillsbury “A” Mill complex could provide a number of unique opportunities for Surly. The complex was placed on our 10 Most Endangered list this year as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered. That particular area of Minneapolis is burgeoning with the rapid growth of nearby northeast; as more people and businesses flood the area, such a location could prove to be very enticing.

Silgan Building (755 North Prior Avenue, Saint Paul)

Silgan Building
The Silgan Building is currently up for sale in Saint Paul. It was built in the late 1890’s and the home of the American Can Company. Eh, Surly uses cans, they made cans. A match made in heaven? It has great transportation access to the railroad and interstate. The building has roughly 450,000 total square feet, so it would be possible to see a Surly Brewery as part of a larger redevelopment of the complex. This site is also situated close to the under construction Central Corridor Light Rail line.

In case you’re having a hard time imagining something like this, there have been a couple of similar reuses of late:

Dogfish Head Brewery

Valentine Distilling Company

Surly announced their goal of getting legislation passed to change the way beer is distributed in Minnesota; but they will readily admit that it was all those people out there who called their legislators in support of Surly. Well if you want to see Surly build their “destination brewery” in a historic building, you might want to let them know.

Just imagine what Surly could do with a little creativity and a 40% tax credit.

Will O’Keefe

Comments Closed