St. Paul-based Liquid 12 Festivals, which does business as The Beer Dabbler, has hosted annual beer festivals in the Twin Cities since it was founded four years ago.
But as the beer craze continues to explode—and as other beer-centric events have sprung up throughout the area—Beer Dabbler owner Matt Kenevan has decided to diversify his business, first with a craft beer magazine, which will be published every two months, and then with a beer merchandise store.
The new magazine, called The Growler, will debut at a Thursday launch party at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul. (The magazine’s name refers to 64-ounce glass bottles of beer sold by craft breweries.)
Kenevan said in a Monday phone interview that the free publication will launch with roughly 20,000 copies of the first issue, which will be available at about 300 locations throughout the Twin Cities. He hopes to expand the magazine to Duluth this fall.
Kenevan describes The Growler as a “lifestyle craft beer magazine.” It will feature topics that are directly related to beer, including reviews by local liquor store representatives. It will also include coverage of music, art, cooking, and other topics with ties to beer culture. For example, a story might focus on camping and local hiking trails and also discuss nearby breweries, Kenevan said.
“It’s not all in-your-face beer, beer, beer, but it’s always somehow tied in,” Kenevan said. “Our goal is to bring unity to the beer community and have people that haven’t worked together in the past begin to work together.”
At a time when the competition for print-advertising dollars has become increasingly fierce, Kenevan believes The Growler’s niche focus will set it apart from local alt-weeklies and other publications. He said that The Growler’s inaugural issue attracted a variety of advertisers—including non-beer-related entities like the Minnesota Zoo and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Kenevan left his 12-year career at news satire publication The Onion to focus on The Beer Dabbler and to launch The Growler. He tapped Jason Zabe, also of The Onion, to serve as editor, and the magazine will be produced with the help of two other permanent staffers, 15 to 20 freelance writers, and a contracted creative director.
Also on the horizon: a Beer Dabbler store, which is set to open in late summer. The store—which doubles as The Beer Dabbler’s office—will be located at 1095 West Seventh Street in St. Paul. Kenevan said he’s in discussions with roughly 70 local and national breweries about potentially selling clothing, glassware, artwork, and other merchandise featuring their brands. (Another local start-up, Swag Brewery, is also selling some craft beer-related products.)
Funding for the new store and The Growler was derived from The Beer Dabbler’s signature events. Kenevan said that the third annual Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival drew about 5,200 guests to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market grounds in January, and he expects the Highland Fest to attract roughly 3,000 to St. Paul’s Hillcrest Park in July. The Beer Dabbler is also collaborating with the Twin Cities Pride Festival in June, where it will pair 20 local breweries with 20 Minnesota food trucks at Minneapolis’ Loring Park.
The launch of The Growler and the upcoming Beer Dabbler store are the most recent of many indicators that the craft beer craze continues to grow. Brooklyn Center-based Surly Brewing Company last year spearheaded a change in state liquor laws that allows breweries to sell pints of their beer in on-site “taprooms.” Several local breweries have taken advantage of the law, including Fulton Beer, whose March taproom opening drew more than 1,000 beer fans.
In addition, a long list of locally produced craft beers debuted at Target Field earlier this year.