Fulton Beer Grand Opening Planned, Bottles for Sale

Local residents can tour and taste the beer at the new Warehouse District brewery at a grand opening next month-and they can buy six packs at metro-area liquor stores as of this week.

Fulton Beer's new Minneapolis brewery is up and running-and members of the public are invited to a grand opening on November 18 and 19. Local beer lovers will be able to tour the facility, taste the beer, and even purchase a growler.

But that's not the only big news for Fulton: It's now selling bottled versions of two varieties of its beer at various sites across the Twin Cities. According to a Monday blog post on Fulton's Web site, six packs of Lonely Blonde and Sweet Child of Vine are now available for sale at many local liquor stores-and the list of places that carry them is rapidly growing. (To see the list of stores that are selling Fulton six packs, click here and scroll down.)

Fulton's draft beer-which has been contract brewed for the past couple of years at The Sand Creek Brewing Company in Black River Falls, Wisconsin-is now being brewed at the new Minneapolis brewery, and it's on tap at many Twin Cities restaurants and bars. The new brewery's annual capacity is roughly 3,200 barrels-and the four co-owners aim to hit that figure in 2012.

However, the bottled beer isn't being produced at the new, 6,000-square-foot brewery in the Warehouse District. Due to space constraints, Fulton's four co-owners-who began brewing beer in one of their garages-recently had to choose between installing a bottling line or putting in a taproom. They chose the taproom, so bottled beer will be contract brewed at Sand Creek.

From the beginning, Fulton's co-owners have wanted to sell pints of beer at their brewery. But it wasn't an option until a recently enacted Minnesota law created a new type of liquor license called a taproom license. It allows brewers that produce fewer than 250,000 barrels annually to sell pints of their beer on-site-and the Minneapolis City Council in August voted to create a new license that supports the law change. (Each municipality can decide whether to create a taproom license for breweries located within its limits.)

Because taprooms weren't allowed when the co-owners began planning their Minneapolis brewery, they didn't incorporate one into their plans. After the new state law was approved in April, they started to look at ways they could add one.

“The taproom offers a great opportunity to converse with people who enjoy craft beer and find out what's on their mind,” co-owner Jim Diley told Twin Cities Business on Tuesday. “That influences what beers we brew.”

Although Fulton now has the license necessary to produce beer for wholesale, it doesn't yet have its growler and taproom licenses. Diley said that he expects to have the growler license before the grand opening; if that doesn't happen, it will likely get pushed back so that visitors can purchase growlers-half-gallon jugs-when they stop by.

Meanwhile, the taproom license probably won't be in hand until late January or early February. The goal is to open the taproom to the public by late February or early March, Diley said.

The new brewery now employs three-including co-owner Pete Grande, who serves as full-time brewmaster. But growler sales will enable it to hire another two or three in the coming months, according to Diley.

Diley added that before the City of Minneapolis passed a law to allow growlers to be sold at commercial breweries, Fulton and other brewers told city leaders: “'This is good for business. This grows the brewing industry; it allows the revenue to hire more people.' Fulton is demonstrating that in practice.”