Summit Brewing to Open Taproom at St. Paul Brewery
It’s been more than a year since Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the so-called “Surly bill” into law, creating a “taproom” license that allows the state’s beer makers to sell pints of beer at their breweries.
But only late last week did St. Paul-based Summit Brewing Company—a quarter-century-old brewery often credited for introducing microbrewing to the Twin Cities—announce plans to take advantage of the new law.
After months of researching the “feasibility and viability” of operating a taproom at the St. Paul brewery, founder and President Mark Stutrud announced on Summit’s website that the brewery will open a taproom.
Marketing Coordinator Carey Matthews said in a Monday phone interview that the taproom will be open on Fridays from 3 to 8 p.m., beginning in mid- to late September. The taproom will offer pints and flights of beer, including specialty and cask-conditioned beers, and food trucks will serve food outside the brewery, Matthews said.
Summit, which currently operates two weekday brewery tours and a Saturday afternoon tour, will also add a 1 p.m. Friday tour.
The brewery plans to hire about six new workers to operate the taproom and staff the tours, Matthews said. Summit currently has nearly 60 employees.
On Summit’s website, Stutrud said that the brewery already offers “a great hospitality area” and “a beautiful outdoor plaza.”
“So to most people, it seems to be an easy decision to just ‘go retail,’” he said. “But, what the hell, we like to be thoughtful about stuff, and we decided to take the time to really evaluate the reality of operating a taproom.”
Stutrud said that Summit wants “to respect our retail customers.” (When the Surly bill was introduced, the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association argued that allowing brewers to sell directly to consumers would uproot the traditional “three-tier system”—which comprises manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. The association reportedly changed its position after the bill’s wording was later modified.)
Stutrud said that Summit often hosts professional, educational, and nonprofit groups at its brewery, and it donates its public space at least two evenings per week to such organizations.
Summit chose to initially limit its taproom hours to Fridays rather than displace those groups, Matthews said.
“We don’t know what the future will hold, but one night a week seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling,” and Summit may consider opening its taproom additional nights per week in the future, she added.
The bill that paved the way for taproom licenses was introduced after Brooklyn Center-based Surly Brewing Company announced plans to open a $20 million “destination brewery,” complete with a restaurant, bar, and event center. Liquor licensing laws at the time prohibited larger brewers like Surly and Summit from selling pints of beer directly to consumers.
Now, Summit joins a list of several other Minnesota breweries that have taken advantage of the law and opened taprooms. Lift Bridge Brewing Company opened the state’s first taproom in Stillwater, and Fulton Beer and Harriet Brewing subsequently opened taprooms in Minneapolis. Others, like 612Brew in Northeast Minneapolis, have announced plans to follow suit.
Surly, meanwhile, has yet to take advantage of the law that it worked to pass. It is still considering four locations for its planned $20 million project.