A new era in beer making

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February 27, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
Indeed Brewing revives Northeast’s beer history

LOGAN PARK — There’s no question that the craft beer industry is on the rise throughout Minneapolis. In the last year alone, a flurry of new beer companies have opened their doors or revealed plans to do so shortly.

The most recent is Indeed Brewing, which will launch this summer in the newly christened Solar Arts Building at 711 15th Ave. NE. The company has big plans, but the announcement of Indeed Brewing may be the start of an even bigger trend — the resurrection of Northeast’s brewing tradition.

“Northeast has a great brewing tradition, with Grain Belt and James Page,” said Indeed Brewing’s Rachel Anderson.

The James Page Brewing Company was founded on Quincy Street, and the Grain Belt Brewery is still home to popular beer events such as the Autumn Brew Review.

Indeed Brewing will be the first new local brewery to set up shop in Northeast since the days of James Page and Grain Belt, but it will be followed shortly by Dangerous Man Brewing Company at 1300 2nd St. NE in the Sheridan neighborhood. Boom Island Brewery recently opened mere yards beyond Northeast’s borders, and Solar Arts Building owner Duane Arens said that at least three breweries expressed interest in the space Indeed Brewing will occupy.

A new celebration of local beer, the Spring Ale Fest, will be held on April 7 at Northeast’s Ritz Theater.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has stated that he wants local beer heavyweights Surly to build their new brewery somewhere on the river north of downtown.

In short, Northeast could become Minneapolis’ craft beer district.

When Indeed Brewing launches, it will be one of the larger brewing facilities in the state. The 12,000-square-foot brewery will feature a 1,500 square-foot taproom and an outdoor patio. The brewing system will allow Indeed to produce roughly 3,800 barrels of beer a year (nearly 120,000 gallons) and can them with an in-house canning line.

In the recent craft beer explosion, no other brewery has launched with such a high capacity, a canning line or a taproom on day one. But Indeed is also the first new beer company to launch with an award-winning professional brewer.

Indeed’s brewermaster is Josh Bischoff, who has over a decade of professional brewing experience. While working as lead brewer at the Town Hall Brewery, Bischoff won a silver medal at the prestigious Great American Beerfest in 2011. He also shared in six more GABF medals as part of Town Hall’s Brewing team. When Indeed co-founders Tom Whisenand, Rachel Anderson and Nathan Berndt approached Bischoff, he was initially hesitant. But once he saw the business plan, Bischoff agreed to come on board.

“It’s sort of a dream brewery for a guy like Josh,” Whisenand said. “It’s a good size, hopefully he’ll be able to reach a lot of people through bars, liquor stores and the tap room. This has an opportunity for him to grow.”

“Room to grow” is also the answer to why Indeed is launching with such a big facility right off the bat.

“We wanted space to allow us to expand and have a brewing system that will allow us to produce enough beer,” Whisenand said. “Brewing is a very cash-intensive business. If you start too small, you can be successful and not have enough income to overcome that hump to where you can expand and grow.”

The company will launch this summer with two “hop-forward” beers that will be available at its taproom and bars and liquor stores around the state. The company intends to add additional styles and limited releases to its roster as it grows.

The best place to sample Indeed’s lineup will be at its taproom, where customers will be able to give their feedback on experimental and specialty brews. The Indeed Brewing crew hopes the taproom facility will draw visitors from all over, but it will also have a built-in customer base: the other tenants of the Solar Arts Building.

The building at 711 15th St. NE has been home to a transformer manufacturer, a Sears Roebuck distribution center and rubber factory. New owner Duane Arens took a look at the building in the heart of the Northeast Arts District and envisioned artists’ studios, a coffee shop and a possible event center. With studio vacancies in the Arts District near zero, it was a solid plan. But it needed a little something extra.

“I thought this would be a pretty cool space for a microbrewery,” Arens said. “I emailed the Minnesota Restaurant Association and within an hour and a half I had three microbreweries calling me. Two of them came to look at the building and we decided to work with Indeed.”

The Indeed Brewery will occupy all of the first floor, save for a small retail space that will likely become a coffee or sandwich shop. The second floor will be home to 15 artist studios. Arens hopes to turn the third floor into an event center, but if he can’t resolve a few regulatory issues, it will become additional artists lofts.

The building will draw much of its power from a 27-kilowatt solar system on the roof and all light fixtures will be fitted with LED bulbs. Arens also plans to add several bike racks to the outside of the building and a free air pump for bike tires.

A bike-friendly, energy-efficient studio building with its own brewery and coffee shop, it’s no surprise that three-quarters of the artists’ spaces were leased before the walls were even built.

Just as the Indeed Brewing founders hope their brewery will be a draw for beer fans, Arens hopes the Solar Arts Building will become a major stop during Northeast’s annual Art-A-Whirl event. Membership in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association is required for all studio tenants, and Arens plans to hold both a grand opening for the building around April 1 and a party during Art-A-Whirl. The opening of Indeed Brewing won’t come until later, but Arens expects the company to be a big part of future events at the Solar Arts Building.

“The brewery likes the idea of the event center because it could bring in crowds by the hundreds, and I think it’s going to be easier for us to bring in crowds by the hundreds because of the brewery,” Arens said.

The Indeed Brewery team is equally happy about being a part of the Solar Arts Building, and clearly excited to be a part of the Northeast Arts District. When they originally started working on their plan about 14 months ago, Northeast Minneapolis was far down the list of ideal locations, after St. Paul and sites near the Midtown Greenway. But once they started exploring Northeast, the area quickly shot to the top of the list. And once they found the Solar Arts Building, they knew they found the right home for their business.

“Once we started looking here, things just clicked,” Whisenand said.

Reach Jeremy Zoss at jzoss@mnpubs.com.