Excelsior Brewing Co., located in the city of same name just west of Minneapolis, has recently expanded, tripling in square footage and increasing production capacity remarkably. The new digs include a larger taproom, a new 12-ounce bottling line, and room to grow. Previously the company was pushing its limits on production, squeezing a cozy taproom into a tight space -- up close and personal with the brewing equipment. The new taproom has increased from a capacity of 75 to 200, and the brewery is planning a new beer garden come summer.
Hot Dish spoke with Jennifer T. Johnson, senior brand manager at the brewery, to see where Excelsior is going now there is so much more capacity for production. They will be celebrating a grand opening of the new taproom on Saturday, May 24 with bands and, of course, plenty of beer.
Hot Dish: What is in the works for your grand opening?
Jennifer T. Johnson: We are going to be featuring a new, one-time beer, celebrating the taproom opening and hopefully (weather pending!) utilizing the beer garden space we have. We will also have bands in a tent throughout the day and the 318 Food Truck.
How open is the new taproom in relation to the production area? In the old one, you were right up close. Do you still have that atmosphere?
You can pretty much see the entire brewery from the taproom area. We won't let people into the production area for safety reasons, but they can still tour it with a tour guide and see the area from the taproom space.
The company is very tied to the Excelsior community. How do you view the overall brand identity of Excelsior Brewing?
The Excelsior and surrounding community has supported us from day one. We are so fortunate to be located here, [and] have loyal locals and businesses that have really made us proud to be located in Excelsior, Minnesota. As we expand, go into six-packs and such, we have every intention of serving our current accounts first to the best of our ability and then expanding the brand from there. We are growing and becoming more recognizable in the metro and areas outside of our local area, which is exciting for us.
Is the brand more a reflection of the community or of the ownership? I'd say a mix of both, but we definitely represent the lake community of Excelsior. Our beers typically have a lake theme (Bridge Jumper, XLCR for the nautical flags, and Big Island Blond), the taproom has a very hometown feel (garage doors open, water skis and other water sport gear around, etc.). The ownership are all local guys, so of course it's a mix.
[page] Now that you're expanding your production capability, do you see that identity changing?
No, we intend to stay very tied to the lake, our community, and the people here. The part that we see changing is our availability to the consumer. We'll be on more taps and shelves.
Where is the company's focus in terms of taproom vs. production. Which one drives the brand's identity more?
The brand's identity is driven by the taproom since that is the literal face of the brewery when the public comes in. However, as we expand our capacity, and we are able to be on tap in more locations and on more shelves, that will continue to be another face of the brewery.
Head brewer Bob DuVernois has a history with cask beers from his previous job at Great Waters. Will the new taproom be offering one-off or cask beers?
Absolutely! We actually will have a 4bbl pilot system that our brewers will use to do taproom specialty brews.There will be two beer engines as well that will have cask beers available in the taproom only. It'll be a fun time to visit each day and see what is new on tap and cask!
You were really pushing the limits of your previous space. Is the goal to keep steady at the new size or do you anticipate further expansion?
It's to keep steady with an eye on what we have available right now, which is a capacity of about 8,500. However as we grow we do hope to continue to expand. If the public wants it we'll keep brewing it.