Smokehouse Brewpub offers free beer for life

Smokehouse Brewpub co-owner Jamie Robinson had the space. He had the lease (21 years). He had the concept. But he just didn't have the cash.

"There's no big investor money out there in this economy," he says. "We ran into a lot of small investors who said, 'We don't have tens of thousands of dollars, but we'd love to support your brewpub.'"

So Robinson and his partners came up with a tantalizing proposition for people who wanted to help. Not a micro-loan exactly. But a micro-brew lover's dream.

The overarching theme of Smokehouse is--natch--smoking. The 50-seat dining area will be serving smoked everything--fish, ratatouille, chicken wings, even a smoked egg salad --while the bar will be pouring pints of four year-round brews. Robinson says the beers will be heavily influenced by his brewing education at Town Hall, and he's planning an EPA, an IPA, a (smoked) porter, and a honey wheat. Space has already been secured in the Oak Building, at the corner of 38th Street East and 28th Avenue South in South Minneapolis.

Smokehouse Brewpub offers free beer for life

The $800,000 project needs about $160,000 in extra cash to secure the bank loan, and the three co-owners just couldn't come up with it on their own. As Robinson started bumping into more and more people in the neighborhood who wanted to help, he had a delicious epiphany. He was already promising friends free beer for life in exchange for barter services, like printing business cards and posters. Why not open it up to everyone?

He put out the call: For $1,000, investors can drink for free at Smokehouse for the rest of their lives. It's not a loan--just a one-time fee. But 40 people have already jumped at the chance.

"I guess that's impressive," he says. "But we are giving away free beer, so I mean that's a popular model."

And a smart one too, apparently- with a combination of the free-drinker money and other small investors, Robinson says he expects to have raised the capital by the end of the week. Fans of the idea of being a Smokehouse OG better hop to it.

At its current pace, Smokehouse expects to have its doors open by late May 2012.

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