Lift Bridge Brewing has basically been around forever.
To be clear: This is only their 10th year of operation. But the Stillwater brewery was just the 12th in the state—theirs is the oldest operating taproom in Minnesota.
“I guess forever is 10 years,” co-founder Brad Glynn admits.
Over the last decade, they’ve tried to grow thoughtfully, patiently. To take their time, and to not take on a bunch of investors. They had no desire to get too big, too fast, or to burn out.
The only “problem,” if you can call it that, is that they are growing. Steadily and consistently. Which is good, on the one hand: Having such regular year-over-year sales and production increases has helped them plan for the future—now, they’re one of the state’s 10 biggest brewers.
But it hasn’t been without its challenges. They've had to rent warehouse space across the street to mitigate current space constraints… they’re also relying on a refrigerated trailer for additional storage.
“Some of those things told us that, hey, it’s time to get a bigger space,” Glynn says, chuckling. So they’re going to do just that, thanks to a new, just-announced 5.5-acre location not a half-mile from their current home. Construction will begin in August, and when it wraps up—potentially as soon as next spring—the 35,000-square-foot space will boast an expanded taproom, more storage, and plenty of patio space and room for outdoor events.
“Our existing building, we thought we’d be good for a few more years. But really, when we look at where our numbers are going … now’s the time,” Glynn adds. He compares it to having a beat-up used car: fine when you’re younger, but eventually, you grow up, and you need something you can customize yourself.
It would be nice, for example, to have floor drains in the right places. (For the brewery, that is. Not the car.)
Like Bent Paddle, which just opened a brand-new, much-bigger taproom of its own in Duluth, Lift Bridge predates the Surly Bill that let brewers sell pints on their premises—meaning that their existing one is often super crowded and not exactly ideal for large gatherings. “We had to kick my brewer and myself out of our offices to make a taproom,” Glynn explains. “It wasn’t built as a taproom; it was built as an office. We had to take a 600-, 700-square-foot space and make it into a taproom.” This new building will be much more conducive to taproom lingering.
On the brewing side, their current 15-barrel brewhouse will, at the minimum, double in size. Glynn couldn’t say for sure just yet, but they’re looking at between a 35- to 50-barrel system, which will allow for pilot testing and innovation their brewery simply doesn’t at present. (“We don’t have a spare day now where no one’s brewing anything.”)
The change will also help them expand into new markets. Lift Bridge added most of Wisconsin and North Dakota to its distribution list last year, and they’ve set their sights on the rest of North Dakota, along with South Dakota and potentially Iowa.
But brewery-wise, Glynn & Co. knew they wanted to stick around in Stillwater.
“We really wanted to stay here,” he says. “We all moved here, 16, 17 years ago, and fell in love with the area, the St. Croix River life. This is where we want our brand; this is where we want our brewery; this is where we want people from the Twin Cities and all around the Midwest to come enjoy our beer.”