The oldest building in Stillwater will soon be home to a brewery and taproom, offering visitors a unique glimpse at breweries of the past.
"This is how breweries in Minnesota started. A lot of them were wood frame houses that had a little brewery in it," says president and brewer Tod Fyten.
His wife Madeline, owner of St. Croix Brewing, has purchased the Brunswick House, located near the city center, and plans to open an old world-themed taproom with cask beers and their three flagship brands.
St. Croix currently brews St. Croix Cream Ale, Creamy Brown Ale, and Cream Stout but has lacked its own brewery space -- until now.
The Brunswick House will undergo renovations in the coming months, including the addition of the brewery in the basement. St. Croix will be using a 2.5 bbl system purchased from Granite City. The house's main level will serve as a taproom and gift shop.
The Brunswick House, notes Tod, is a different kind of setting for a taproom. "Most of what I see is an industrial look," he says, adding that their space seeks a warm and traditional European vibe. "Each of the [new] breweries have used what they have to make unique spaces, and that's what we're doing here."
The Brunswick House was built in 1848 and was last open to the public as a bakery.
Along with their flagship beers, the Fytens plan to sell cask beer in house and to local bars, focusing on traditional English styles similar to the former Sherlock's Home brewpub in Minnetonka, shuttered in 2003.
Because the building previously housed a restaurant with liquor license, city codes were already in place for St. Croix to move in. Likewise, the previous commercial kitchen updated the building's ventilation and electrical systems -- essential to sustaining a brewery.
The Fytens plan to first get the retail shop and brewing system up and running, selling merchandise and growlers. They'll need to put the finishing touches in place before a taproom license can be acquired.
"People can come in to see the brewery and buy some gifts," Tod explains, "but we're not a bar-restaurant." St. Croix's business will remain focused on production brewing in addition to the taproom.
Once interior improvements are complete, they will begin work on the garden space outside. The building's exterior will remain a work in progress.
"Our plan is to have the taproom open for the summer," Tod predicts, though he says much depends on licenses and the preservation of the historic house. "In these old buildings in Stillwater, it's trying to find businesses that fit into what they're doing historically and can also be caretakers of the building."
The Brunswick House is located across from the National Guard Armory, which the city of Stillwater is currently planning to repurpose, just up Chestnut Street from the city's famed lift bridge. Stillwater is also home to Lift Bridge, Maple Island Brewing, Joseph Wolf Brewing, and several wineries. Tod Fyten also owns the Stagecoach and Fytenburg beer brands.
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