Twin Cities’ Surly Brewing recently won a plea to change a law that allow it to sell beer in its Brewery. Prior to the ruling makers of beer could give out glasses of beer for free during tours but could not sell and make beer in the same place. This prevented them from opening a restaurant or bar in the brewery. The Brewery’s owner, Omar Ansari, petitioned the state to change the law. It’s a law that is on the books in about half the states.
The ruling paved the way for more of Omar’s business ventures, including looking for a site to open a new brewery and restaurant. This week, it was announced that Surly bought a site in St. Paul. It moves them closer to the city(s) and allows them to create a “destination brewery” – making the site of beer production one that is more connected with other businesses and communities in the St. Paul area. Surly also choose a brownfield site that is eligible for grants to assist with environmental remediation. The site’s proximity to existing and planned neighborhoods and economic centers also makes it elegible for transit-oriented-development grants from the county. The national, state, and local laws that incentivize remediation of industrial locations, develop sites near transit, and encourage awesome local beer production (and drinking) came together to produce a great example of a new economic development model for cites. That model is based in beer.
The “destination brewery” that Surly hopes to create is perhaps the new ‘must-have’ storefront for thriving downtown revival. I love that they chose a site that is strategically placed to be transit-(and maybe bike)-friendly. Omar, says the craft beer business is booming in the Cities and hopefully they can create the type of bike and beer atmosphere that already exists in a couple of places (if it hasn’t already). In some cases, like in Portland and Asheville, the beer and bike culture has spurred more economic development in the city. The combination of biking and breweries is one that has caught the attention of more than one travel writer(Portland (again) and Madison (maybe). Asheville has even branded itself Beer City USA after winning a 2010 poll of craft beer aficionados. So, generally I love this move by Surly and the city and state. The only question I have is how long is it gonna take until the brewery realizes this obvious corporate partnership?