It’s no secret that Minnesota breweries are growing like crazy, but growth extends well beyond the number of open businesses. It’s an ongoing process that goes well past opening day.
Mankato Brewery started in 2012 with Mankato Original (kolsch) and Stickum (altbier), neither of which is still made by the brewery just 85 miles west of Rochester.
Organ Grinder Amber Ale is their best seller, and this summer’s Kato Lager has given another boost to sales, winning gold at Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest before it even hit bars.
It’s a juggling act for a brewery to find their flagship lineup and then to meet that beer’s demand. What that means for consumers who don’t live next door is that it takes a long time for new beers to reach new markets. With upgrades completed in their brewery, Mankato just recently increased their reach in Rochester — and they’ve quickly become a top market for the 3-year-old brewery.
Mankato and Rochester share so many commonalities, says Mankato’s Tim Tupy, who owns the brewery in partnership with Tony Feuchtenberger.
“Even though we’re not just a couple miles down the road,” Tupy said, “we’re still a local brewery.” It’s a relatively quick drive down U.S. 14, and many Rochester residents went to college in Mankato or have family in town, he says.
There’s another key bond: the divide between the metro area and Greater Minnesota.
“People in the outstate area feel they get missed,” Tupy said. “Rochester knows Mankato goes through the same things they go through.”
In 2015 alone, Mankato has added 40 percent capacity and they’ve maxed that production already, putting Tupy on the hunt for more equipment as its sales grow in cities like Rochester.
Besides the equipment, though, the taproom got a makeover as well. They’ve replaced the bar/counter at the door with a large wooden bar that shares a view of the production space, and added hours so they’re open seven days a week.
The old bar will be replaced by a gift shop and the entrance will shift to face the patio and Center Street. These won’t transform the industrial but comfortable feel of the space, but they make it more welcoming.
In addition to more bar, the upper level mezzanine remains, giving an overview of the brewhouse and a great view of the stage where live music is often featured.
“A lot of it’s atmosphere,” Tupy says of the remodel, stressing that the original taproom was a means to an end. When Mankato poured their first original kolsch, the Taproom Bill was being drafted and the craft beer scene was in its infancy. As it continues to mature, new beers will come, new markets will develop, and adaptions will thrive.