MARSHALL - It's been a little while since the Brau Brothers Brewing Company put its sign up at the old Runnings building in Marshall. But inside, a much bigger transformation is still taking place. Brau Brothers employees are at work making what had been a retail space into a brewery and taproom.
"Overall, it's going very well," said Dustin Brau, co-owner of Brau Brothers. The renovations aren't moving as fast as originally planned, but Brau said that's partly due to the scope of the project.
Brau Brothers, which started brewing beer in 1998 in a small facility in Lucan, is in the process of renovating the former Runnings building near the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and Minnesota Highway 23. Brau said some of the renovation work being done right now includes designing the brewery's production layout, and getting ready to pour the concrete production floor.
Photo by Steve Browne
Sandra Brau, 19, daughter of Dustin Brau, co-owner of Brau Brothers brewery, stands in front of a 1,200-gallon fermenter at the Brau Brothers new location in Marshall. Sandra Brau is an elementary education major at the University of Minnesota and is helping out with the remodeling. After brewing, the beer mix goes into a fermenter for about two weeks, depending on the brew. After fermenting it goes into a Brite tank, also called a “Government tank,” because that is where the amount is measured and the taxes imposed. From the Brite tank it is kegged or bottled.
"That's kind of a big hump for us to get over," Brau said. Once the floor is ready, tasks like installing the brewing equipment can start.
"There were a lot of things we didn't plan for," in the process of renovating the building, Brau said. Working out some of the details of the design - slopes and drainage on the production floor, for example - have all been part of the work.
"From a production standpoint, it's things that may seem minor, but they're important," Brau said. There have also been a lot of decisions to make for interior design in the taproom area being built at the front of the building. Although it takes time, the results should be attractive for visitors to the brewery.
"The tap room is going to be nicer than anticipated," Brau said, with booths where beer samples can be served and large windows looking into the production area.
At the same time that the new brewery building is being renovated, the company is also waiting to complete the paperwork needed to make the move. Brau Brothers is a federally bonded and licensed business, so it needs official approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) before it will be licensed to operate from a new location. "That's the biggest domino to fall," Brau said. There are also state licensing requirements to meet.
"It takes some time," but it wasn't unexpected, Brau said. He said in some ways the process was easier now than it was "starting from scratch" in Lucan.
"But, that doesn't mean it's quicker," he said.
Brau Brothers will gain a lot from the move to the new facility, Brau said. First and foremost is space, and wastewater infrastructure better able to handle the brewery's needs.
The additional space will mean a lot for production, Brau said. Besides being able to brew more beer, there will be additional room to bring in the hops used in the brewing process, and for the barrels needed to make aged beers and sour beers. The brewery will also have its own laboratory - another important factor in an industry that relies on microbiology. Being able to run lab tests will help improve the shelf life and quality of the beer, Brau said.
Being able to bring visitors in to see the brewery, and sample beer in the taproom, will also be great opportunities to increase the company's visibility.
"There are a lot of people around the area that don't know there's a brewery in Lucan," Brau said. Besides bringing in area residents to visit, the taproom can be a draw for beer tours or special events. Once open, it will be the first brewery in Lyon County, Brau said. "We'll still be in a unique situation geographically."
Brau said moving to Marshall doesn't mean the brewery is leaving behind its beginnings in Lucan.
"We hope to maintain the hop yard in Lucan," Brau said. The plan was for visitors to the Marshall location to be able to see reminders of the company's history, as well.