Brad Glynn and Trevor Cronk sit down at the classic wooden bar with two beers in front of them, ready to explain how a poker league 12 years ago became a stepping stone to their dream of opening Lift Bridge Brewing Company.
“We come from separate backgrounds of home brewing,” Glynn says of the brewery’s five co-owners. “We all moved into Stillwater and played in a poker league together. We got to know each other really well and found out a few of us had home brewed in the past. So we started brewing some batches together.”
With a few more talks and some time to think, the poker crew thought, “Why not open up a brewery?”
“At the time, there was nothing over here on the eastern side of the metro,” Glynn says. “The brew culture was a little bit behind, and we thought we would bring the brewery back to the birthplace of Minnesota.”
In September 2008, Glynn and the others sold their first keg of beer, and Lift Bridge Brewing Co. was ready to take off. What keeps the team going strong today is their love for the industry, and the fun involved with the different varieties and flavors of beer. They share this passion with customers both regular and new with a free tour that is unlike any other.
“What’s neat about our tour is that we talk about craft beer in Minnesota, how popular it has become and where we are going with it,” Cronk says. “We go through the whole process, our individual beers and what care they need.” The big-ticket item that keeps people interested and engaged on the tours, however, is the fact that the crew at Lift Bridge does readings for their hand-crafted beer. These are laboratory readings, verifying alcohol content and other factors.
“We try to stay as efficient and consistent as we can, and we continually talk about the need for more stainless steel, but we need good people, too,” Cronk says. “We also talk about the stories behind each of our beers and what makes them unique and how they started.”
Glynn can’t help but chime in with what many consider the most important part of any brewery tour. “Free samples,” he says.
Being located in Stillwater has definitely helped the team at Lift Bridge, since it’s a great destination spot. “There are a lot of things to do downtown, and you can definitely come over here from the Cities and spend a full day here,” Glynn says. The location seems to be working well, and the crew finds people are interested in learning more about Stillwater.
“They might come in and say they are here for the tour and to try some beers, but they also ask where they should go,” Cronk says.
As the popularity of their beers expanded, the owners saw a need for more space. “We needed more structural support, and chiller and power capabilities,” Glynn says. “We took on nearly 5,000 square feet in the building behind us and added four 60-barrel fermenters, a brand-new bottling line and a place for growing our barrel-aging program,” Cronk says. “We even set up a lab to help with our counts and create more efficiency.”
The brewery is benefiting from the recent additions. “We definitely want to expand more in the next two years and eventually become a regional brewer,” Glynn says.
But it’s not all about brewing beer: Glynn and Cronk also love being a part of the community and getting involved with different events to let people know they are here, they care and they want to help. “We support a lot going on in the community,” Glynn says. “We are continually thinking of different ways to collaborate with other businesses. We work with a local farmer who takes our grain and feeds his cattle, and he sells the beef to a lot of restaurants in the Cities. Then we pair that beef with our beer.”
Lift Bridge also collaborates with other food companies that seem to fit best with their brand, and even host different kinds of events.
“We want to be on the cutting edge and have family events that keep the brewery part of the community,” Glynn says.
One of those events is The Big Carve. A couple of weeks before Halloween, the Lift Bridge crew pairs up with a local pumpkin farm and places the pumpkins on tables in the brewing area. Families can come in and purchase a pumpkin, but that’s not all.
“The worst part about carving pumpkins at home is the mess,” Glynn says. “So we give the parents a place to bring their kids and leave that mess. We give them carving kits and let the kids carve while the parents enjoy a beer.” A family-friendly band plays while everyone is having fun with the pumpkins. “We get a lot of thank yous from parents for hosting the event,” Glynn adds. “It’s a lot of fun.”
At the end of the day, the folks at Lift Bridge Brewing Co. want to encourage residents and visitors alike when they are making their beer choices: “Think local, drink local,” Cronk says. “It’s a big deal, and as we grow, we want to be true to our roots and a fabric of the community.”
Lift Bridge Brews
Lift Bridge Brewing Co. has four signature, or flagship, beers that keep customers coming back for more.
- Farm Girl Saison: (5.8 percent alcohol by volume)The top-seller and first keg tapped, Farm Girl is a “perfectly balanced and moderately sweet beer with light citrus notes and a distinct spiciness from choice Belgian yeasts,” Glynn says.
- Hop Dish Ipa: (7.5 percent alcohol by volume) “This deep-golden American IPA features 7 different varieties of hops with citrus, pine and tropical fruit notes,” Glynn says. “IPAs and pale ales are some of the top-sellers in beer. The aroma and character balance it out with more of a Midwestern malt.”
- Crosscut Pale Ale: (5.5 percent alcohol by volume) “Our ode to the lumberjacks who helped settle the St. Croix Valley is a well-balanced pale ale,” Glynn says. “It’s our current year-round American Pale Ale.”
- Chestnut Hill Brown Ale: (6.3 percent alcohol by volume) “Chestnut Hill is a brown ale with roasted malts and Yakima hops,” Glynn says. “Notes of roasted hazelnuts, coffee and chocolate combine with cinnamon as the beer warms.”