The little store that started on Minnetonka and Texas has come a long way in nearly 6 years. Thanks to a dedication to customer service and the craft beer boom here in Minnesota, The Four Firkins is looking to bring their model to the east side of the metro (Woodbury) and beyond.
Woodbury was chosen for the second store partially based off a zip code study that they conducted last year. “Years of study go into something like this, and our customers come from all over the metro,” said Four Firkins owner Jason Alvey. Another factor is that Woodbury is surrounded by largely populated areas such as Maplewood and Hudson, Wisconsin.
In order to accomplish this expansion, The Four Firkins is asking for help from the community in the form of a crowdsourcing campaign. The campaign is on Indiegogo, a platform similar to Kickstarter, where an individual makes a pledge toward a cause and gets something in return. Some of rewards offered are access to special release beers; a plaque with your name on it, which will be on display at the SLP store; in-store beer education classes; and even dinner with the owner.
Crowdsourcing seems to be the way of the future, and it also allows for someone to raise capital while retaining full ownership. The traditional way to raise capital is to invite investors in to take on ownership. This, however; was not what Alvey wanted. “Small businesses do not have piles of cash, it’s just not realistic,” said Alvey. Retaining ownership was a priority for him, whose store is the only one in town dedicated strictly to craft beer. When asked why they chose Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter he had this to say, “We didn’t know how it would be received so we didn’t want to risk a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is all or nothing where Indiegogo gives you the money even if the goal is not reached.”
They are looking to open 3 more locations in the future after the Woodbury store. This, however; is the only campaign planned—meaning that the second store will be able to help them raise the capital to open the third store and so on. So far, it has been well received by many, having already raised over $24,000 of the $50,000 goal, but there is only a week left in the campaign.
The campaign itself raised a stir on the Beer Advocate forum, where a thread was created, bashing the choice to go with crowdsourcing over traditional investors. The critics claim that The Four Firkins charges more for their beer than most stores in town already. “We sell our products for a fair price,” said Alvey. “We don’t believe in needlessly de-valuing local craft beer.” The store was the first to join the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild—a sign of their commitment to local beer—often giving breweries feedback on their products. Some stores around the Twin Cities will buy a large volume of beer nearing the end of its shelf life just to offer it at a discounted rate. At The Four Firkins, they don’t do this, “It’s incredible the stuff in some of the stores you see,” said Alvey.
Despite the fact that everyone has a right to voice their opinion, the arguments against crowdsourcing seem a bit harsh considering that other local businesses have used this model to fund things such as restaurants and coffee shops. Two, in particular, that come to mind are Travail and the Birchwood Cafe. Alvey noted, “Either way, we have to get the capital. This gives our customers an opportunity to be a part of something special.”
The Four Firkins crew prides themselves on selling only fresh beer. “Turnover is a big thing,” Alvey explained, “our inventory turns over two and a half times a month. This is because we are a destination store. We don’t ever have expired product on our shelves.”
The little destination store that began on the corner of Texas and Minnetonka is bringing their unique experience to the rest of the Twin Cities thanks to the community that has always supported them.
You can support the campaign here.
For the second year in a row, Minnesota craft beer will be on display in the Agriculture Building. You can learn everything about our local suds; from where the ingredients come from to how it is made and who produces it. The exhibit will feature local examples from some of the 40 breweries represented at the fair.
The response to this exhibit could not have been better during last year’s Great Minnesota Get Together, where flocks of people came to learn about and sample various local brews. “We had people knocking the door down at 9 AM last year,” said Clint Roberts, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild.
That success prompted the Brewers Guild to double the space for this year, which will include a wall dedicated to brewery art and two additional flights of beer bringing the total to six. “We don’t want people to just come in for a beer, we want them to take in the entire cultural aspect,” said Roberts. This year they are also introducing Firkin Friday. That means on Fridays they will switch out one of the typical beers in your flight with a special beer drawn from a firkin (basically a small keg). These are usually limited or rare varieties that the brewers don’t brew every day.
Once again the exhibit will feature speakers from all corners of the craft beer scene from brewers to educators. If you happen to be at the fair on Sunday, August 25th you won’t want to miss Doug Hoverson, author of Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota. Doug is well-versed in the history of brewing in Minnesota and is extremely interesting to listen to.
One of the best presentations last year involved both Mike and Dave Hoops—two brothers brewing at two different brewpubs here in Minnesota. Mike brews at Town Hall Brewery at Seven Corners in Minneapolis and Dave brews up at Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth. They will be presenting again this year on Tuesday, August 27th at 6 PM.
Another promising presentation in the lineup is Artifacts and Agriculture, which will cover a variety of topics such as old brewery memorabilia (Dave Wendl of Breweriana Collectors Club of America), the growing of hops (Charlie “Hop Star” Rohwher Ph.D.) and the malting/barley industry (Cargill’s Mark Ruark).
Here is the full presentation schedule:
Thursday, August 22
Friday, August 23
Saturday, August 24
Sunday, August 25
Monday, August 26
Tuesday, August 27
Wednesday, August 28
Thursday, August 29
Friday, August 30
Saturday, August 31
Sunday, September 1
Monday, September 2
Be sure to check out the Minnesota Brewers Guild site for the rest of the details and remember to ask questions while you are there.
The North Shore is home to some great breweries, most of which are located in Duluth. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t head a half hour north to a little town called Castle Danger where Clint and Jamie MacFarlane own and operate Castle Haven Cabins and Castle Danger Brewery.
The cabins alone would make the trip worthwhile but it’s the beer brewed on site (since 2010) that makes it extra special.
It could be argued that Castle Danger Brewery has the best view of any brewery in the state and Clint does not take that for granted. Operating in what appears to be the cleanest brewery around, Clint and lifelong friend and brewer Mason Williams churn out a wide variety of beers including their year-round offering—Danger Ale.
Danger Ale is a Pale Ale that you can tell Clint spent some time formulating. This flagship beer comes in at 6% ABV and is nicely balanced between the bready malt and the hops.
Gale Force Wheat is their early summer seasonal brew, which packs a hop punch of 77 IBU’s due to the addition of Cascade, Citra, and Hallertau hops. True to the Hefeweizen style, it also has that distinct banana clove touch and is topped off with some orange zest.
Double Crossing IPA is a monster of a beer at 9.1% ABV, but you would never know by taking a sip as it sneaks up on you rather quickly. It is loaded with hops, four pounds per barrel to be exact, giving it a nice grapefruit flavor. Double Crossing IPA was created in honor of the two-year anniversary of the brewery.
What’s really exciting is that Castle Danger Brewing has plans to open a taproom just south of their current location in Two Harbors, Minnesota at 17 7th Street. The plan is to do most of the brewing at the new location where they will operate a canning line, while still brewing special or experimental batches at the original brewery. It should be noted that when the taproom opens growler sales will no longer be available at the original brewery, only at the taproom.
Many of their beers are currently available at the brewery in a growler for $15 (filled) or $10 for refills. You can find them on tap at many locations along the North Shore, and they will also be pouring at All Pints North this weekend up in Duluth. Go here to purchase your tickets to this event.
Downtown Stillwater—the perfect backdrop for a local brewery. That’s what Joseph Wolf and his business partners realized back in 1868 when they founded Joseph Wolf Brewing Company along the bluffs of the St. Croix River.
Refrigeration, as we know it, did not exist at the time so they decided to build caves into the bluff where they could store the beer and cool it with ice cut fresh from the river. The caves were made using pick axes and dynamite. The process took eight years, and along the way, his partners backed out. They felt that the process was taking too long and they weren’t making money fast enough; so Joseph eventually took sole ownership of the brewery.
Joseph Wolf Brewing would become one of the biggest local breweries, producing over 25,000 barrels of beer in 1919 and shipping south to Chicago and all the way up to Winnipeg, Canada. Sadly the brewery went under during prohibition and Joseph passed away in 1921 leaving those who were close to him believing that it was prohibition that had killed him in the end.
Today, sisters Pat Wolf and Kathy Wolf Swanson are the only 100% female-owned brewery in Minnesota. The two wanted to continue what their great grandfather had started back in 1868 but, now with a focus on craft beer.
Last Wednesday at the Mad Capper in Downtown Stillwater they launched the first two beers: a Berlin Weisse and a Belgian Golden Ale. The beer is temporarily being contract brewed by Dubrue in Duluth, Minnesota until a permanent brewing site is chosen.
The Berlin Weisse was very refreshing on its own and didn’t leave you puckering after each sip. Slightly tart and fruity and lighter in body, this tasty brew was made for the patio and comes in at 4.3% ABV. It can also be served with flavored syrups such as raspberry or blueberry. Though the traditionalist may choose to skip on the syrup as it tends to make the beer a bit too sweet.
The Belgian Golden Ale comes in at 8.4% ABV and is brewed with rose hips, clover honey and chamomile which pair well with the the peppy Belgian yeast. Fruit is apparent in the aroma but it finishes rather light for a Golden Ale. Overall this is a nice beer and is sure to impress at a summer BBQ.
Both varieties are available at the Mad Capper and The Four Firkins with more retail locations in the works for the future.
In a market full of big, hoppy brews, the Wolf sisters have done something creative—and a bit daring—by introducing two styles not commonly found on the local scene. This pioneering spirit is surely something that would make Joseph Wolf proud.