Cocktail enthusiasts have something new to cheer about: Minnesota’s growing microdistillery trend is spreading north.
The Brainerd City Council approved regulations last week that open the door for the city’s first microdistillery and cocktail room — part of a budding movement to revitalize the city.
Like the state’s brewery boom, distilleries have popped up across the Twin Cities since a provision in the so-called Surly Bill in 2011 lowered the cost of a distiller’s license fee. But there are only a handful of distilleries outside the metro area, in cities such as Duluth, Osakis and Northfield.
Lisa Desrocher wants to change that.
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” said Desrocher, who works as a food scientist. “It’s really going to draw people into the city of Brainerd instead of staying at the lakes.”
After approving a microdistillery ordinance last fall, the City Council gave preliminary approval last week for regulating microdistilleries with license fees similar to brewery taprooms. The rules are expected to come up for a final vote April 16.
By August, Desrocher and her husband, Bill, hope to start Brainerd Distilling Co., thanks in part to a $12,000 grant that the longtime residents won in a contest sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber. The 1,200-square-foot distillery and 1,000-square-foot cocktail room called 5Rocks Distilling will be the only one in a 75-mile radius.
Brainerd, a city of 13,500 people about two hours northwest of the Twin Cities, has recently added new businesses and restaurants and revamped downtown apartments. Community leaders also have plans to revitalize the riverfront with amenities such as a river walk and plaza, hoping to draw new residents and tourists. A distillery, Desrocher said, just adds one more attraction.
Desrocher said she and her husband plan to use local grain, sugar beets, potatoes and wild rice to make vodka, gin and rum.
“Being in the heart of Minnesota, we have so many vast resources around us,” she said. “We want to be part of that.”
Elsewhere in the state, cities have amended rules to allow for microdistilleries in hopes of attracting new cocktail rooms. Near the Canadian border, a distillery and cocktail room got license approval in the town of Ranier on Rainy Lake, near International Falls. The distillery, Cantilever Bridge, plans to open in January 2019.