The craft brewing bandwagon appears to be pulling into Jordan.
It’s been about six weeks since Tim Roets, a home brewing enthusiast from Chaska, took a look at the vacant first floor of the historic Jordan Brewery, fell in love with it and decided to pursue his longtime dream of opening a small-batch commercial brewery. Roets has leased the 3,500-square-foot space, and with his wife and two college-aged sons has begun preparing it for minor renovations to transform it into a taproom and “nanobrewery” — a smaller version of a microbrewery.
“We’re getting great support from the city,” Roets said. He said he’s hoping to get his plans approved by the City Council next month, clearing the way for state and federal license approval. It’s possible the business could be open by the end of this year, but Roets said it’s more likely “it will be beer next year.”
Roets, 49, said he began home-brewing when he was in college, “making the mistakes that you have to make to learn how to do it.” Over the years he has won numerous awards for a variety of different home-brewed beers.
He expects his Jordan brewery will produce about five different varieties. Production capacity will be two to three barrels a day, a small fraction of what a typical microbrewery makes, he said.
The craft-brewing business has exploded in Minnesota and nationwide in recent years, with sales by volume growing at a much faster pace than overall sales in the U.S. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild has 45 member breweries, 10 more than just a year ago and more than twice the number five years ago.
But until now, the microbrewery trend hadn’t arrived in Scott County, which was once home to six small breweries in the early 1900s. Some lacked the financial wherewithal to reopen after being closed during Prohibition, according to Theresa Norman, a curator at the Scott County Historical Society. Others suffered fires or simply had difficulty competing with other breweries in the state, she said.
About a year ago, a group of local investors tried to buy the old fire station in Shakopee with plans to open a microbrewery and taproom. The City Council rejected their purchase offer, but the group continues to work on a business plan and scout the market for sites, said Fred Marschall, one of the partners.
Started in 1866, the Jordan Brewery — at one time one of two in the city — lasted longer than any of its counterparts in the county, Norman said. Over the years it passed from its founders to other owners and for a while was known as the Schutz and Hilgers Brewery. It was purchased by the Mankato Brewery in 1946 but closed three years later. “The sales couldn’t keep up with what Mankato had spent to upgrade it,” Norman said.
A local investor, Gail Andersen, bought the vacant property in 1972 at a tax delinquency auction, according to her granddaughter Barbara Lee. The building, which had been severely damaged by a fire, was restored in 1990. Five apartments are on the top floor, said Lee, who manages the property.
The ground floor has been vacant for about two years and previously was occupied by antique stores and a general store, Lee said. “We’ve been trying to get a microbrewery in there and have had a lot of people go through it and kick the tires. But until now, nobody had the money or expertise to pull it off,” she said.
Kathleen Klehr, executive director of the Historical Society, said the prospect of a brewery returning to Jordan is welcome news.
In 2011 and 2012 the organization offered a historic “pub crawl” bus tour with stops at former brewery sites in Jordan, Shakopee, Belle Plaine and New Prague and samplings of beer in pubs along the way.
The event isn’t being held this year, but the potential to stop at an active brewery in the future “is really a wonderful thing,” she said.
“I think the idea of having brewing come back into the county is fabulous, especially since there’s such a long and rich history of it here.”