It was late afternoon on a sunny weekday and all the seats were already filled at Dangerous Man Brewing Co. It was a crowd mixed with young bike riders, older couples and a few twenty-somethings who brought along mom and dad.
One group of young women were playing cards. Others had food they’d brought in from nearby restaurants. The atmosphere was fun and festive.
And it was multiplied a half-dozen times across northeast Minneapolis as the local craft beer craze has spread since the Minnesota Legislature passed the so-called “Surly bill.” The bill loosened liquor laws and allowed for the expanse of breweries that could sell their product in on-site taprooms.
That has led to a spillover at some other local businesses, especially nearby bars and restaurants. It has also brought customers to local food trucks, which park by the taprooms that don’t sell food.
“We’re doing really well,” said Rob Miller, whose bearded “Dangerous Man” image is stamped on beer glasses, T-shirts and stocking caps. “It’s been way better than we’ve expected.”
Miller, who employs 10 people, was busy one afternoon brewing up a batch of the popular Chocolate Milk Stout. “It’s a lot of work keeping up with the demand,” he said.
Miller said he’s heard from nearby restaurants that takeout traffic has increased substantially. His customers often stop at Anchor Fish down the block, and Maeve’s Cafe has created new food items that can be easily transported down the street to Dangerous Man.
It’s the new brewconomy.
South Minneapolis and St. Paul are benefiting too. Later this month, St. Paul will follow Minneapolis in loosening restrictions for such breweries in developing neighborhoods, allowing closer proximity to schools and churches. And Town Hall Lanes, a beer hall and bowling alley, opened Friday in south Minneapolis.
If other cities are good indicators, expect the economic impact of beer to grow.
When breweries started opening in a rundown section of Cleveland, the neighborhood showed rapid improvement. In Brooklyn, new breweries increased the property vales of neighborhoods with breweries so much that soaring rents threatened to force them out.
In San Diego in 2011, brewers and brew pubs generated $299 million in direct economic impact in the county and created 2,796 jobs, according to the National University System Institute for Policy Research.
Pat Dwyer, owner of Grumpy’s Bar, which sits near three breweries, could see the newcomers as competition, but doesn’t.
“I fully, fully embrace them,” said Dwyer. “I welcome them and encourage my customers to go to them. They are a total asset. I’m seeing new faces at Grumpy’s since they opened.”
Dwyer has found a symbiotic relationship with the new neighbors. He serves their beer, and has beer glasses stamped with both his logo and that of nearby Indeed Brewing Co.
Clint Roberts, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, said Minnesota is late in the brew game compared to cities like Bend, Ore., and Portland. The industry is too new to know how many direct and spillover jobs it has created.
“It’s got tremendous potential here because people love to buy local,” Roberts said.
Joseph Alton has managed to forge the ultimate beer-guy dream jobs from the beer craze. He edits the Growler Magazine, a bimonthly publication about the craft and culture of beer, and he recently launched a radio program, “The Beer Show,” on ESPN (1500 AM).
“It’s interesting to see how the Twin Cities are changing culturally, and I think the craft beer industry fits into that perfectly,” said Alton. “It’s a social lubricant in a giant sense. We’ve said our magazine isn’t about beer; it’s about the lifestyle of craft beer advocates.”
Alton said he’d be “dumbfounded” if a half-dozen more breweries didn’t locate along the new rail line between the cities, and he’s confident the industry will continue to expand.
“We are decades behind some other cities,” Alton said. “I don’t seen any kind of saturation any time soon.”