With more than 100 craft breweries in Minnesota alone, brewers must stay creative to keep competitive. These entrepreneurs are constantly concocting new beers, staging live music and hosting special events designed to lure thirsty revelers. Their latest innovation? Twin Cities breweries are suddenly hot spots for shopping stylish handmade goods by Minnesota artisans.
Minneapolis Craft Market, a roving event hosted at various venues throughout the Twin Cities, is a driving force behind the trend. Inspired by the craft markets of her London hometown, founder Hayley Matthews-Jones created her weekly event to feature stylish handmade goods by Minnesota makers. She started partnering with Twin Cities taprooms in 2015, first with Sociable Cider Werks and Insight Brewing. For Matthews-Jones, brewery events meant spacious digs for her sprawling markets. And for the brewers, it often meant more foot traffic during slow times of their business day.
At a recent Saturday afternoon market at Modist Brewing, a shopper found an impressive array of vendors including Strey Designs, a Minneapolis-based line of leather handbags and accessories. A regular at Twin Cities brewery craft markets, designer Sarah Butala sells $15 colorful leather keychains and $45 leather wallets alongside her $400 convertible leather handbags. She also sells a line of bags crafted from eco-friendly leather alternatives, such as Piñatex and cork. And she credits brewery craft markets — specifically those created with Minneapolis Craft Market — with giving her brand momentum when it was launched in 2014.
Butala praised the “neighborhood feel and low-pressure environment” she finds at these markets. “Plus,” she added, “it’s more fun to sell with a beer in your hand.”
Everthine Jewelry founder Aisha Formanski is another fan of brewery markets, having sold her pieces at breweries including Insight, Lakes & Legends and Modist. She specializes in hand-cast jewelry made from precious gems, sterling silver and 14-karat gold. She also sells a lower-priced line of customizable, hand-stamped sterling silver rings and bracelets starting at $30.
Breweries and craft markets have “a similar clientele,” explained Formanski. “These markets are a low-cost, low-commitment way for makers to introduce their products and test the waters of doing shows — all while having a good time.”
In addition to their low-key vibe, craft breweries offer serious crossover appeal for craft markets. After all, Minnesotans are turning to small, independent breweries for their handcrafted quality and local character. Likewise, the current renaissance of artisan-made goods is a reaction, at least in part, to the modern retail climate, where online shopping reigns and locally owned boutiques are increasingly rare.
“Breweries appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit it takes to get something off the ground,” said Matthews-Jones of the Minneapolis Craft Market. “They’ve always been great partners.”
Or as Becky Sturm, a producer of Twin Cities craft markets and founder of the St. Paul-based StormSisters Spatique skin care line, put it: “We all want to shop local. Why not drink local at the same time?”
Jahna Peloquin is a Minneapolis-based fashion, design and arts writer.