A few blocks off the main street in Montgomery sits a 130-year-old brick building — the old Montgomery Brewing Company, which closed in 1942. The exterior shows its age, with dusty windows and cracking paint on the doors.
But it’s getting another chance. For the first time in more than 70 years, the building is home to a brewery again, and the city of Montgomery is eagerly drinking it up.
“For the first growler sales we had, we opened December 27,” said Charles Dorsey, owner and brewer at Montgomery Brewing. “We had three kegs available and we sold out of three kegs in 36 minutes.”
Since then, Dorsey has added more brewing equipment and a taproom. The company’s head brewer, A.J. Newton, who used to brew part-time, now works full-time to meet demand.
“We probably tripled what we were doing a month ago,” Newton said.
The brewery’s exponential growth has been surprising in a city of about 3,000, Dorsey said, but has been helped along by a new state law allowing breweries to sell growlers on Sundays.
Montgomery Brewing was among the first breweries in Minnesota to take advantage of the new state law that lets cities decide whether to allow Sunday growler sales.
Voting to sell growlers on Sunday was an easy choice for Montgomery officials, Mayor Jean Keogh said.
“It’s good to always have a new business in town, something that is going to attract new people,” she said. “One of the things that people do now is they look for the breweries and they check them out, so it’s a really great asset for our community at this point.”
Montgomery Brewing also wants to be an asset to the community beyond their beer, said Lindsay Simon, general manager at Montgomery Brewing. Simon and her husband own the brewery building.
“One of the biggest things that we really focus on is participation,” Simon said. “The Girl Scouts ran a 5K, so we went out and helped them set up and ran a water stand. Do the Girl Scouts come and give us business? No, that’s not what it is about.”
Neither Dorsey nor Newton currently lives in Montgomery, so they’ve made an extra effort to build relationships with local businesses since opening, Dorsey said.
Pizzeria 201 delivers pizza to the brewery’s customers and has catered events in the brewery’s taproom. Edel’s Meat Market uses the brewery’s beer for its brats and Neaner’s White Front Saloon has Montgomery beer on tap.
The brewery will also have a presence at the city’s annual Kolacky Days celebration this year, held Thursday to Sunday. Montgomery Brewing will unveil an apricot beer, meant to complement a kolacky — the doughy pastry filled with fruit that the celebration is named after.
“We came up with a more bready, malt profile, and then we put the fruit in there,” Dorsey said. “Some of the fruit fermented the first round, so it actually has more of a wine flavor to the profile.”
Building relationships with people around town has been easy because many residents have ties to the building, Newton said. Since the original brewery closed, the 25,000-square-foot building has been home to a creamery, apartments, wood shops, a greenhouse and more.
“Everybody in this city knows somebody who has worked here in some form or another,” Newton said. “People come in and say, ‘I know so-and-so — my dad, or my grandpa — used to work here,’ which is awesome because now they are making their own connections with us.”
Montgomery Brewing plans to grow more in the coming year, Dorsey said. He hopes to increase distribution and attract people from around the metro to the small city in Le Sueur County.
So far, the brewery has been successful at attracting new people, said Keogh, the mayor.
“If I go there on a Friday or Saturday night, I don’t know hardly anybody in there, so it’s bringing more people to our community,” Keogh said. “And their cooperative efforts with some of the other businesses in our community kind of helps bring the community together.”
Janice Bitters is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.