Things are heating up at the soon-to-be Lift Bridge Brewery in Stillwater. The cooler is in place (and already in use). The brewhouse and fermenters are moved in. All that remains is to hook it all up, as if that’s a small task. If all goes well, the Lift Bridge boys hope to be producing beer in their new home by the end of the year.
Dan Schwarz, one of the Lift Bridge partners, recently met me at the site and gave me the tour. Here’s what’s happening.
I walked through the front door into a spacious, sun-drenched front room. Every wall was windows, making it a cheery space. Although empty now, it will eventually become the brewery’s taproom. Schwarz says they hope to put in a bar space for sampling and growler sales. They want to make it “a place where people can hang out.” Don’t expect this space to be ready soon. As Schwarz explained, “It isn’t really the top priority. There are other things that are more important on the spend list.” Like a brewery perhaps?
Stepping through a door at the back of this room takes you to the brewery. It’s a large space, just under 10,000 square feet, offering plenty of room for the brewery, cooler, and keg storage; for now at least. The brewery sits to the left. On the right are the cooler, an office space and a workshop. Beyond the cooler on the left is space for keg storage and distribution. Delivery vans are currently parked on the other side beyond the brewery.
The cooler has capacity for 1000 kegs when stacked four high. Sampling taps have already been installed in the outside wall. You have to attend to the important things first. The cooler also has a historical pedigree. While moving it in, the guys discovered a plate identifying it as the property of the Grain Belt Brewing Company in Minneapolis.
The brewery itself, a 15-barrel Newlands Systems brewhouse and three 30-Barrel, glycol jacketed fermenters, sits on a specially installed floor with a curb to contain water. The floor is coated with a chemical resistant epoxy and has some grit to keep it from becoming slippery. Floor drains were already in place when they moved in. Schwarz says that running at maximum capacity they anticipate producing around 2000 barrels a year on the system.
2000 barrels leaves Lift Bridge with less capacity than their current annual output. They also will not have a bottling or canning line at first. Schwarz explained how they plan to deal with this. “At least for now the plan is to do a little bit more experimental and high-end specialty stuff here and continue to contract brew the other beers at Cold Spring. And we’ll see how it goes.” Draft production will also be moved to Stillwater. As business grows and they are able to expand, they may move all of their production to the new facility.
Expansion is built into the brewery plan. They have room in the current brewery space for 12 more fermenters and expansion of the specially-floored area would not be out of the question. Of course that is all in the future, but Schwarz says, “For now I don’t think we’ve overbuilt. But we haven’t boxed ourselves in either.”
To get thing off on the right foot in the new brewery, Lift Bridge is hiring a Brewmaster. Schwarz explained, “There is a significant difference between homebrewing and production brewing. We all realize where we are with that. And we realize that this is something that we could use some help with. We really wanted somebody to come on who could help insure the quality and the consistency of our beers and stay on top of production, especially now that we’re getting our own equipment.” Look for an announcement from the Brewery about this very soon.
At the end of the tour Schwarz said, “Brewing in Stillwater has been the goal from the very beginning. This is like a dream come true. We’re excited.”
Tags: Lift Bridge Brewing