Minnesota's breweries on tap to top 110 this year

Hell lager
A glass of Hell lager awaited consumption at the new Surly Brewing Co. in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file

The state of Minnesota is projecting that the number of licensed breweries will rise to 111 in 2015 — up from just five breweries a decade ago.

The alcohol and gambling enforcement arm of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety predicts a more than 60 percent increase over 2014 numbers. The agency is in charge of licensing breweries, and works with new brewers to ensure they can meet requirements.

It's a successful resurrection for an industry that was devastated in the early 20th century by Prohibition — and then again by beer industry consolidation in the 1970s, said Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild President Dan Schwarz.

"It used to be the case that every town of any size had a hometown brewery," Schwarz said. "It was a community gathering place, and because there was no refrigeration, you couldn't ship beer reliably around the state."

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Much of the credit for the resurgence of breweries goes to the "Surly bill," which was signed into law in 2011 and allowed breweries to serve their beer in taprooms. Schwarz said the taprooms help support brewers financially and give them a low-risk platform to test out new beers.

Minnesota beer brewers
Minnesota beer brewers
MPR News Graphic

Newer craft beer brewers aren't just opening in hotspots like northeast Minneapolis. An increasing number of the craft beer guild's new members come from outside the Twin Cities metro area.

"People find that the beer is good," Schwarz said. "You don't have to have some degree in art history to appreciate a craft beer — it's definitely approachable for the masses."

New breweries in the state are in the works or recently have opened in New London, St. Cloud, Shakopee and Jordan.