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Beer here: Taproom boom takes root across Minnesota

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Toni and Keith Catalano play games at Fair State Brewing Cooperative.
From left, Toni and Keith Catalano of Minneapolis play games while drinking beer at Fair State Brewing Cooperative on April 23. The newlyweds say that they often decide which brewery to go to based on the outdoor space rather than the beer because the area "has so much great beer."
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Lupulin Brewing couldn't boast a hot location or a ready-made clientele when it opened in 2015 in a nondescript building off U.S. Highway 10 in Big Lake, Minn. But co-founder Jeff Zierdt knew beer — and he had a plan.

Lupulin started brewing what Zierdt calls "approachable" beers to lure big-brand beer drinkers into the world of hops-heavy IPAs and other craft brews. Locals began showing up, as did Twin Cities folks passing through the area on Interstate 94 or Highway 10 on their way to and from lake cabins or resorts.

The raspberry chocolate truffle is a collaboration with Fargo Brewing.
Fair State Brewing Cooperative's raspberry chocolate truffle beer is a collaboration with Fargo Brewing.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

The result: In four years, Lupulin went from one full-time employee and a few part-timers making 330 barrels their first year to 15 full-time workers and more than 30 part-timers making 3,200 barrels last year. A new $4 million capital plan will help build "a whole new brew house in order to start growing further outside the Minneapolis metro with our distribution," said Zierdt.

Chalk up Lupulin as part of a Minnesota business boom that few likely predicted in 2011 when lawmakers OK'd the "Surly bill," creating a taproom license in Minnesota and letting small breweries make and sell their wares on site. It's led to taprooms and craft breweries opening around the state from Austin to Duluth, driving business and building community ties in urban neighborhoods and in small-town Minnesota.