Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewing Company announced Wednesday its plans to expand operations in a second brewery and taproom facility in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Lift Bridge will lease their new space–which formerly housed Barley John’s Brewing Company–from coffee and soft drink manufacturer Big Watt Cold Beverage Co., who purchased the New Richmond facility earlier this year.
Lift Bridge’s new digs will feature a 1,200 square foot taproom with seating for a little over 100 patrons between the indoor space and outdoor patio. The brewery currently has tentative plans to open the space to the public on May 1. Even more importantly for Lift Bridge, the new facility comes equipped with a four-vessel, 30-barrel brewing system, which the brewery predicts will allow them to brew between 5,000 and 10,000 additional barrels per year—a critical expansion for a business that has found itself capped out in recent years.
“First and foremost, we are a production brewery,” Lift Bridge Co-Founder and VP of Marketing Brad Glynn told Beer Dabbler. “We have been out of capacity at our current Stillwater location for several years so we really have been looking for more production space, that really is the engine that drives our business.”
That bump in capacity has the potential to take Lift Bridge right up to or past Minnesota’s cap on taproom growler and Crowler sales for breweries that produce more than 20,000 barrels per year, which Glynn says definitely factored into his brewery’s decision to expand into Wisconsin.
“The laws in Wisconsin are better than they are in Minnesota for breweries, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about that. We can definitely leverage those more favorable laws to be able to sell direct to customers, even if we go beyond the 20,000 barrel mark that Minnesota has set, which we might soon.”
While all this talk of capacity and legalese might sound like inside baseball, Glynn is quick to note that the extra capacity will have a direct liquid payoff for Lift Bridge’s fans, as the additional space and brewing gadgetry in New Richmond will allow the brewery to create new beers and return some of their focus to recipe development.
“The [New Richmond] brewhouse is bigger than ours at Stillwater so it does give us some latitude to do some other fun stuff,” Glynn says, “Because it’s a four-vessel, we can do decoction mash and other cool nerdy things for some fun lagers and maybe some other beer styles that we can’t at our current Stillwater facility.”
“We’ve had to put a lot of innovation on the back burner because we are so behind on capacity and we’re just cranking out the Farm Girl, the Hop Dish, the Juice-Z nonstop at our existing facility,” Glynn continues. “We really can’t take a moment to try something new with a funky seasonal. This will hopefully allow us to do a little bit more of that, with a little bit more flexibility on the brewhouse side over there, will allow us to experiment a little bit more. Certainly with the two taprooms, to be able to do a fun taproom-only batch and get immediate feedback from customers, definitely will help our innovation series too.”
Glynn also shared his excitement about the potential for collaboration with nearby craft beverage producers like Oliphant Brewing and 45th Parallel Distillery, in addition to their co-tenants at Big Watt. Glynn cites Lift Bridge’s existing line of sodas and hard seltzers as a natural fit next to Big Watt’s portfolio, which features caffeinated and CBD-infused sparkling waters in addition to the cold press coffee that the company is known for.
Lift Bridge’s move to Wisconsin follows closely on the heels of Northeast Minneapolis distillery Tattersall Distilling’s announcement of their expansion into Wisconsin with a new destination distillery in River Falls, with Tattersall also pointing a finger at Minnesota’s comparatively restrictive liquor laws as a major factor in their decision to take their business across the border. At the state capitol, trade organizations like the Minnesota Craft Beverage Council are attempting to change some of those laws via a bill known as the Drink Local Economic Recovery Package. You can find out more information about their efforts at the MNCBC’s website.