The story of Brian and Justin began in the Fall of 2014. At that tine, Brian was working at American Sky Brewing Company in Hudson, WI, and Justin recently joined the Hudson Homebrewer’s Club, which frequented the brewery. Brian was always willing to offer feedback to the local homebrewer’s on their efforts, and after a few positive reviews and some suggestions, Justin was encouraged to dive into brewing headfirst. It wasn’t too long until meeting Friday afternoons at the brewery became the norm to discuss brewing, the industry, and just socialize.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortuitously now, in the Summer of 2015 American Sky was sold to another brewery, Lucid Brewing Company, now known as North Loop Brewing Company, and moved operations to Minnetonka, MN. Brian was packaged up with the tanks and taken along for the ride. He continued to brew for the new owners, which included contract brewing for multiple well known labels in the Twin Cities, until the Spring of 2016 when his company formed Inbound Brewing Company in the shadow of Target Field. Brian continued as a brewer and in sales until deciding to return to Hudson and join Hop & Barrel Brewing Company.
During the same time, Justin was reading, researching, and brewing at a, probably, obsessive rate. The idea of starting a brewery first popped into his head shortly after Brian had left. Yet, Justin knew it would take just the right opportunity and much more knowledge for it to be anything other than just a daydream. But plan away he did.
Justin and Brian spoke less frequently over the next year and a half, but they managed to stay in touch. Brian traveled to Guatemala to assist in opening a brewery, and not long after his return the two met up at the Happy Gnome. Justin had a proposal. As with his beers before, he wanted Brian’s feedback, and hopefully approval, on opening a brewery. While Brian was as gracious and supporting of the idea as ever, and despite Justin being as annoying tenacious as ever, Brian had little interest in joining a start up.
The two kept talking as the plans slowly coalesced. The idea of a brewery was no longer just a daydream, but it still felt immaterial. Until the downtown location in Hudson opened up. This was the definition of a game-changer. Most of the talk to this point had been long-term, a year or two down the road was the earliest thought of even looking for a location, and while there was clearly a goal, it was just planning and consultations. The possibility of opening downtown Hudson changed everything. After one visit to the site it was apparent to both Justin and Brian that this was the perfect location and the right time to act. Something as trivial as a law forbidding a brewery in that location wasn’t going to stop them at this point…
From that time forward, the last few months have been a blur of meetings, networking, planning, agonizing over minutia, trips across the country, paperwork, paperwork, and yes, more paperwork, beer, lots of beer, city council hearings, good-cop / bad-cop interrogations, falling asleep to spreadsheets, inspections, the occasional shot of Jaegermeister, contractors, email chains pushing into the hundreds long, vendor calls, the most beautiful alley in America, sifting through manuals, reading, research, and buying an apple washer.
Writing this, we are six months after having beers at the Happy Gnome, and only a mere two weeks until the build out at our new brewery begins. No single word quite encapsulates what this time has been, but if one were to imagine a mix of giddy fulfillment, total exhaustion, sarcasm, and laughter, you would be getting close. Here’s to the last few months, and cheers to the years ahead.