Two longtime homebrewers want to start a taproom on Mainstreet that could be selling beer eight months to a year from now.
Jeremy Hale and Blake Verdon want to launch LTD (Live The Dream) Brewing Co. in either the old Jack Yee building at 1016 Mainstreet or the former Glenrose Floral space at Eighth and Mainstreet. They’ll be meeting with the City Council on Tuesday to discuss the plan.
“With the light rail coming, you can’t beat the location,” Hale said.
Hale, an actuary for an insurance company, lives in Crystal, and Verdon is an Eden Prairie native who lives in St. Paul and works in marketing. They met at the University of Minnesota and started brewing 8 ½ years ago, while they were in college.
“It started out on the stove with the syrup, and it just kind of grew and grew and grew,” Hale said.
With their hobby ballooning, they decided they wanted to share their love of beer with more people—and make some money, as well.
Hale and Verdon have already bought an eight-barrel system from an Ohio brewery that went out of business. That system can brew 250 gallons at a time. They expect to start off producing 750 barrels per year and should be able to grow to 1,500 barrels with some small additions of equipment.
The initial plan was to have a taproom in which people bring in their own food. Since the city likely won’t eliminate a food sales requirement altogether, LTD plans to sell small items like frozen pizza. However, they’ll continue to encourage people to bring in their own food and will have menus available from restaurants that deliver or are within walking distance.
As that policy suggests, Hale and Verdon are concentrating on helping existing businesses, not competing with them. They also plan to be good neighbors by assisting with alcohol awareness and drunken driving outreach, using the brewery for fundraisers and donating 5 percent of profits to a “Dream Fund” that contributes to a cause that helps people reach their dreams.
The outreach has more personal aspects, too. Verdon’s sister has Down syndrome, and they plan to coordinate with organizations that help businesses hire people with Down syndrome.
“Our focus is to work with everyone and get them excited. So: ‘How can we help you?’” Hale said.
Hale and Verdon are also intent on ensuring LTD is a “full experience” brewery, not just another bar. They will be there most of the time to greet customers personally. People will be encouraged to tour the brewery and ask about the beer and the brewing process.
They will also offer handmade sodas and children’s games and activities to foster a family-friendly experience.
“We’re really pushing that ‘full experience’ rather than just come in for a drink,” Hale said.
LTD will have five staple beers always on tap. These will range from a lighter American Kölsch to a dark Irish stout. The brewery will also rotate in more-unique beers. Hale and Verdon are trying a pineapple wheat beer now. They’ve also got a Belgian orange. And they may brew a raspberry special edition for the Raspberry Festival.
The focus will be on the taproom and growler sales, but the brewery will also do some private-label brewing. For example, a local restaurant would be able to contract with them to create a specific type of beer that fits the restaurant’s menu. The restaurant would then sell the beer under its own name—say a Lucé Lager or an Aji Amber.
LTD will not initially sell bottles to liquor stores, although Hale hopes to start doing that within one to four years.
Before the brewery launches, though, the city must first change its ordinances. Existing city ordinances allow for eight types of liquor licenses—but none of them are brewpub or taproom licenses.
Taprooms are not currently allowed because they do not serve significant amounts of food, which is a requirement included in the zoning ordinances’ definition of a bar or tavern. Currently, bars and taverns must have at least half of their sales come from food.
If the city did allow taprooms, the council would have to decide which zones they should be allowed in and what proportion of their sales have to be food. The city has suggested that breweries producing less than 3,500 barrels per year be required to have food make up 25 percent of sales, but LTD prefers 10 percent because of its vision of people bringing in their own food from local restaurants.
The groups will get together Tuesday to discuss the issue. Hale expects the licensing process to then take four to six months. With the build-out of the brewery, he estimates LTD could open its taproom eight months to a year from now.