Success is brewing

Lift Bridge Brewery goes green with recent expansion

Lift Bridge Brewery employees Trevor Wirtanen, left, and Bryan Trost work on the bottling line Monday. The brewery has added a larger cooler, recirculating hot-water system and more fermenting tanks to meet increased demand for its products. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Lift Bridge Brewery is brewing green beer.

No, the popular Stillwater craft brewer is not making green-colored beer. St. Patrick’s Day is a month gone.

Rather, Lift Bridge has invested in equipment to increase beer production, extended brewing hours and taken steps to reduce the energy needed for the brewing process.
The company has also added one full-time and six part-time employees, according to Brad Glynn, chief operating officer for Lift Bridge.

“We’re expanding. We have more needs,” he said. “We have needs for more hot water. We have needs for more cooling. We use more electricity.”

Lift Bridge began its expansion in January by adding three new 30-barrel fermenters and a 40-barrel bright beer tank to increase its annual production by 20,000 cases of beer.

One step Lift Bridge took to reduce its energy costs is switching to a 480-volt, three-phase electrical service, Glynn said.

A second energy-saving method Lift Bridge uses is a high-efficiency on-demand water heater and 200-gallon hot water storage tank, according to Glynn.

“It’s on a schedule only to work when we’re working,” he said about the hot-water system.

But the most unique energy saver is Lift Bridge’s new 800-square-foot beer cooler. “I call it Stillwater’s biggest beer fridge,” Glynn said.

Glynn said the beer cooler has a system that pulls cold outside air into the cooler when outdoor temperatures drop below 40 degrees and shuts down the mechanical cooling system.

“We thought we would harness the cold air,” he said. “Since January when we installed the system, we haven’t used the mechanical cooling.”

Lift Bridge also added a small bottling line to produce six-pack bottles of many of its craft beers.

Even the Lift Bridge taproom at the Tower Drive brewery got a facelift with a fresh coat of paint, custom furniture from Woodstock Furniture and more Lift Bridge-branded merchandise.

Glynn said the brewery’s changes are driven by a growing market for the company’s craft beers.

“We’re making a lot more beer these days. Our distribution is going wider,” he said. “More people know about us in the Twin Cities. Not only are bars and restaurants buying (our beers), consumers are buying it, too.”

For an operation that was started by a group of friends in a garage, Glynn said Lift Bridge owners somewhat surprised by its growth in the first quarter of 2013.

“I wouldn’t say we’re surprised in a shocked kind of way. We surprised in a pleasant way that people understand that beer can be more flavor-able and interesting. It’s more rewarding than a surprised feeling.”

Glynn attributes Lift Bridge’s growth to consumer interest in locally sourced and produced products, whether it’s beer or food.

“Consumers are broadening their tastes. There’s a desire for more things local,” he said.

And Glynn said Lift Bridge owners expect demand for the company’s craft beers will grow once the weather warms up. Despite the growing demand for Lift Bridge products, the company plans to remain at its Tower Drive location.

“We’ll be here for the foreseeable future. No matter what, we want to be in Stillwater,” Glynn said. “But we want to keep growing our brand and keep adding jobs. For the next few years, we’re fine here, even with our aggressive growth strategy.