craft beer

New Brewery Aims to Open Doors in Rochester in 2019

From left to right: Brian Miller and Steve Patterson of Prime Stein Brewery. Photo courtesy of Prime Stein Brewery.

From left to right: Brian Miller and Steve Patterson of Prime Stein Brewery. Photo courtesy of Prime Stein Brewery.

Entrepreneurs Brian Miller and Steve Patterson are seeking to make their mark on the Rochester craft beer scene. The pair aim to open their business, Prime Stein Brewery, in this city by the end of 2019 adding their fresh, approachable style of beers to the Rochester palate. 

“I’ve been thinking of a way to be my own boss and own my own business for a long time,” explained Miller.

He began searching for something he was passionate about that could also create value for others, eventually landing on brewing.

Since then, Miller’s developed fifteen different craft beer recipes, including a “solid amber beer.” Patterson came onto Prime Stein about eighteen months ago to assist in marketing efforts for the business. The pair aim to create beers for everyone through Prime Stein, not just products for the craft beer enthusiast. Instead, they say their beers are not the darkest or the hoppiest and contain less intrusive flavors.

“It’s just really welcoming, local craft beer,” explained Miller.

Although relatively new to the brewing scene, these innovators are putting in the work, brewing up to five to six times a month out of Patterson’s basement.

“We’re basically trying to shove ten years of knowledge into two,” Patterson laughed. 

Right now, Prime Stein is more of a brand than a brewery. Currently, Miller and Patterson cannot sell beer, but they can donate it. Last year they were involved in several events in the community where locals could sample their brews including the Soaked in the Sun Followed by a Night of Fun event this summer at the History Center of Olmsted County and Stationary Astronaut’s Meeting of the Minds this fall.

Currently the men brew using a one-barrel system, which can create thirty-one gallons of beer.

Miller and Patterson look forward to contributing to the rapidly growing craft beer culture in Rochester, where they say so much work has already been done. 

“But the whole process is so long because you can’t sell until you have a license and you can’t get a license until you have commercially zoned property,” explained Patterson. “So basically, you run in circles until you get a break through. And we actually hit one now so we can make some progress on that now.”

Miller and Patterson are currently working on a letter of intent to lease property in Rochester for the brewery.

“We aim to be serving our very first beer by December 31st of 2019,” Miller said. 

Although neither entrepreneur has ever opened a brewery before, they’ve entered into the process prepared and head-on. Miller wrote a forty-page business plan, which the pair took to business consultant Rick Indrelie at the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance. SBDC, explained Patterson, was a wonderful resource for business growth and provided valuable reality checks.   

Patterson has had several side hustles to date and understood how to obtain things like federal and state tax identification numbers. But the process of seeking commercial space, filing the right paperwork, and seeking bank loans was all quite new.

Both men eventually hope to work full time in the brewery. But for now, they’re dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get this first location open in Rochester.

“The ten-year plan is to have several breweries opened under the Prime Stein name. We are hoping we can make that work,” said Patterson.

You can learn more about Prime Stein Brewery and keep up to date on their progress by following them on Facebook (@PrimeSteinBrewery), Instagram (@primesteinbrewing), and Twitter (@PrimeSteinBrew).

Rochester's Newest Taproom, Little Thistle Brewing, Opens Today

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Steve and Dawn Finnie have been crafting unique microbrews for the past decade. Now, the husband and wife team are set to open their own family-run taproom, Little Thistle Brewing, bringing a distinctive, modern feel and approachable beer menu to this city.

For Finnie, brewing began as a hobby. After getting introduced to the craft from a friend, he began creating experimental batches for others to enjoy while gathering at the Finnies’ home.

“We would just have people come to our house and make beer. We’d have parties and it was great to meet people from all over the world,” he explained. “And then we just kept doing that and then I think the hobby got a bit more serious.”

The brewing evolved onto such a scale that Finnie created a beer club, where friends would pay him $100 a year to help cover the cost of raw ingredients, allowing him to create even more beers. Many of these creations inspired the brews currently housed in Little Thistle’s 10-barrel (or 310 gallon) brewing system.

Little Thistle Brewing- named in homage to the national flower of Finnie’s native Scotland- is not the couple’s first professional brewing endeavor. A few years ago, Finnie, a trained physical therapist, left a fifteen-year career at Mayo Clinic to help create another brewery in Rochester. Finnie exited that business about two years ago.

“I’m glad we had the opportunity. We did it and we showed that we could brew beer,” he explained. “Now, this is exactly what we’ve wanted to do.”

Even before opening that first brewery, Finnie was crafting a business plan to create something as small as a nanobrewery, Dawn explained. Today, the Finnies’ vision is finally coming to fruition as they open the doors to Little Thistle.

While the process of launching the new brewery has been challenging, the largest hurdle, the Finnies explained, was finding a location for the business.

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“We would get in the car every night with the kids and drive around for months until we found something,” Finnie said.

The family traveled all over town knocking on doors to buildings, even buildings that were not for sale, Dawn joked, trying to find the ideal spot for their vision. The Finnies finally found the perfect location- a 5,000 square foot warehouse on two acres of land- in northwest Rochester nestled right next to the Douglas Trail.

Little Thistle Brewing is a taproom; no food will be served at the location without outside partnering.

“There is no confusion here. It’s all about beer, beer education, community, family, kids, dogs,” Finnie explained.

The taproom even has a motto: “Be humble, drink local.”

“We want [potential staff and employees] to work with us, not for us. And we really want to build that community from the ground up,” Dawn explained.

The business aims to appeal to everyone from the craft beer nerd to the light beer drinker.

“The beer is going to be the vehicle that brings people together. We want it to be unpretentious,” Dawn said.

Little Thistle will brew traditional beers, light lagers, experimental beers, barrel-aged beers, and cask ales, a traditional style beer in the United Kingdom with lower carbonation that’s served from a hand pump at a slightly warmer temperature. The brewery aims for quality versus quantity with the beers on tap, with most beers being served from more than one line to facilitate guest flow and enhance service at the bar area.

As the motto dictates, Little Thistle strives to support local businesses. The brewery looks forward to partnering with other Rochester establishments to provide different food options at the taproom. This “support local” approach extends to other breweries in the area as well, which Finnie does not view as competition.

“If someone goes to LTS or another brewery in town and they like the craft beer or never tried craft beer before, they are more likely to come to our place. …It just helps everyone,” he explained.

After years of working towards this point, Little Thistle Brewing is set to open up to the public for the first time today at noon. In the weeks leading up to this unveiling, the Finnies have alternated between excitement, sheer terror, and feeling like they’re just staying afloat.

“We’re on the final lap of this long marathon, I think,” Finnie laughed, “I’m just looking forward to being open and sitting on this deck and having a cold beer and watching people enjoy.”

Brewery Owner Says 'Life's Too Short' to Not Follow Dreams

“We built this with our hands and our sweat and sometimes our blood. And it’s open and making beer people love,” explained Brandon Schulz, Owner of LTS Brewing Company. Founded in 2013 by Schulz and business partner Jeff Werning, the taproom and microbrewery opened its doors in August 2015 as one of the original members of Rochester’s craft brewing community.

Schulz, an avid home brewer and lover of craft beer, enjoyed visiting microbreweries during family trips or business travel, but couldn’t find that same experience in Rochester. At that time, there was only one other craft brewery in Rochester; he saw a lot of room to do something different and to create that sense of community that he experienced at other breweries.

“Life’s too short”- the motto at LTS Brewing- was created during a trip Schulz took with friends through Michigan a few years prior to opening the brewery. They spent that time fishing, drinking, touring breweries, and generally just enjoying life.

“We hadn’t made enough time for adventures like that in the past and concluded life was too short not to make time,” Schulz explained. “Since then, it has been easy to see applications of that slogan everywhere.”

The message applied when the LTS Brewing team had to push forward with the physical buildout of the brewery and with the business development and growth that necessarily followed. It applied again when the head brewer had to step back from that position, requiring Schulz to move into that role, with much help from Werning.   

“I guess the point is, this was a dream of mine, and life’s too short to not follow your dreams. You never know what’s coming around the next curve in life,” Schulz said.

Today, LTS Brewing sells a variety of in-house brewed small batch ales and lagers. For the kids- and adults- they brew their own root beer and have several rotating craft soda flavors including cream soda, grape, and strawberry kiwi.

While they don’t serve food in the taproom, LTS Brewing hosts local food trucks and allows customers to bring in their own food to enjoy the brewery experience. The team works to maintain a comfortable, approachable atmosphere in the taproom, where the focus is on the beer.

Like any startup, LTS Brewing has faced several obstacles right from the beginning. In general, alcohol production and sales is a highly-regulated industry.

“Some of our biggest challenges in the buildout had nothing to do with alcohol laws, though,” Schulz said. “They were more related to the nature of commercial building regulations.”

In your own residential home, he explained, you can install your own HVAC system, plumbing, and electrical systems. But in a commercial building, you are required to use licensed contractors. The team had much difficulty in getting bids accepted by contractors in Rochester; a one-off project with an emerging business just wasn’t attractive.

They’ve also faced staffing issues.

“The service industry is challenging, both to hire and keep employees. And even when you find really good ones, many of them ultimately don’t stick around,” Schulz explained.

The LTS Brewing team- Schulz, Werning, and Tap Room Manager Carissa Darcy- have kept the doors open and Rochester filled with their craft beer for two years. Schulz himself works at LTS Brewing full time and at Western Digital as a software architect- also full time- after originally moving to Rochester in 2001 to work at IBM.

Prior to opening LTS Brewing, he worked on software by day and brewed beers in his garage at night for twelve years. He said Werning had more of the business development experience and “with his guidance the entire team at LTS has been a big part of growing the business.”

Schulz said he has no plans to leave his software job anytime soon; LTS Brewing is still growing and remains labor and capital intense.

The brewery continues to build their customer base largely by word of mouth. But they’ve also successfully engaged and attracted customers though Facebook marketing. They host themed “Trivia Tuesdays,” food truck events, and small batch releases, which they market and push through the social media platform to engage their customer base.

Schulz says the brewery plans to continue forward with “responsible growth.” This includes expanding brewing capacity to at least 2,500 barrels a year within the next two years, which would dramatically increase their distribution. He also aims to brew more high-end beers in large-format bottles while “continuing to flex our brewing muscles” on the more “approachable” beers.

Schulz also hopes to expand and engage the community around LTS Brewing with several different types of events. The biggest of these new gatherings was the recent Kegs & Barrels Festival, a collaboration between LTS Brewing, Kinney Creek, Grand Rounds, and Four Daughters Winery to celebrate locally crafted drinks, food, and community.