Investors brew up a business venture in Luverne
LUVERNE — What began with a few buddies shooting the breeze over coffee at McDonald’s one morning has turned into an entrepreneurial vision with more than 70 investors keen on brewing beer on East Main Street in Luverne.
They formed the Luverne Brew Partners, and in February announced the brewery will market its line of beers as the Take 16 Brewing Co.
Kirk Bloemendaal leads the seven-member board of directors — several of whom also invested in the GrandStay Hotel & Suites project completed in Luverne last spring.
“The more (the craft brewery) was talked about, the more it just seemed to make sense,” Bloemendaal said. “The pieces fell in place for it to be a viable plan and a great idea.”
The Luverne Brew Partners purchased property — a former used car lot and Sturdevants Auto Parts building — in late 2012, not long after the group began its informal meetings.
“That was a very big step,” Bloemendaal said. “We felt acquiring the building was making it a reality and a home that we knew where the brewery was going to be.”
By February 2013, a formal structure had been developed and the partners were “seriously working on raising capital and putting a plan together.” At the same time, work began inside the buildings.
The Sturdevants building, which will house the brewery equipment, has undergone major work already, with its interior merely a shell of what once was there. The building’s high ceilings provided a good fit for the brewing tanks, but its age required all new mechanical work, from electrical to plumbing, as well as new underground water and sewer drainage. The Connell Car Care facility, meanwhile, will undergo a remodeling project to make it into the Take 16 Tasting Room.
“Construction on the building will take several months to a year,” Bloemendaal said. “The plan is to start with the brew house area, finish that and begin brewing.”
The tasting room will have a regular capacity of 40 people, with a lot of outdoor space available to host special events, he added.
To help get the brewery established, the partners have signed a three-year contract with Bo Belanger of South Shore Brewery in Ashland, Wis. Belanger is considered an expert in brewery operations and is a consultant for brewery start-ups.
The contract gives the partners access to Belanger’s beer recipes and “wealth of knowledge,” said Bloemendaal.
The group is also working with Troy Hoekstra of United Development Solutions on development, distribution and merchandising.
Take 16 Brewing Co. received its name from several different sources. For starters, the brewery and tasting room are located on East Main Street, also known as Old Highway 16.
“We wanted something that was going to reflect the community and this general area,” Bloemendaal explained. “Highway 16 was a major route that passed through Luverne. It went from Detroit (Mich.) to Yellowstone (National Park in Wyoming). It was a major route for connecting with family and friends and new adventures.”
Take 16 doesn’t just take into account the name of the highway. It also is referenced several times in Luverne’s history. Bloemendaal said Philo Hawes, the founder of Luverne, built his home in Luverne — a 16- by 16-foot cabin. Then, when Hawes was later involved in platting the town, it began with a 16-square-block parcel.
“As we started talking about these things, the number 16 kept coming up, and we took it as a sign to use 16 in the name,” Bloemendaal said.
While Take 16 won’t be brewing for a while, plans are already moving ahead to have its beers brewed off-site in the interim. The partners are working with Brau Bros. Brewery at Marshall, and Bloemendaal anticipates Take 16 will have its beers available within another month.
“(We want to) get in the market a little earlier … brew our beers at an established brewery and continue to work on raising capital,” he said.
All four of the introductory beers were developed by Luke Rensink of Sioux Falls, S.D. Rensink started his own brewery while in college, and he will be the brewery operations manager once Take 16 opens.
After sampling Rensink’s creations and bringing in outside groups to sample and offer opinions, the partners chose beers ranging from pale ale to stout, the darker variety.
Stormy Jack Stout, named after Stormy Jack, the first mail delivery man who came to Luverne on horseback, is an American stout inspired from English and Irish stouts.
The Country Mile Kolsch, named to reflect the area we live in, Bloemendaal said, is a German-style, easy-drinking beer.
“It has been a big hit for us,” said board member Verlyn Hoff. “Everyone likes that one.”
The Hayloft Hefeweizen was also named with a nod to the roots of southwest Minnesota.
“We think back to the old barns that we all loved, and the hayloft was where a lot of things happened,” Bloemendaal said. “Haying was a big event during the summer season, and beer was often a part of it after an honest day’s work.”
The Hefeweizen is an amber-colored wheat beer, defined as having “a little more heft to it” as compared to the Kolsch.
The fourth beer is Kick the Can IPA (India Pale Ale), named such for a couple of reasons. Bloemendaal said the name not only brings back memories of growing up in small towns where it was common for kids to run free and play kick the can in the street, but it also is a nod to the craft brewery and production of bottled beer.
“Craft breweries are kind of a new concept in the area, and we commonly drink the canned beer,” Bloemendaal said. “We want people to kick the can and try a craft beer.
“After they’ve had a craft beer a couple of times, they just don’t want to go back,” he added.
While selecting beers and developing a craft brewery has been a learning experience for all of the board members, Hoff said, “It’s been fun, though. We’ve went to a lot of breweries to check them out.”
“What we’ve found is, with the craft brewery business, you don’t really look at each other as competitors,” added Bloemendaal. “You’re kind of partners in the industry. Other brewers are willing to work with you. It’s been very helpful just to talk to other breweries.”
Another advantage of brewing craft beers is that new beers can be introduced more often. In fact, it’s a standard practice.
Bloemendaal anticipates that Take 16 will have a selection of seasonal beers, and will also sell growlers in the tasting room of special batch or test-run beers — those that may only be purchased on-site.
The primary business, however, will be in bottling and distributing Take 16-branded beer in kegs and bottles. It will be sold in Luverne at the Blue Stem restaurant, as well as in liquor stores throughout the area.
Bloemendaal said there has been a “tremendous amount of interest” in tying the brewery into local special events, including the town’s hosting of the state American Legion baseball tournament this summer, Buffalo Days and a newer event, Harvest Jam, which featured Minnesota-brewed beers during its inaugural event in 2013 at the Blue Stem.
The brewery is seen as economic development for the community, with added revenue and jobs. Bloemendaal said the facility will staff one full-time person initially, with plans to grow to three employees shortly thereafter.
At this point, Bloemendaal said plans are to have the tasting room open Friday and Saturday nights and during special events.
“We want to complement what’s going on in town,” he said. “We have no plans to be a bar or a restaurant — just a tasting room.”
One of the reasons Hoff said the group of investors believed so strongly in establishing a local craft brewery was the ability to utilize local ingredients. A hops farm near Valley Springs, S.D., has been successful in growing and marketing its crop, while a young barley grower near Edgerton markets his crop to Budweiser.
“All of these ingredients can be purchased locally, and can foster new opportunities for farmers,” Bloemendaal added. “We hope to encourage alternative crops and just support local farmers. We really feel it can be kind of a keystone for the community. It would be a reason for people to want to be in Luverne.”
With a building secured and a brewery operations manager hired, the Brew Partners have overcome two of the biggest hurdles. The third, which is ongoing, is raising all of the capital required to make the brewery a reality.
As of February, more than $600,000 had been raised through investors. That’s about halfway to the total fundraising goal, Bloemendaal said.
The initial call for investors included a $5,000 minimum contribution, with more than 70 individuals contributing.
“We wanted to give as many people as possible an opportunity to invest,” Bloemendaal said. “We really wanted it to be a community project.”
Now, the group is looking for private financing in increments of $100,000, with a competitive interest rate offered in return.
“We do have an offer from a commercial lender, too, and if we feel we need to, that’s something we’ll take advantage of,” Bloemendaal said.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.