Lift Bridge plans new brewery within 2 years

Dan Schwarz, of Lift Bridge Brewing Co., stands behind the bar in the taproom on Tower Drive. The company plans to build a new brewery in the next two years. (Gazette file photo)

Since its creation in 2008, Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewing Co. has seen rapid growth — so much, in fact, that it expects to build a new brewery within two years.

"In 2016, we produced just about 15,000 barrels of beer," said Dan Schwarz, co-founder and CEO. At 31 gallons a barrel, that’s nearly 465,000 gallons last year.

"This year we’re on track to do someplace between 19,000 and 20,000 barrels," Schwarz said. "We’re up about 30 percent year to date."

Lift Bridge recently expanded its footprint in Wisconsin, and can now be found as far east as Milwaukee. It’s also available throughout Minnesota and in the Fargo area.

With continued growth on the horizon, the company’s 11,000 square-foot brewery and taproom on Tower Drive will no longer be sufficient, even with the 4,500 square-feet of warehouse space Lift Bridge rents nearby.

"We’re maxed out as far as how big that building can be," Schwarz said. "It really doesn’t support our long-term plans."

Within the next two years, Schwarz said, the company wants to double its space and have 30,000-35,000 square-feet of functional space.

"We’d like to have room to grow up to 80,000 square feet as part of a 10-year plan," he said.

Lift Bridge hopes to find space in Stillwater, but may have to consider nearby cities in the St. Croix Valley as well.

"We definitely want to stay in the area," Schwarz said. "This is where we’re founded, and we’re pretty connected and tied to the community, so ideally we’d be able to find something that fits in Stillwater or very nearby."

It’s not clear yet whether the Lift Bridge taproom will remain in its current location or move to the new space. According to Schwarz, the taproom could stay where it is, with production space added at another location.

Ideally, however, Lift Bridge would like to have space for a taproom, brewery and event space all under one roof.

In addition to more production space, the brewery also needs more storage space for its popular barrel-aged beers, such as its Commander Barleywine and its barrel-aged Silhouette, an imperial stout.

Now one of the state’s 10 largest craft breweries (out of more than 100), Lift Bridge has surprised Schwarz with the pace of its growth.

"We didn’t really think we’d be working on expansion plans quite this soon," he said. "It’s definitely exceeded our expectations. The beer and the brand has been embraced by not only Stillwater but the entire state of Minnesota, and we had great response from our launch in the heart of Wisconsin."

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