Patio Season

As the temperature hovers around 50 degrees on this mid-February day, my thoughts drift to the summer: sitting outside, swatting mosquitoes and swapping stories with friends over a cold frosty beverage. I’m not the only one; just yesterday local Minnesota Brewery @Summitbeer tweeted, “The urge to drink a beer on a patio today is very strong in this one.” It’s ingrained in the Upper Midwest attitude, and many histories of the region discuss the fancy beer gardens built by breweries before prohibition.

The Twin Cities based Surly Brewing Company wants to continue the tradition of Midwestern beer gardens as part of a plan to build a new $20 million brewery. According to a recent article on Minnesota Public Radio’s website the company proposes a “60,000 square-foot brewery and restaurant with a beer garden, roof deck and bar.” The facility expects to create 150 new permanent jobs.

A beer garden, roof deck and bar sound like an absolutely fantastic way to spend the six evenings in the Twin Cities where snow isn’t either falling or melting.

There is only one hitch in Surly’s master plan. It is currently against the law for a brewer who brews more than 3,500 barrels of beer to sell alcohol directly to the public. In other words, Surly can certainly open a restaurant, but they can’t serve any beer at the restaurant. I had my brilliant lawyer wife read through the legalese and essentially the law states that if you have a license to manufacture “intoxicating liquors” you can’t also have a retail license to sell the liquor.

In other words, Surly Brewing Company needs the law to be changed to move forward with their plans.

To do this, not only have they appeared in traditional media outlets like the local news papers and radio but they reached out to their dedicated following on Twitter, Facebook and their own corporate blog.

They’ve shared with over 19,000 Facebook friends articles on the issue at hand, and asked for feedback on what their State Representatives have said about emails to change the law. Surly has done the same with their 8000 followers on Twitter. Finally on their Brewer’s Blog two days ago, they posted extensive information on the question posed to the legislature and how people can help.

Surly is a small organization, and makes fantastic beer, but no one is going to call them a titan of the brewing industry. However, the company has been very active on various social media platforms and their calls to action seem to have been heard. In less than an hour on Facebook, 46 people had already replied about communicating with their legislators and are sharing their experiences about lobbying to get the law changed.

We don’t yet know if Surly will be able to successfully leverage social media to help get the laws changed, but I wouldn’t bet against them. They make an excellent product (which I’ve tested enough to appoint myself as unofficial quality control) and they have a very dedicated following. While I can’t speak for my organization, I don’t really see anything negative with this plan. New jobs, a beautiful proposed destination, and another exciting place for Minnesotans to go and enjoy delicious Surly beer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head off to my secret basement laboratory to make my special DEET and sunscreen concoction for summer patio season.

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One Response to “Patio Season”

  1. Brad says:

    Well, let’s cross our fingers!

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