• Paige Latham Didora

Urban Growler Brewing Company #drinkthestory

In July 2013, I visited a shell of a building in an industrial nook between Minneapolis and St. Paul. I was there to feel out an up-and-coming brewery that was only in the planning stages. Today, a preview like this doesn’t draw too much attention. But seven years ago, new breweries were still coming one at a time, with enough notice and anticipation to be given a proper welcome.

rendering of exterior of urban growler

It was there that I met owners Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak. They were what some call a power couple. Deb trained at UC Davis before brewing at Minocqua Brewing Company and St. Paul’s own Summit Brewing Company. Jill, meanwhile, had been sharpening her business and restaurant skills for many years.

I sat down with Deb and Jill that day to talk all things beer and business. Here is a portion of that interview.

pint of beer on the patio

ABV: Can you remember the first craft beer you ever had?

Deb: I had a Bass – there was a good English bar where I lived. And Guinness, too. Not really “craft”, but just good beer.

Jill: Probably Fat Tire, I loved it.

ABV: What made you take the leap from working in corporate America and doing beer on the side to actually opening your own brewery? Was there a specific moment?

Deb: Actually, yes. I was working my corporate job when, within a short time, two of my co-workers died. They were relatively young, they had families. I thought, when is someday? There might not be a someday.

ABV: Wow. What are some of the things you have learned from working in and visiting other breweries? Anything you want to replicate?

Deb: We have spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, visiting taprooms and breweries. I remember going there and saying, “wow, I wish we could do this in Minnesota” but because of the laws at the time, we weren’t able to. We really enjoyed the taproom idea, so when legislation changed in Minnesota we were very excited!

UG space 2

The UGBC space in July 2013.

Jill: We’ve noticed things that will make a difference to women, things that men won’t even notice, like bar stools — I need a rail to put my feet on! Little things like that. We will offer half pours of beer, too. In the winter we will plan to arrange the door so that cold drafts don’t blow in. Those are the kinds of things we will pay attention to.

ABV: Speaking of women in beer, that has become a hot topic lately, even in the last few weeks. What is your take on that?

Deb: Well, it’s funny because women have been involved in beer for so long, from the beginning, really, and for some reason, it has become news. But I suppose it’s like anything else. I remember when I was studying engineering years ago, there were many more men [than women] involved. Brewing has become something that women are more encouraged to be a part of.

Jill: Appealing to women is definitely our niche. We want to help women explore craft beer, to try what they like, to ask questions.

Deb: Women like flavors, and that’s how you make new kinds of beer appeal to them.

The brewery opened about one year after this interview. Sure enough, it’s a hit for all kinds of people, especially women. The brewpub is one of the most welcoming spaces in the craft beer community, and that’s the real story here.

During these difficult times, Urban Growler is offering touch-free takeout options now. It feels incongruent to order takeout from a place where I feel so welcome, and I look forward to the day when I can sit at the bar again. But in the meantime, call or visit their website to order food and crowlers to-go, Wednesday through Sunday (not including Easter). I highly recommend their Friday fish fry, and as this is the last Friday in Lent, this week is a great opportunity to give it a try. I promise you will want to pair the fish with Urban Growler’s flagship, the Cowbell Cream Ale. Cheers!

#drinkthestory is a media collection conceived by writer and craft beer expert Allo Gilinsky, based in Sonoma County, California. We want to hear about the stories your drinking. Please use the hashtag and share.

#UGBC #craftbeer #UrbanGrowlerBrewingCompany #drinkthestory #Drinkthestory #CowbellCreamAle #UrbanGrowler

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