Paige Latham Didora
Welcome, Urban Growler Brewing Company!
Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak have wanted to start a business together for a long time. Deb’s passion for craft beer and Jill’s business and restaurant experience seem to go together naturally. An old brick livestock building in the St. Anthony-Midway neighborhood is now being transformed into what was once a dream.
Five years ago almost exactly, Deb came home from her corporate job and said, “I want to open a brewery”. That was the beginning of Urban Growler Brewing Company. At that time, they knew they were taking on a serious task, but wouldn’t have guessed it would take this long to make their business a reality.
Deb went to brewing school at UC Davis and spent time assisting at Minocqua Brewing Company and Summit Brewing. She developed her homebrew recipes, winning medals at the Minnesota State Fair and multiple national brewing competitions.
Although they both still work day jobs, they have been working hard creating Urban Growler Brewing Company for those 5 years.
I got the chance to sit down with them, sample a few beers, and discuss their dreams for the space.
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 and and visiting other breweries? Anything you want to replicate?
Deb: We have spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, visiting tap rooms 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 tap room idea, so when legislation changed in Minnesota we were very excited!
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 its like anything else. I remember when I was studying engineering years ago, there were many more men 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.
Their flagship, the Cowbell Cream Ale is what I call a gateway beer. While it is mellow and subtle for those who aren’t accustomed to robust craft beers, there is no lack of flavor. The malt is present throughout with slight grassy notes.
The Porter was created with cold press coffee as an inspiration. In response to Jill’s dislike of dark beers, Deb used coffee and chocolate flavors and serves the beer a bit colder and on nitro to create more creaminess. The result is a warm-weather Porter appropriate for summer that they both can enjoy.
The building itself is remarkable, and looking at their layout and plans makes me even more excited for their growth. Exposed brick, gears, beams, and even railroad tracks where the outside beer garden will be add to the organic feel of creation and production. The upper level will be loft style, the ground floor visible below. The brewhouse and tanks will be in view of the public, with a bar in the middle of the space and low and high top tables surrounding.
They plan to have a chef and a small kitchen, which will offer food pairings based on the beer selection. Up to 8 beers will be offered at one time including at least one IPA, and yes, they will have growlers!
Local ingredients are hugely important to their business, as is local support. They have reached some milestones in funding, including money from the City of St Paul, but they still have a long way to go. To find out about becoming a founding member, click here or come to their Open House, July 18th and 19th 5-8pm.
Urban Growler is palpably different from other breweries. Since the building is just a shell and the beer is still being perfected, I’m left to think this has everything to do with Deb and Jill. They want to foster an open, accepting environment that introduces everyone to new flavors and experiences.
I am eagerly awaiting their Open House this week and their Grand Opening late this year. Without a doubt, great things will come from this place, from these people.