Taprooms, explained

Much of the city council work session Monday night was used to explain the nature of taprooms during a discussion of a proposed ordinance allowing for such operations.

Councilor Nancy Erickson brought up a concern from a local restaurant owner who worried a taproom ordinance in Bemidji would mean breweries from elsewhere like Duluth could locate a taproom here and take away business.

That concern underscored some fundamental misunderstandings about what a taproom is.

Let’s start from the top.

Justin Kaney of Bemidji Brewing, which hopes to open a full-scale brewery in Bemidji in the future, was on hand Monday to sift through the details. (He’s also been a great resource for me in recent months.)

Essentially, a taproom is a place for visitors to sample a pint of the brewery’s beer, and is either attached or immediately adjacent to the brewery. That means it’s not by itself in a storefront; it has to be attached or near where the beer is made.

People would then be able to buy 64-ounce jugs of beer, or “growlers,” to bring home if the brewer had that license. Often, these jugs have an interesting design and some people even collect them, Kaney said.

The proposed ordinance would allow licensed brewers to apply for a license to sell the growlers as well as 750-milliliter bottles for consumption off-site.

Throughout the discussion Monday, it was emphasized that a taproom is not a bar, although the brewer can choose to only sell beer, and not food. That beer, however, must be produced at the facility. (Meaning no Miller Lites, Budweisers etc. at Bemidji Brewing’s taproom). Brewers must apply for a taproom license in order to operate one, as well.

Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis is one brewer that is often cited for its taproom experience. Check out a quick video on their website: (http://www.fultonbeer.com/the-brewery)

Here’s a list of breweries in the state and whether they have taprooms: http://mnbeer.com/breweries/