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KARE in the Air: The historic Grain Belt Brewery

Our continuing drone tour takes us over a spectacular piece of architecture that no longer brews beer, but still proves intoxicating to look at.

MINNEAPOLIS — The historic Grain Belt Brewery in northeast Minneapolis is no longer producing suds, but the building itself still gets a fair share of attention. Tonight's KARE in the Air might show you why. 

According to "Historic Twin Cities," a number of smaller companies merged in 1890 to become the Minneapolis Brewing and Malting Company. One year later, construction commenced on a state-of-the-art brew house. Located at what is today 1220-1224 Marshall St NE, the complex was designed in what was to become known as the Richardsonian Romanesque style by two of the nation’s most respected brewery architects, Frederick W. Wolff and William L. Lehle.  

In the brewery's heyday, the two tallest towers at the brewery were used to house fermentation and refrigeration, while the middle section had the mixing operation and cooking kettles. The original grain bins could be found under the cupola topped by the weather vane.

Grain Belt beer thrived in the years following prohibition, marketed as “The friendly beer with the friendly flavor.” In the early 1950s, Grain Belt Premium was introduced and soon became a fixture in the Grain Belt product line. 

The 1970s, however, proved the brewery's downfall when competitors like Miller and Anheuser-Busch saturated the Minnesota market with big-buck advertising and significant discounts. Grain Belt sputtered, and the brand was sold to G. Heileman Brewing Company in Lacrosse, Wisconsin in December of 1975. By the end of that month, Grain Belt had made its last shipment of beer and shuttered its operations for good. 

A comeback would eventually be in the works for the Grain Belt brand. In 1991, Minnesota Brewing, operating out of the old Schmidt brewery in St. Paul, purchased Grain Belt brands from G. Heileman and returned them to Minnesota. In 2002, however, Minnesota Brewing also shut down, selling the Grain Belt brands to August Schell Brewing of New Ulm, where they remain in production today. 

As for the old Grain Belt Brewery, it now serves as the global headquarters for RSP Architects.  

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