MINNEAPOLIS - It didn't exactly scream up-and-coming area when Dan Justesen first arrived.
The abandoned Fruen Mill elevator towered over the property, its windows shattered and tagged with graffiti.
But just below that symbol of urban blight, Justesen saw potential in another abandoned building, the old Glenwood Inglewood water bottling plant.
“That's how opportunity exists because someone missed it before you,” says Justesen.
On February 18th Justesen will hold a grand opening for Utepils, Minnesota’s latest craft brewery.
With a $4 million investment, Justesen and his partners claim the state’s sixth largest brewhouse.
A more traditional route might have been to start small and expand, but Justesen notes that he’s already in his 50s. “I’m too old to do that,” he laughs, “so I had to just skip a few steps.”
When a winery in Oregon objected to the use of the name Bryn Mawr for his brewery, Justesen settled on Utepils, a Norwegian word Justesen describes as “the longing for and the anticipation of that first beer you can enjoy with some friends outside in the sunshine after a long, cold, dark winter.”
The brewery’s neighbors hope Utepils brings other spring-like signs.
“The Near North has always been relatively depressed economically and we are hopefully going to help change that,” said Justesen. “Brewery openings have been a catalyst all across the United States for the redevelopment of areas because they bring people.”
Justesen points to the brewery’s proximity a mile from downtown and a slew of activities just blocks away at Wirth Park, as assets he believes will aid his success. “All of those people working up a sweat needed something to refresh them,” he smiles.
Eric Harper, Utepils’ head brewer, worked previously at New Glarus brewery in Wisconsin and the Summit brewery in St. Paul. “To start from scratch and do something total new, that’s fun,” he said.
An outdoor beer garden is being planned, along with free tap water from the Glenwood Springs – from which the beer is made.
All of it taking shape in the space that didn’t scream brewery - until it happened.