Sometime in 1980, a dedicated clinical social worker and casual home brewer named Mark Stutrud quietly began to research the possibility of establishing a craft brewery in the Twin Cities.
During 1983, Mark attended several meetings of the American Home Brewing Association. Here he met Charlie McElevey and Bill Newman, both key figures in the renaissance of craft brewing in the United States. Only nine ?microbreweries? were actively brewing at that time, Charlie and Bill?s among them.
Shortly after that, Mark met Fred Thomasser, a retired brewmaster whose career began with the repeal of prohibition. Fred and Charley agreed to mentor Mark.
Later that year, Mark became involved with St. Paul Mayor George Latimer?s ?Home Grown Economy Project? where he received invaluable assistance and counseling. His dream for a new brewery was beginning to look more like a reality.
To make sure the marketplace was ready for the kind of beer Mark wanted to brew, he began calling on local bars and restaurants to talk with managers and bartenders. This was where potential customers would first experience his new beer. And it?s where they would decide whether or not they would add his beer to their ?list.?
Mark discovered that most establishments were willing to stock and serve a locally-produced craft beer. Most people he spoke with believed that their customers would gladly give the beer a try. Armed with this knowledge, he drafted a business plan to prove to the city and prospective investors that the new brewery could succeed.
The city of St. Paul came through with a low interest loan that allowed the new company to secure the lease on a building. But it would take a year and a half of meetings, phone calls, presentations, not to mention investing everything he had, before Mark raised enough capital to afford the right equipment and a trained staff.
The first three months of 1986 were spent gutting and rehabing a former auto parts warehouse on University Avenue in St. Paul to turn it into a brewery. In late spring of that year, the original brewhouse arrived from Heimertingen, Germany.
After a full summer of test brewing, Summit delivered its first keg on September 25, 1986 to Johnny?s Bar, directly across the street from the brewery. The next day, kegs were delivered to five new accounts.
Later that year, Kincaid?s restaurant opened its doors with Summit Extra Pale Ale on draft. Michael Jackson, noted international beer expert, attended the opening and praised the new local beer for its superb flavor and authenticity.
Jeff Spaeth, head of Sales and Marketing, carried samples of Summit beer in sterilized champagne bottles for new accounts to try. If he made the sale, he returned in the one and only Summit van to deliver the beer and set up the draft line.
By June of 1987, Summit had over 40 draft accounts. But the brewery was still too small to interest a distributor. So Mark, Jeff and others were literally selling Summit Extra Pale Ale and Summit Great Northern Porter door-to-door.
They were so successful that by the end of 1987, Summit had a bottling line up and running, a Gold Medal for Great Northern Porter from the Great American Beer Festival, a new Winter Ale seasonal, and established wholesalers more than willing to distribute Summit beer.
In 1993, Summit tripled its square footage by leasing the building behind the original brewery. A 250-foot pipeline was installed to pump the beer from the fermentation tanks through the filters to the ?bright? beer tanks where the beer was held to fill bottles and kegs.
Throughout 1994 ? 1995 Summit introduced the rest of what is today the Summit line-up of beers (although there will be more).
In 1997, Summit increased its output to 31,400 barrels. It was becoming clear that with more and more beer lovers wanting more and more Summit beer, a new facility would have to be built. That year, ground was broken for the first brewery to be built in the Twin Cities in over one hundred years.
As Summit grows into the new facility, important new faces have joined the team. Experienced brewing chemist Gerri Kustelski signed on as Director of Quality Control in 1998. And Horace Cunningham, Brewmaster extraordinaire at Banks Brewing in Barbados, became Summit?s new Brewmaster and Production Manager in 2001.
Today, Summit Extra Pale Ale is extremely popular in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Our Summit Great Northern Porter is a favorite in Duluth, Minnesota. And our Summit Hefe Weizen is a strong seller in Chicago, where they love their wheat beers.
Summit Brewing Company may now brew more beer in a larger facility, but the goal of brewing only the best beers has never changed. And it never will.