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Brewer hopes to pop open brewery, taproom in Eyota

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Beers available at South Fork Brewing Co. in Delano. The head brewer at South Fork is looking at opening a brewery in Eyota.
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A presentation at the Eyota City Council meeting Thursday night could become the first step toward bringing a brewery to the city, Brett Lincoln, head brewer at South Fork Brewing Company in Delano, outlined his plan for opening a new business in Eyota.

"I like little towns," Lincoln said. "I think breweries belong in smaller town."

Lincoln said he has long dreamed of opening his own brewery and taproom, and a serendipitous stop in Eyota led him to looking into the city. On his way to a craft been festival in Iowa, he stopped in Eyota to eat and developed an instant appreciation for the town, he said.

When he got home, he looked up Eyota online and saw that the city had recently changed its liquor laws to allow breweries and taprooms – where consumers can either purchase a growler of beer to take home or stay for a pint onsite – and that Eyota was actively trying to attract breweries.

Eyota Mayor Tyrel Clark said when the state passed the so-called "Surly Law" that allowed taprooms in Minnesota and provide a boon to the craft beer industry, he had visited taproom in the Twin Cities and decided a destination business like a brewery could become a positive engine economically in Eyota.

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"We're trying to get a destination business where people will travel to Eyota," Clark said. "We presented the idea to the EDA to update the liquor ordinance to allow breweries, and that we can offer assistance."

In the case of the Lincoln's proposed brewery, Clark said the city would look into low-interest small loans to help the business get started. The site Lincoln is looking at, Clark said, is the corner of the 11-acre lot the city purchased primarily to develop a wetland for storm runoff. The council had previously discussed setting aside a one-acre portion of that tract for commercial or residential use.

Lincoln's plan is to build a roughly 4,500-square-foot log cabin-style facility that would have a naturalistic feel, Clark said. But before any construction would start, there are a lot of changes that need to be made. "There will need to be a zoning change and a hearing," Clark said. "There are a lot of T's to cross."

The business would start with two employees and, hopefully, expand to seven in five years.

In addition to being the head brewer of an existing brewery, Lincoln said he also owns another business managing horses at Canterbury Park. "I've had experience owning a company," he said. "The city council and EDA are backing me. That's very important."

Eventually, he said, he hopes a deal can be worked out so that he can bring his award-winning barley wine, cream ale with amaretto and other beers to Rochester's back yard.

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