Can Rochester handle seven breweries?
It's about to find out. The latest entry into the city's flourishing craft beer scene is Prime Stein Brewery, which announced this week that it was leasing a 4,2000-square-foot building that once housed Shoot & Save Sports, 106 16th St. SW, Rochester.
The sporting goods store, owned by Bob and Barb Frerker, closed after 37 years in business.
The announcement by Prime Stein owners Steve Patterson and Brian Miller comes as Rochester's sixth brewery, Thesis Beer Project, gets closer to opening. Adam Fredericksen, Thesis's co-founder with wife Allyson Palmer, said he is looking at opening either this month or next.
Patterson said Prime Stein is pursuing an aggressive timeline with plans to open in November. It will start modestly with a one-barrel system and grow as financing and time permit. By comparison, Little Thistle Brewery, the most recent Rochester brewery to open, is a 10-barrel system, LTS a seven and Forager a three.
"We'll probably be operating out of the one-barrel system for the first three to six months, and we'll use our capital to grow into a bigger system," Patterson said.
Both Patterson and Miller have been working to open a brewery in Rochester for the past two years. Patterson works full-time in transportation and part-time as a bartender at The Thirsty Belgian. Miller is a car salesman.
Asked about the brewery's financing, Patterson said Prime Stein will use equipment already purchased by the two owners, and an investor will help with the buildout of the brewery.
They intend to make the bar, tables and chairs themselves. Once open, an assortment of beers will be on tap but with a focus on ales that will differentiate Prime Stein from the other Med City Breweries, he said.
"We want to focus on having quality beer and having a clean establishment," Patterson said. "We'll grow into a bigger system, but we can't afford to start off huge."
Rochester's beer industry has seen vigorous growth since Kinney Creek Brewery opened its doors in 2012, becoming the first brewery to open in Rochester since Prohibition. Since then, four more craft breweries have opened, with two more on the way.
Nationally, the number of breweries opening continues to grow, just not as fast as in previous years. Last year, the country blew past the 7,000 brewery mark. Recently, the craft beer trade group the Brewers Association determined that 85 percent of drinking-age adults now live within 10 miles of a brewery.
The opening of a sixth and seventh brewery in Rochester sparks the perennial question about when and if the area will reach a saturation point in beer production.
Patterson believes there is room to grow the pie by attracting domestic beer drinkers who haven't yet been turned on to craft beer. He thinks Rochester could host as many as a dozen breweries. The more quality breweries also burnishes the city's reputation as a craft beer destination.
But to succeed, each new brewery will have to learn how to differentiate itself in order to stand apart from the growing competition.
"The variety and the different places, I think, is going really going to strengthen the beer culture in Rochester," Patterson said.