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Indeed Brewing Co. in northeast Minneapolis just turned 10 — a member of the class of 2012, a year that saw 13 brewery openings in Minnesota.

A lot has changed at Indeed over the past decade. The business grew quickly. The original cold room that was supposed to last for years was outgrown in months and now serves as the brewery's "garage fridge." The "huge space" they started with is filled to the brim, and the projected 3,000 barrels of annual production is now more than 20,000.

In a way, the development of Indeed mirrors the massive transformation of the entire Minnesota craft beer industry.

The year 2012 was big for beer in Minnesota. The "Surly Bill," which allowed breweries to sell pints of beer on-site, had passed the previous year. Existing breweries were racing to open taprooms, which were a key enabler for the meteoric growth of the craft beer movement.

Indeed was the state's first brewery to open with a taproom in its business plan from the start, and the planning showed. Most taprooms in that moment were hastily installed in existing space, giving many a break-room-at-the-plant feel. In contrast, Indeed's taproom was warm and welcoming. Oak paneling from a tree cut by a friend in Wisconsin lined the walls, complemented by a long oak bar and wooden tables salvaged from the club room of an old lumber milling magazine. It had the feel of an old-fashioned brewery hospitality room.

"That ultimately, I think, led to a lot of our success." said founder and CEO Tom Whisenand. "People were really excited. Taprooms were new — everybody wanted to go to a taproom. ... It seemed like the majority of the people who learned about Indeed learned about it from the taproom."

The Northeast brewery district is now a fixture of the Twin Cities beer scene, with enough breweries to make a taproom crawl easy. But in 2012, Indeed was alone. Its neighbors were a glue factory, a machine shop, a paper warehouse and vacant buildings. Indeed's presence anchored a renaissance that brought restaurants, cafes, artist studios and, of course, breweries.

"Four or five years ago I got comfortable with the idea that we had had an impact," Whisenand said. "We're pretty modest people here. We're not going to take credit for a lot of things. We're certainly not going to take credit for the success of the beer industry in Northeast. But if you look back, we laid an awesome foundation for the neighborhood."

But success has been a double-edged sword. Real estate prices have risen to a point where a small manufacturing brewery can no longer justify the expense. While a tiny, taproom-only operation may still be able to make a go of it in the neighborhood, for anything larger, the Northeast brewery boom has likely reached its peak.

When Indeed Brewing Co. opened in 2012, it was the first taproom in northeast Minneapolis.
When Indeed Brewing Co. opened in 2012, it was the first taproom in northeast Minneapolis.

Eliesa Johnson

Always innovating

Indeed again broke new ground in 2019 by opening a brewery and taproom in Milwaukee. Indeed long had plans to distribute beer in our neighboring state, having observed other breweries shipping beer there only to have it be stale by the time it hit shelves. They decided that the way to succeed in Wisconsin was to be local, and the way to be local was to open a taproom.

Minnesota officials initially told them they couldn't expand; state law doesn't permit the ownership of two breweries. Barley John's Brewpub had been told the same thing when planning their now-shuttered New Richmond, Wis., brewery in 2011, leading them to opt for creative ownership strategies. But Indeed challenged the prohibition, arguing successfully that Minnesota laws did not extend across state lines.

So, where does Indeed go from here?

Maxed out in their current location, Whisenand said within the next five years they'll expand both the brewery and taproom to a building they own across the street. They are growing their non-beer offerings with beverages like kombucha, hop water and hard seltzers, and following recent changes to state law, they're making a run at becoming a cannabis company with THC beverages and edibles.

"We've always been a little counterculture, so it fits," Whisenand said. "But I don't think it will ever overtake beer with us."

Indeed founder and CEO Tom Whisenand in 2012, the year the brewery opened in northeast Minneapolis.
Indeed founder and CEO Tom Whisenand in 2012, the year the brewery opened in northeast Minneapolis.

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

Lessons in hindsight

Looking back, Whisenand has some advice for his younger self.

"If I would have known how much we were going to grow and how quickly, I would have raised more money from the start to have a more professional, structured management rather than myself," said Whisenand, who was barely 30 when he opened Indeed. "Instead, we went the route of we're just going to do everything ourselves. We started this whole brewery back then for $1.3 million. It was a staggering amount of money at the time. So, the idea of trying to make it more or trying to make it bigger was not even a thought."

Guiding the brewery has been a lot of hard work, he said, but with that work comes rewards.

"The most rewarding thing is all the people we've been able to work with," Whisenand said. "Watching them grow here and elsewhere. Watching them go on with their careers in beer and in other parts of the business. I've made a lot of really good friends.

"A business crates value — a lot of time it's measured in dollars," he continued. "Indeed has never really turned a profit. ... But we've always survived and always been able to reinvest in the company."

Indeed has also given back to the community, donating more than $700,000 to nonprofit organizations chosen by its employees.

"It's crazy to look at all the impact we have had," Whisenand said. "And we're all really proud of that. It motivates us to continue to work hard and make great beer."

Indeed Brewing Co.

711 15th Av. NE., Mpls., 612-843-5090, indeedbrewing.com. Open 3-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., noon-midnight Fri., 11 a.m.-midnight Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.

Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at michael@aperfectpint.net.