Bringing in the Brew Crew

Minn. man plans brewery, distillery in Chippewa Falls

Katy Macek

DISTILLING THE DREAM. A few blocks from Bridge Street in Chippewa Falls, a Minnesota man is eyeing 402-406 West River St. for a brewery and distillery.
DISTILLING THE DREAM. A few blocks from Bridge Street in Chippewa Falls, a Minnesota man is eyeing 402-406 West River St. for a brewery and distillery.

Look out Leinie’s, there’s a new brewery in town – or at least there soon will be.

James Stirn of Savage, Minn., was searching for a place for his proposed brewery and distillery to call home when he stumbled across Chippewa Falls. What drew him to the area, he said, was the potential for the craft beer scene, which he has noticed is increasing. In addition, he has enjoyed working with the city itself.

“Chippewa has been very helpful within the search for a place to do this,” he said. “They’ve been very good about helping us find a location.” And, a few weeks ago, the Chippewa Falls City Council approved a rezoning request that will allow the project to move forward.

The plans call for a 24/7 operation and a tasting room that would offer tours and sell souvenirs and beverages created on site.

Stirn has been experimenting with home brewing for around the last 15 years, and he said the brewery business seemed like a great next step for him. “What motivated it? I don’t know if I remember anymore exactly why,” he said. “I just enjoy experimenting with different flavors.”

If plans for the Chippewa River Distillery and the Brewster Brothers Brewing Company are fully realized, Stirn said his business will come up with its own recipes for beers and distilled spirits, both of which he plans to produce and sell on site. In addition, he plans to distribute products.

As for choosing the location in an area where Leinenkugel’s is so prominent, Stirn said he sees this as a positive thing. While he recognized there was no way to compete with Leinenkugel’s, he said he hopes his brewery and distillery will add to the dynamic craft beer scene.

According to the proposal Stirn outlined for the Chippewa Falls City Council, the brewery would be built at 402-406 River St., the current site of Celebrity Video. “The business will upgrade the building façade, provide new employment, and operate as a destination distillery and brewery,” Stirn stated in the proposal.

The plans also call for a 24/7 operation, tours, and a tasting room that would sell souvenirs and beverages for both on- and off-site consumption. While the proposal listed tentative times for the tasting room to be open (mid-afternoon to 8pm Thursday–Saturday and to 6pm Sunday), Stirn requested the building be allowed to operate from 8am to 2am seven days a week. “The hours will change to support tourist events in the Chippewa Valley, summer tourist season, business needs and for the hosting of special events such as original art displays,” Stirn said in the proposal.

Chippewa Falls City Planner Jason Smith said he felt the brewery was a good idea because it would bring more diversity and business to the community, rather than taking away from businesses that are already there. “The way these guys are proposing it, they’ve put a pretty convincing business plan together and I think they’ve done their homework,” he said. “What they’re proposing to do is going to add a lot to the community.”

Smith said he thought the proposed location – which has been rezoned from highway commercial zone to central business district – is a good fit for Stirn and the brewery. The site (406 W. River St.) is near the Chippewa River and is only a few blocks from Bridge Street, the heart of Chippewa Falls’ downtown business district.

The brewery would be close to all of the other work being done to improve downtown Chippewa Falls, Smith said. “(They’re) investing a significant amount of money to upgrade it, and they’re going to be putting a new addition on,” he said. “It’s going to really add to the diversity and energy that we’re trying to create in downtown Chippewa Falls.”

Stirn’s next step is to finish financing of the building and close on its purchase.