Pioneers of beer

Urban Growler beer

Minnesota, it would seem, is fast becoming the Land of 10,000 Beers.

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

But isn’t it crazy that we now have more than 150 breweries in our state — and a fifth of those (30!) opened in 2017? How did we get here?

Well, apparently, we love beer. If there’s a brew bubble, it hasn’t popped yet, thanks to our love of unique IPAs, porters, cream ales, sours, pilsners and hefeweizens, too!

But long before the state surpassed triple digits, came some of the scene’s earliest pioneers — this month’s Good Age Cover Stars: Meet Jill Pavlak and Deb Loch, who founded the Urban Growler taproom and restaurant in St. Paul, becoming the first women-owned brewery in the state in 2014.

Back then there were only 20-something craft breweries on the scene. But the two working professionals saw an opportunity to both live out their encore-career dreams and capitalize on the burgeoning craft-beer movement.

Loch, a longtime homebrewer and biomedical engineer, dreamed of selling her custom-brewed creations to the community. Pavlak, a business sales guru, had always wanted to run her own restaurant.

Today the partners — in business and in life — have succeeded on both fronts with their beers on tap or for sale at more than 400 outlets in the Twin Cities. They also boast one of the few taprooms in the state offering a full restaurant experience with lunch and dinner six days a week.

Their 13,000-square-foot enterprise also includes an inviting outdoor beer garden, plus two spaces for special events and a seasonal Sunday farmers market in the parking lot.

Yeah, it’s all pretty impressive.

Equally remarkable is the duo’s hands-on work ethic, humility and gratitude about their good fortune, and their ability to treat everyone with kindness. Loch’s knack for crafted delicious beers and Pavlak’s business savvy don’t hurt either.

“We want to be in the top 10 breweries in the state,” Pavlak said, “not necessarily in terms of volume, but in terms of reputation.”

I, for one, think they’re well on their way.