How Craft Breweries Build Better Communities

October 17, 2022

Just over a century ago, America banned beer. Advocates of Prohibition claimed that alcohol destroyed households and communities… but at Paster Properties, we think that beer (and the people and places that craft it) can actually help communities thrive.

Breweries offer a unique way for people to connect. They spur new economic development, create jobs, and offer a casual and approachable place for neighbors, friends, and strangers to gather to share stories, share laughs, share a debate, and maybe even come up with a new idea.

That kind of gathering place is something we’ve been striving to create in Highland Park along West 7th Street… which is why we’re so excited that Sibley Plaza will soon have a new brewhouse on tap. Wandering Leaf Brewery is officially under construction and will open early in 2023!

But what is it about good beer that so often builds great communities? Let’s find out.

Breweries Are Ambassadors for Neighborhoods

Like all places where people come together, breweries create and sustain local connections: remote workers stop by taprooms with laptops in tow, families venture out for a breath of fresh air, and young professionals meet for a social hour after work.

“The area where we’re building is probably one of the more diverse areas in the Twin Cities,” says Rob Reisdorf, one of the co-owners of Wandering Leaf Brewery. “We’re hoping we can bring different communities together and have a very diverse taproom.”

Part of what sets breweries apart is how they’re used. Breweries host concerts, festivals, and other charity events. They bring in visitors and even tourism (the “Beercation” has gained a surprising amount of traction). They also spearhead a culture of collaboration, innovation, and community engagement.

Before Rob and his partner, Matt Holton, decided to go ahead with their crazy idea to open a brewery, they reached out to other local brewers like the folks at Wooden Ship, who they said were incredibly kind and helpful, offering them a glimpse at their business plans and first-year financials.

“I can’t speak more highly of the collaborative nature of the industry,” Rob says.

That collaboration manifests in dozens of unique ways, from offering local artists a place to hang their work to hiring local artisans to decorate new taprooms. Breweries are intensely local spaces that both create and are created by the surrounding community.

Places where people gather inevitably attract other retail businesses, such as restaurants, which creates dynamic places that are resilient, interesting, and engaging. The array of businesses at Sibley Plaza, ranging from fitness centers and coffee shops to grocery stores and restaurants, speaks to that evolution.

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Setting St. Paul's Newest Brewery Up for Success

In 2018, Food & Wine reported that 85% of Americans now live within 10 miles of a brewery. Collectively, these breweries are responsible for more than half a million jobs and added over $80 billion to the economy in 2020 despite the slowdown caused by Covid-19.

Rob Reisdorf also blamed Covid for his new entrepreneurial spark, saying he was always very risk-averse until the pandemic “broke his brain.”

Between them, Rob and Matt have 13 years of brewing experience in addition to degrees in accounting, horticulture, and technology management.

They say the project management and financial skills they learned in the professional world, along with Matt’s experience working at a winery, have been instrumental. But that hasn’t diminished the challenge of starting a business from scratch.

With their hybridized industrial/retail use, craft breweries demand loading docks, substantial square footage, and enough room to pack in bulky brewing equipment. They also require supportive zoning, specific facilities, and approval from local governments.

“I’d be pretty happy if I never had to fill out paperwork for another government agency in my life,” Rob Reisdorf jokes, but the co-owners were enthusiastic about the location of their brewery in Sibley Plaza.

"The property that Paster presented us with checked all the boxes," Matt says. "It sets us up for success."

Sibley Plaza’s history as a retail center dates back to 1955, but this will be its first time playing host to a brewery. Almost 300,000 people live in the growing Highland Park area surrounding Sibley Plaza, and the neighborhood needs local hubs that will accommodate its rising population.

While Matt and Rob predict major changes in the brewing industry, they believe that the easy access to parking, the surrounding retail environment, and the prominent placement that comes with their new location in a retail center like Sibley Plaza will be major contributors to their own success.

They also believe the rising popularity of West 7th, with its corridor of popular businesses, foretells a long and healthy future for Wandering Leaf Brewery. They’re excited to become a part of the diverse ecosystem of Sibley Plaza, which includes an ever-expanding repertoire of retail spaces.

Rob is particularly looking forward to the opening of a new restaurant at Sibley Plaza, a popular Twin Cities food truck that’s settling into their first permanent location next door to the brewery.

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The Future of Sibley Plaza

Matt and Rob firmly believe in the power of beer (and place) to bring communities together. Matt describes the modern brewery as similar to the “historical public house,” a place where all strata of society collide and interact seamlessly.

Similar to our other redeveloped properties with a focus on placemaking, like Texa-Tonka in St. Louis Park, Paster’s goal is to create spaces not simply for the community, but in collaboration with the community.

People make places, not the other way around—that's the philosophy that we strive to live by every day at Paster Properties and has guided our business for three generations.

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606 Washington Avenue N.
Suite 400
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(651) 646-7901