Cheers to craft beer in the ‘burbs.
Alexandria native Justin Walsh, 30, has co-founded OMNI Brewing Company – a beer brewing business in Maple Grove, a suburb northwest of Minneapolis.
Walsh and co-founder Zack Ward purchased a building and brewing equipment, and now they’re ready to build a taproom.
“My passion for craft beer began while living in Minneapolis in my 20s. There were multiple breweries close to me that were developing great beer. Zack [Ward] is the brewer and has more passion for the brewing process. I have a strong passion for running a small business as I ran a mowing and landscaping business to help pay for college,” said Walsh, who graduated from Alexandria’s Jefferson High School in 2003.
Walsh and Ward crafted the idea about two years ago. Since then, they’ve reportedly spent countless hours working on their plans and doing some brewing in Ward’s garage.
Family and friends have sampled the beer and, so far, Walsh said, “We’ve had a ton of positive feedback. At one beer tasting we even had a blind competition against a local craft beer favorite against our session ale. Our beer won with 83 percent of the votes and the voters had no idea which one was our beer. This gave us a ton of confidence to keep going with our dream.”
OMNI Brewing received its federal brewer’s license and their goal is to begin brewing beer in their new facility in August.
OMNI, which means “all, every, of every kind,” intends to deliver all kinds of beers for all kinds of people.
“We plan to brew a wide variety of beers. We want to be a brewery that can cater to the beer snobs and those who don’t yet know they love craft beer,” Walsh told the Echo Press.
When asked to describe their brews, Walsh noted, “We want to be constantly experimenting with new brews seasonally while keeping our favorites on tap year round. We have a session ale, a cream and pale ale hybrid, that is really drinkable. Yet it still has a medium body and hop character that provides for a crisp, tasty beer. This will be one of the flagship beers that we plan to distribute.
“We also have a scotch ale and sweet stout that will be staples for OMNI Brewing. Finally, for the IPA lovers, we have a session IPA, regular IPA, and double IPA,” he described.
And that, the budding brewers said, is a perfect summation of their vision – a beer for everyone.
KICKSTARTING THE TAPROOM
Before the first glass of beer could be served, Walsh and Ward looked for start-up support.
The young men set up a Kickstarter.com fund and set a goal to raise $25,000 to get the taproom up and running.
They have since exceeded their goal and the financial backing continues to grow.
Contributors to the startup fund will be bestowed a membership, which includes special offers and discounts when the taproom opens, likely in September.
“There are so many challenges with finding a building to meet all the needs of a craft brewery while staying within a realistic budget,” Walsh said. “After a year of looking for a space to lease, we finally decided to buy a building instead. This makes our project about five times the cost of what we originally envisioned, but it gives us total control of doing what we need to do for building modifications.
“My advice to anyone trying to start a brewery would be to find the perfect building and a good banker. ... I believe we have both,” he said.
“Having to purchase the building and the large costs of installing specialized brewing equipment has left nothing in our budget for our taproom or tasting room space,” Walsh explained.
“We really want the taproom to be a comfortable place where everyone feels welcome. We’d like to build a great bar as the centerpiece of the taproom, furnish it with tables and chairs, and stock the taproom with games for our patron’s entertainment,” he said.
Walsh is the son of Paul and Becky Walsh of Alexandria, and Ward’s family has a cabin in the lakes area.
“We’ve talked about the possibility of seasonally distributing some beer to Alexandria if there are restaurants or liquor stores interested,” Walsh said.
For now, the pair will focus on raising the money necessary to get their taproom opened this fall.
DID YOU KNOW?
OMNI Brewing Company may be the only brewery in Minnesota that will run on solar power, according to Justin Walsh, co-founder of the company.