Berglund Attempts to Change Craft Culture & Business Strategy with Finnegans

With a changing climate in the Minneapolis craft beer scene, Jacquie Berglund saw a need to get her veteran Finnegan’s brand closer to consumers rather than just from a store shelf. After 17 years of operating as contract brewer, mostly with Summit Brewing, Berglund is teaming up with fellow Minnesota brewery Badger Hill.  The two breweries are starting an alternating proprietorship at one facility while opening a downtown Minneapolis taproom and brewing facility called “Finnegan’s House.”

“We don’t have a brewery and we don’t have a taproom, a place for people to sample us and tour us. A huge disadvantage,” said Berglund, who opened the Finnegans branding in 2000 along with its charitable arm based off the notion of wanting to leave the world a better place. For her that means donating all the brewery’s profits to fight hunger in the areas that the Finnegans beer is sold. Currently a radius of Minnesota and surrounding states.

“It’s been tough for the last three years,” Berglund said, noting that just being on a shelf with no other way to be in front of consumers has been rough, “so of course I do this huge project in downtown Minneapolis. Go big or go home, so all my chips are on the table now, it either works super fantastically well or it doesn’t.”

Never having her own brewery to call home, Berglund, who was the sole member of the brewery for the first decade, is excited for opening a small-batch facility in downtown Minneapolis.

“We knew we wanted to be an urban production brewery, but there are reasons why people don’t do it in large areas and we knew we would have limitations,” Berglund said. “We wanted to think smart out of the gate. We have been friends with Badger Hill — we have the same core values and Broc Krekelberg and his wife Brittany have been consulting us. We brainstormed and he said to do big volume down there and be more innovative and experimental at our brewery. We ran the numbers and realized we could share purchasing power and ingredients, packaging and as we started to button it up from there, we realized this is really smart.”

So smart that Berglund hopes what they are doing could become a part of how craft breweries run their business, especially for those starting out or on a smaller scale. Similar to contract brewing, but different as well since there is a lot more involvement.

“I think you will start to see breweries start to get a little more creative with how they do business,” she said. “Strength in numbers works for us.”

The two breweries will alternate what brewery’s beers will be made while Berglund, and a yet to be hired head brewer, will also operate a smaller system downtown. Finnegan’s biggest seller, Finnegan’s Amber Ale, which is about 60 percent of the brewery’s output now, will be made at the larger brewery while creativity will flow more downtown.

“We need a unique person who will be energized by blazing this trail,” Berglund said about the search for a head brewer. “It’s an integrated partnership along with an urban high profile for the new brewery. It’s a fun, creative job and the right person is going to see how exciting this is and they will want that challenge.”

Rounding out the overall concept is a planned hotel, apartment building and event space above the building. All could provide a welcoming atmosphere for both locals and people visiting Minneapolis.

The timing of opening is crucial as well. The Super Bowl will be played in Minneapolis in February, 2018, so opening and being established by then are important.

“It’s big deadlines, but we are jazzed,” Berglund said.

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