Summit Attributes Success to Tradition, Community in 35th Anniversary

On Sept. 24, 1986 Summit Brewing Co. sold its first two kegs to Johnny’s Bar in Saint Paul, Minn. In June 2021, 35 years later, Summit reported producing over 100,000 barrels a year and was named the largest craft brewery in the state of Minnesota. After three-and-a-half decades, 90 percent of Summit’s business still occurs in its home state. Showing that throughout years of growth and expansion, Summit still remains loyal to its brand and birthplace.

When Mark Stutrud first began plans for Summit Brewing Co. his dream was to help bring true beer culture to the Midwest region. He aimed to educate beer drinkers on classic styles and introduce people to traditional, time-honored brews. While explicitly told in a letter from the Brewers Association three years before he opened Summit’s doors that it would not be a good idea, he pushed ahead with his concept. This focus on established brewing techniques that would produce quality and consistent beers became a pillar of the business that is still integral to the mission today. It guides not only the beer being brewed but the decisions of the business as a whole.

“Throughout Summit Brewing’s 35-year history we’ve had several challenging years, and we’ll certainly have more in the future. However, I’m proud to say that Summit Brewing’s great foundation of quality and consistency has helped us achieve significant growth over the last year,” Summit Founder and President Mark Stutrud said. “Our decision to refocus on our core line-up means consumers know what to expect from us. They can be sure anytime they pick up a Summit Extra Pale Ale anywhere it will taste the same as if we pour it from the tap ourselves. Our ingenuity means we’re always brewing up innovative new brands, but our name means we’re true to tradition no matter what the style.”

Much like other businesses throughout the pandemic, Summit experienced setbacks. But, there were also successes. A renewed focus on core brands a few years prior lead Summit to decrease the number of limited-edition brews and build a strong foundation on its year-round beers. They quickly became brands consumers identify Summit with, and thus Summit quickly became a reliable choice. During times of confusion this helped increase package sales significantly. So much so, that the brewery was able to purchase two new bright tanks, each 180 barrels.

Summit continued its growth in April 2021 when it became the Official Hometown Craft Beer of the Minnesota Twins. This partnership allowed Summit naming rights to an open-air bar in the Target Field outfield, as well as expanded upon a decades-long relationship with the St. Paul Saints thanks to that team’s transition to AAA. Then, in June 2021, Summit was named the 21st largest craft brewery in America by the Brewers Association, an eight-spot jump from just five years earlier.

After being told in that same letter from the Brewers Association in 1983 that it would be a long, hard road, Summit is still here 35 years later. The brewery continues to infuse its traditional methods with innovative techniques and ingredients, creating exciting new brews such as Summit Triumphant Session IPA or the Summit CRUSHER brand. But it’s dedication to perseverance, diligence, consistency and quality is what has made the brewery-that-could become the Midwest brewery standard.

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