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Microbrewery craze not hitting Jamestown -- yet

JAMESTOWN -- Microbreweries are popping up across North Dakota -- in Fargo and the Bismarck-Mandan area, along with Minot, Williston, Grand Forks and Watford City -- but no brewer has stepped up yet to open in Jamestown.

JAMESTOWN -- Microbreweries are popping up across North Dakota -- in Fargo and the Bismarck-Mandan area, along with Minot, Williston, Grand Forks and Watford City -- but no brewer has stepped up yet to open in Jamestown.

Jamestown is a good small market distribution area for breweries and could support a taproom or microbrewery, said Mike Frohlich, co-owner of Laughing Sun Brewing Co. in Bismarck. Microbreweries and taprooms provide a uniquely local social environment and product that are in demand, he said.

“It’s more about community than competition,” Frohlich said.

Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism, said that the No. 1 question from the approximately 4,000 people at the visitor center each year is “what are the local foods and flavors?” It would be great to add a local brewery to that list, he said.

“Local breweries provide definition to what makes an area great,” Swedlund said. “Look at Fargo Brewing Co. You have beers named Woodchipper and Sodbuster that define the region. Local breweries bring visitors closer to the experience and flavor of a community.”

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Former Jamestown residents Frank Clemens and Aaron Chapman now live in Fargo and decided to take a 10-year-old home brewing practice and start their own microbrewery and taproom. Flatland Brewery will open in July in West Fargo.

“I like that sort of ‘do-it-yourself’ way of doing things, being able to have control over what I’m making, that is how I got into it,” Clemens said. “The passion escalated.”

Jamestown was a consideration early on, Clemens said, but the two were already established in Fargo. Flatland will eventually get into distribution that would include Jamestown, he said.

The Flatland dream started slowly, but Clemens said investor financing was needed to get all the equipment they needed and to avoid paying so much rent and expenses before opening the brewery.

“We have four managing partners and two silent partners and that has allowed us to have more starting capital and loans,” Clemens said. “It definitely took more than we planned.”

Frohlich started Laughing Sun as a 400-barrel brewery in 2012. He said distribution laws are quirky but North Dakota has revised taproom laws that help the brewers.

Local sourcing is the goal but it's not that easy, as most growers consider hops, malt and barley as experimental or feed crops, he said. The fast-growing brewery industry is getting farmers interested, he said.

Deb Kantrud, regional director of the Jamestown Small Business Development Center and  executive director of the South Central Dakota Regional Council, said client confidentiality does not allow SBDC to say if the agency is or is not assisting a microbrewery plan. She could say it is difficult for alcohol-related businesses to receive program funding, that there are many roads to starting a business.

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“The challenge is having a customer base,” Kantrud said. “How many customers? How much competition? There is no microbrewery in town so we would look to next level of competition with other alcohol establishments.”

Curt Sayler of Jamestown helped to form the Buffalo Brewers Homebrew Club in 1990s. It had an annual competition for beer and winemakers until around 2001.

“There are still a few of us making wine and beer but we are busy with our careers and families,” Sayler said.

“Someone could make a nice living with a small microbrewery and with some potential to expand,” Sayler said.

Jon Beyer, co-owner of Jonny B’s Brickhouse, said he would like to become a microbrewery in the long term but would need more space. Beyer carries around 20 North Dakota and Minnesota microbrews on tap and said they sell very well.

“People like the fact that we do get the microbrewers in because they are local companies but also that they are different,” he said. “The majority of our tap is something different that you cannot find anywhere else.

“The biggest problem is there are so many new brands with no distribution yet,” Beyer said. “We are trying to get them into Jamestown.”

Jeremy Anderson, brew-manager of the family-owned Cork & Barrel Liquors in Jamestown, said he carries as many local and craft beers as possible.

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“Obviously, there is a market for it and we carry any kind of beer we can get our hands on,” he said.

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