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Built for beer: Bemidji Brewing Co. plans to open in larger downtown location in summer (video)

BEMIDJI--Surrounded by construction tools in a building at 211 America Ave. NW are numerous shiny beer brewing machines ready for action. While they haven't been activated yet, the equipment lined up in a u-shape represents the next stage in Bemi...

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The new 6,100-square foot space will include both a production space and taproom. The production space will allow the Bemidji Brewing Co. to increase its annual output with an increase in distribution and product offerings. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI-Surrounded by construction tools in a building at 211 America Ave. NW are numerous shiny beer brewing machines ready for action.

While they haven't been activated yet, the equipment lined up in a u-shape represents the next stage in Bemidji Brewing Co.'s business growth.

The construction started in this old downtown building Bemidji Brewing Co. it would moving from its current spot at 401 Beltrami Ave. NW to a larger location, said cofounder Justin "Bud" Kaney.

"What's happening here was our original plan," Kaney said last week at the new location as power tools continuously sounded around him. "What we were seeking was a solvent business that has the ability to stabilize the business for the long term."

Kaney said construction crews have been focusing on the first of two phases, completing the production space for the beer production.

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Once the back of the building that houses the equipment is renovated, the second phase includes creating a taproom and adding more window space up front.

"We're about six weeks from implementation in phase one and we hope to have phase two completed in June," Kaney said. "The exterior of the building will likely be included in the second phase-phase one is all about getting an operational brewery going."

After completion, the building will include about 6,100 square feet of room with the taproom and production area combined. Kaney said it's a necessary step to keep up with output.

"This is important because with our business, we need more volume. This work right here is allowing us to implement that," Kaney said. "Our current annual output is about 450 barrels a year. With the equipment we have now, when it's finished, it will give us the ability to have 1,200 barrels."

Kaney said a majority of machinery used now at the 401 Beltrami location won't be brought over, it will be obsolete at the new place. And in terms of new equipment, Kaney said a pipe system will be installed and used to connect the multiple machines to move the beer process from start to finish.

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Kaney said the new, larger facility also will allow Bemidji Brewing Co. to reach new markets.

"Right now, we only have limited accounts here in Bemidji," Kaney said. "We've had, for a long time, all sorts of other accounts approach us, so we will look to capture those. This will give us the ability to reach farther across the northern part of the state and get into other communities."

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Production space in the new building will be separate from the taproom, but windows will allow visitors to view the production room.

"When the taproom is done it will be like a chamber, like a beer hall type of experience," Kaney said. "We will have a bar near the center and there will be one spot, which will be like a cozy corner. It will continue some of the cafe experience that we already have, where you can read a book and enjoy a beer."

Also in the front area of the building will be a small, limited kitchen. While it's unlikely the company will provide large meals, the taproom will have small plate, appetizer type food available.

"We will also have the entrance moved to the south corner and a new opening on the south end of the building," Kaney said. "In time, it may not be right away, but we'd also like to have a patio."

In a few short years, the company started by Kaney, Tom Hill, Tina Kaney and Megan Hill has come a long way. Bemidji Brewing's first batch of beer was brewed in October 2012, and the quartet moved into its current location in the summer of 2013.

"The reason we are expanding is because Bemidji has supported us. If we didn't have the support, we wouldn't be in the position to grow the way we are," Justin Kaney said. "The implementation of our new system is on account of Bemidji and the folks that are here to support us."

The company's current taproom on Beltrami Avenue is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2-11 p.m. on Fridays and 12-11 p.m. on Saturdays.

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