June 12, 2005: Headlines: COS - Guatemala: Small Business: Beer: Pioneer Press: Guatemala RPCV Dan Chang is co-owner of Rush River Brewing Company

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Small Business: Peace Corps and Small Business: June 12, 2005: Headlines: COS - Guatemala: Small Business: Beer: Pioneer Press: Guatemala RPCV Dan Chang is co-owner of Rush River Brewing Company

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Guatemala RPCV Dan Chang is co-owner of Rush River Brewing Company

Guatemala RPCV Dan Chang is co-owner of Rush River Brewing Company

Guatemala RPCV Dan Chang is co-owner of Rush River Brewing Company

PAIR TAPS DEMAND FOR CRAFT BEER

The co-owners of Rush River Brewing Company in Maiden Rock have found a market for their distinctive ales and will soon begin bottling them.

BY JOHN BREWER

Pioneer Press

Nick Anderson was planning on being a doctor on the West Coast when he realized that hospitals depressed him.

Dan Chang had left the Peace Corps and spent a year camping and rock climbing in the Northwest when he realized he needed to get a job.

Both men ended up washing kegs at a popular Seattle brewery in the late 1990s and within a year were making its beer.

"We thought we could do this on our own if we could figure out the capital," Chang said

The two worked out the numbers and in May they celebrated the one-year anniversary of their own label, Rush River Brewing Company.

The Maiden Rock-based microbrewery, headquartered in a converted pole barn high above Lake Pepin, has surpassed Anderson and Chang's sales projections for the first year and will start bottling its creations now available only in kegs in August.

"We were blown away that we sold so much," said 32-year-old Chang.

The team has won hard-earned tap space in bars and restaurants across the Twin Cities and in western Wisconsin, where the typical four-tap bar is dominated by Miller, Bud and Leinenkugel's. They've received good feedback from customers and aim to one day produce beer in amounts similar to St. Paul-based Summit Brewing, the local success story in craft brewing circles.

"But they've got a 20-year jump on us," Anderson, 31, said.

Still, its first year Rush River sold 1,500 barrels, or 3,000 16-gallon kegs. That's the same amount Summit sold in 1987, its first full year in business.

In 2004, Summit produced nearly 63,000 barrels.

According to the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based beer brewing advocacy group, folks who brew and sell less than 15,000 barrels a year of craft beer beers made with 100 percent malted barley are considered microbreweries. Selling more than that qualifies a company as a regional brewery, like Summit or August Schell out of New Ulm, Minn.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser, sold 100 million barrels of malted-barley-and-rice beer in the United States in 2002.

Those numbers didn't scare off the Rush River team.

Anderson and Chang moved to Minnesota because it seemed like an open market for the beer they wanted to brew unfiltered, unpasteurized ales with strong flavors and lots of body.

Also, Anderson is a Minneapolis native and Chang hails from Milwaukee.

Stewing in the morning humidity of the St. Croix River Valley, Anderson talks about his beers with enthusiasm. It's hard to believe he went to bed at 2 a.m. after a 17-hour shift brewing porter the day before.

"Filtering strips out taste and complexity," Anderson said. The team wanted a beer with more "mouth feel," something their cloudy concoctions have plenty of.

Filtering also takes out vitamin B12, Anderson said, a supplement taken by folks trying to avoid hangovers.

The brewing style that the two picked up in Washington, characterized by floral, fragrant beers, "is something that we have that nobody else has" in the region, Anderson said.

Matt McArthur agreed.

The Cannon Falls, Minn., resident makes trips to his hometown of Prescott to drink Rush River's Unforgiven Ale at the Muddy Pig restaurant.

"I think this one's just a great tasting beer," he said.

Like he's breaking down the structure of a fine wine, McArthur said he can detect lemon and apricot notes in his beer, where "the sweetness is balanced by the bitterness of the hops" the brewers use to flavor their concoction.

When his own restaurant, McArthur's Wood Grill and Bar, gets tap lines installed, he said he will carry the Rush River label.

Joe Martino, a co-owner of regional brewery Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, said he hadn't heard of Rush River, but "the more the merrier" in the craft-brewing realm.

"Any opportunity to have beer drinkers move away from the mass-produced regular beers, it's good for everyone in the craft industry," he said. His company has a line of six Point beers and other soft beverages, and recently purchased the Minneapolis-based James Page Brewery line of craft beers.

For perspective, though, Martino said it would take his brewery 50 years to produce what Anheuser-Busch produces in a week.

Rush River is even further off that mark, and Anderson wouldn't say if he and Chang made a profit in their first year. They did make enough to pay their bills, though the team has yet to draw a salary.

"Every penny we're putting back into marketing," Anderson said. The guys just finished a $20,000 campaign, complete with hats, T-shirts and posters. Last October they hosted a Halloween party at Bar Abilene in Minneapolis, and this spring they sold 40 kegs to a music festival in southern Minnesota.

"We could have gone anywhere," Anderson said of their move from Washington, adding that the duo also looked at the Research Triangle of North Carolina to set up shop.

But the Twin Cities area, where 80 percent of their beer is sold, didn't have any breweries like theirs.

"We are a true craft brewery," Anderson said.

They chose their site in Wisconsin because the land is owned by a third, mostly silent partner in the business and taxes are much less for breweries in Wisconsin than in Minnesota.

"They recognize it as a crucial part of their economy," Anderson said of Wisconsin.

In August, the company will start bottling in an old Bud distributorship in Ellsworth and hire one or two full-time employees. Anderson and Chang will still handle brewing in the pole barn in Maiden Rock, a few hundred feet from the trout-laden namesake Rush River.

In the next couple of weeks they'll reintroduce their summer brew Small Axe Golden Ale, a wheat beer they intend as a "transitional" beer for the Bud and Miller crowd.

"We're the small guys," Anderson said, recognizing Rush River's current market position. And that's OK.

"We've got time and energy."

FYI

For more about Rush River Brewing Company, go online to www.rushriverbeer.com.
John Brewer can be reached at 651-228-2093 or jbrewer@pioneerpress.com.





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Story Source: Pioneer Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guatemala; Small Business; Beer

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