Blood, Sweat And Beers: Alexandria Welcomes 1st Brewery In 70 Years

Copper Trail Brewing Opened In December

Blood, sweat and beers.

That’s what two young entrepreneurs went through to re-tap into the beer industry in their hometown, the first brewery to open in the city of Alexandria in generations.

Local boys Adam Graf and Dave Gibbons unleashed the taps at Copper Trail Brewing just before Christmas. They first discovered a brewing passion while studying at NDSU.

“Kind of sit around the bonfire,” explains Graf. “We’d all bring craft beer, share stories.”

When they returned home from college, they noticed craft beer becoming more and more popular.

Graf adds, “A lot of restaurants would be bringing those craft beers up into the area.”

But none of that beer was made in their hometown. Four years ago, they decided to change that.

Gibbons says they, “Kind of have that running joke of ‘hey, we should start a brewery’ or whatever, and everybody’s like ‘yeah, ok’, and then you wake up one day you’re like ‘yeah, we actually did that’.”

Starting a brewery is not for the faint of heart. In addition to taking years to perfect recipes, find the right space and buy all the equipment, they even had to get the city to change its laws so they could bring craft beer to Alexandria.

“In Alexandria it would have been legal to start a brewpub which also involves a restaurant,” Gibbons explains. “We really weren’t interested in running the restaurant side of it.”

They didn’t bother with food, so they asked the city to legalize straight breweries. Their focus is beer and more beer.

“We have science experiments going on all the time,” adds Graf.

Making it their own way.

Graf admits they, “never went to beer school. This is all self-taught.”

Their passion being rewarded as soon as they opened on the day after Christmas, which happened to be during an ice storm.

Gibbons remembers the day well.

“All we were thinking is ‘Crap, maybe 15-20 people are coming in here’, and it was within ten minutes after opening there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. I was like ‘I can’t believe there’s this many people in here right now’.”

That might not surprise you if you consider folks in Alexandria had to wait more than seven decades for a hometown brew.

“They had Gold Seal beer and they had Gopher beer,” Graf recalls.

Now, Gaff and Gibbons honor the brewers of then, with an eye to what’s next for their hometown.

“It’s definitely a love and passion for the hobby, Graf admits. “It was a hobby that got way out of control, is really what happened.”

Copper Trail Brewing currently has five beers on tap, with a sixth ready soon.
The guys have plans to start distributing their beer to local restaurants soon.

Chief photographer Patrick Conteh contributed to this story.

Categories: Minnesota News, Morning – In The Community, Northern Minnesota