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Boom: There are more than 100 breweries up and running in Minnesota

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It was a good year for beer lovers in Minnesota.

Options for your next pint continue to grow as the craft beer industry booms.

And it's been quite the boom. Just 10 years ago, there were five breweries up and running in Minnesota.

By the end of 2015, there were 114 licensed beer producers in the state, Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) statistics show.

Of the licensed producers, 100-plus breweries are now operating in Minnesota, The Growler, a magazine dedicated to beer, told BringMeTheNews Tuesday. Roughly 25 of them opened in 2015.

In the past year a large variety of breweries opened – from very small establishments that only serve their product in a taproom, to larger production breweries, Tom Whisenand, president of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and owner of Minneapolis-based Indeed Brewing Company, told BringMeTheNews.

And brewery openings weren't limited to the Twin Cities. More opened in greater Minnesota, a trend that is expected to continue into 2016, Whisenand and The Growler say.

What's next?

More growth, especially in rural areas.

AGED told BringMeTheNews that although it can't predict how many breweries will open, it says steady growth is expected as entrepreneurs seek new brewer licenses.

Whisenand believes we won't see as many breweries open in 2016 as we did last year, but the industry will continue to grow. And breweries that are currently open will continue to improve the quality of their beer and increase their selection.

In a statement to BringMeTheNews, The Growler said we're years away from craft beer saturation – but there will be increased competition for new breweries.

The magazine predicts new breweries will focus on a specific style or technique, instead of debuting with a lineup of several styles. An example of this, the magazine notes, is Oude Oak, which is slated to be the state's first sour-focused brewery when it opens this year.

A look at Minnesota’s brewing history

Brewing has long been a part of Minnesota’s history, MPR News reported, with the first brewery opening in Minnesota in 1849, according to the book “Land of Amber Waters.”

The first “heyday” came in the 1870s, but breweries soon started consolidating. The number shrunk even more by the time the temperance movement swept through the state prior to prohibition, MPR News noted.

In 1887, there were 112 brewers in Minnesota. But by 1919, only 51 breweries remained, the National Park Service (NPS) says.

There was another resurgence of breweries in the 1940s and 1950s, but when large national brewers started distributing, it became hard for local beer makers to keep up, MPR said. By the 1970s, most of Minnesota’s remaining breweries had called it quits.

By 2005, there were only five licensed breweries in the state of Minnesota.

What changed?

In the past five years, Minnesota's alcohol industry has grown significantly thanks to the “Surly Bill.” Since 2011, when the bill passed, craft breweries have been allowed to serve pints at their breweries. It also paved the way for start-up distillers and wineries.

By 2014, the number of breweries in Minnesota had jumped to 69, AGED's website says.

The state’s alcohol laws have continued to expand, allowing the craft alcohol boom to continue.

Distillers can now serve samples on-site; brewpubs can serve their product at the Minnesota State Fair; and breweries can sell growlers (a 64-ounce jug of beer) on Sundays, among other changes. (Whisenand told BringMeTheNews the brewers guild has no major agenda plans for this year's Legislature.)

This has led to the craft beer industry to be the fastest-growing alcohol business in the state.

In the past five years (2011-2015), Minnesota brewer licenses have increased by more than 355 percent, AGED told BringMeTheNews.

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