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Wadena's state rep to open brewery in Nisswa

NISSWA — Stopping for a Gull Dam brew on a summer day in Nisswa is now just months away from reality as the craft beer boom continues.

Gull Dam Brewing is opening in the Werneke Water Wheel Center along Smiley Road in Nisswa. Expectations are for a June opening.

Mark and Barb Anderson closed on the building earlier this month. The stone and wood building, complete with its own waterfall, water wheel and 9-foot deep pool, is readily visible from the northbound lanes of Highway 371. The water wheel building is just south of Schaefer's Foods.

For the Andersons, a hobby led to sharing batches with friends and helped fuel the idea of opening a business one day.

Mark Anderson already had what he thought was the perfect name that could lend itself to marketing efforts with good humor and the potential to grow well beyond the lakes area. He trademarked the Gull Dam name. Next came finding the right location.

It's been some time since the waterfall and wheel have been turning at the water wheel center in Nisswa. But the building, for its location and design, seemed to be the perfect setting for what the Andersons had in mind.

Now plans are refresh the building and use the back for the brew house and tap room. The large overhead door opens on to a rear parking area and wooded landscape.

"We want to be outside as much as we can," Barb Anderson said.

The brewery won't serve food but hopes to work with caterers, other restaurants and resorts to provide food for events. The building's front with open space and expansive loft will be available for special events from weddings to other gatherings and beer tasting with the tap house in the back.

At the beginning of June, four semitrailers are expected to bring the stainless steel equipment for the brewery. Once it is set up, the first batch of beer will take three weeks to ferment. Touring the building after the closing, Anderson could envision a patio area, live entertainment and an open area where people can see the brew house in action, pick up a growler jug or sample Gull Dam beer.

"We want people to feel this is their brewery," Mark Anderson said. "We're going to have too much fun with this."

Mark Anderson is a pilot and state legislator from Lake Shore (his district includes Wadena). Opening the brewery, which he said he wants to keep separate from his day job, has been an exciting proposition for them.

Luke Steadman, the 26-year-old head brewer, recently made the drive from his native Pennsylvania to help develop the Nisswa brewery. After meeting the Andersons, Steadman said moving to Minnesota was a chance to be part of something bigger.

Steadman is an advocate of farm-to-glass brewing and incorporating local growers and ingredients from maple sap to Indian corn, squash, pumpkin, cinnamon and honey and even spruce tips. He's made more than 40 varieties.

"That's part of the fun of being creative," Steadman said.

A brewery needs both a flagship beer and new offerings to keep people interested. To start in Nisswa, plans are for a wheat with honey, a pale ale, an amber and a Scotch ale.

Steadman describes the Scotch ale as mellow and sweet, caramelized with a few secret ingredients designed to intrigue those non-beer drinkers as well.

Steadman said he looks forward to learning what the lakes area residents are interested in and welcoming them to the brewing process.

"It's your customers that make the brewery and they make the beer," Steadman said.