Little Thistle the latest addition to Rochester’s growing beer garden

July 28, 2018
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Though they won’t be officially open for at least three weeks, Little Thistle Brewing Co. owners Steve Finnie, left, and Dawn Finnie, right, open their business to local group 1 Million Cups Wednesday for questions and a tour at 2031 14th St. NW in Rochester.

For the past several months, Dawn and Steve Finnie have watched as their vision of opening a craft brewery moved closer to reality.

Showing visitors around their not-quite-finished Little Thistle Brewing Co. on Thursday, they fielded questions about their journey as entrepreneurs.

“It’s fun, exciting … and scary, all at the same time,” Steve Finnie said as he stood among his shiny brewing tanks.

The hope is to have Little Thistle open for customers within a few weeks.

The Finnies took a break on Thursday, moving aside tools and sawhorses to open the doors of their trucking-complex-turned-brewery at 2031 14th St. NW. The visitors were part of a monthly gathering of Rochester business enthusiasts called 1 Million Cups. Spearheaded by Collider Coworking, the local version of the national movement provides a stage for entrepreneurs working on new businesses to present their plans and field questions as well as suggestions from peers.

Collider Manager Jamie Sundsbak said that while 1 Million Cups was usually a Wednesday morning event in the Collider’s building, the Finnies’ offer of a Little Thistle field trip was too good to pass up. No matter the venue, energizing local business was still the goal.

“We believe entrepreneurship is the economic engine that will drive Rochester into the future,” he said.

While many industries spur competition between small businesses, Steve Finnie told the crowd that the “brewing industry is a unique one. It’s very collaborative.”

The Finnies said Rochester’s blossoming brewing community has been very supportive of their project.

“Forager, Kinney Creek and LTS kind of set the stage for us,” said Steve Finnie, listing off a few of Med City’s beer makers.

Little Thistle will be Rochester’s fifth craft brewer when it opens later this summer. At least two other ones, Accidental Brewing and Prime Stein, are in the pipeline.

Dawn Finnie pointed out that the more opportunities people have to try a craft beer over the product of mass-produced giants like Budweiser and Michelob is good for all local brewers.

More beer makers also makes it more likely that Rochester will attract craft beer tours, which studies show can bring as much as $600 per person into a community, she added.

The Finnies have plans to make sure Little Thistle stands out amid Rochester’s other local beer venues.

The brewery, refashioned from a 5,200-square-foot warehouse, will feature large windows that were once garage doors, a game area, and eventually, Rochester’s largest outdoor beer garden. They hope to make the patio area dog-friendly, like many of the Twin Cities taprooms.

There will be two bars with 16 taps serving up six to eight of Steve Finnie’s fresh beers. Already brewing, he plans to offer a broad array of brews for a variety of tastes, like Scottish ales, IPAs, lagers, stouts and sours.

Little Thistle is designed to show off the brewing operation instead of hiding the tanks in a back room. Separated by a half wall, customers will be able to see and smell the brewing process.

“It’s part of the experience,” he said.

While Little Thistle won’t sell food, local food trucks and pop-up versions of local restaurants will keep customers fed.

The hope is to eventually host beer fests with the other breweries as well as music events.

Some of the 1 Million Cups visitors touring the brewery asked about the future and whether Little Thistle might extend its reach through distribution and expansion.

“The goal is to remain ultra local … We don’t aspire to be Surly,” said Steve Finnie. “It’s just about making a product that brings people together.”

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