GRANTSBURG — Ben and Nicki Peterson didn't really have a plan when they bought the old creamery in downtown Grantsburg in fall 2017; perhaps it could serve as office space for Nicki's marketing business.
But as it turns out, a much different vision was brewing.
Last year, the Petersons opened the doors to Brickfield Brewing — Burnett County's newest microbrewery and local watering hole. The brewery is the latest venture for the Peterson family, who, along with Ben's parents, Gary and Cris Peterson, milk about 1,000 cows at their Four Cubs Farm.
"This is our happy place. We love being here. It's hard to keep us away," Nicki said.
With its past life as a cheese factory and its location on scenic Memory Lake, a brewery was the perfect fit for the structure, she said. Constructed in 1919, the building served for many years as home for Farmers Co-op Creamery and produced cheese until the 1950s.
Nicki, who launched the Grantsburg Revitalization Operation in 2014, said the brewery has got downtown buzzing.
"What kind of business would tie into those efforts and bring people to Grantsburg and get them downtown? A brewery," she said. "We had the vision of what we wanted to do. ... It's doing exactly what we wanted, providing a different place to gather for the locals. It's always packed."
Nicki said the brewery also draws a lot of "day trippers" from across the Minnesota border, and there's been a noticeable uptick in business for nearby establishments such as restaurants.
"Since we announced what we were doing, five vacant buildings on Main Street have been purchased and are being renovated," she said.
During Brickfield Brewing's own makeover, 350,000 pounds of concrete and new concrete and in-floor heating were installed, along with new plumbing and electrical. However, they wanted to maintain the history and integrity of the old creamery, as well as provide a farm connection.
Sadly, there's not a lot of history about the creamery, which, in more recent years, housed a deburring facility, car repair shop and the local Lions' Club, Nicki said.
The Petersons kept the original stamped-metal ceiling and added a brick wall behind the bar to pay homage to another page from the site's past: In the early 1900s, there was a large clay deposit in Memory Lake, across the street from Brickfield Brewing, known as “Brickyard Pond." The clay was hand-dug from a pit more than 70 feet deep and formed into bricks that were sold for building and chimney construction.
Many of those bricks were unearthed during the brewery's construction, and with the Brickfield name, the Petersons tied in the agronomy aspect of brewing.
Artwork throughout the brewery illustrates the "grain to glass" concept, which the Petersons will expand on this spring. They ordered their first load of malting grains to plant and have custom-malted; this could serve as their base malt, Nicki said. She said they will have 10 acres of malting grains and 10 acres of wheat for use in the brewery, and they plan to purchase some locally grown hops.
"Eventually, we'll have that on our farm, too," she said.
The spent grains left over from the brewing process are fed to the Four Cubs herd. Nicki said the brewery is working up to full capacity and distribution of their beers into retail channels — specifically, Wisconsin liquor stores within about an hour of Grantsburg. Their beers already can be found at a few restaurants, including Brow Tine Restaurant and Event Center near Amery.
In the taproom, guests can choose from a variety of local brews, including a few that reflect local dairy heritage, such as Milkshake Hazy IPA and Old Creamery Milk Stout. Growlers can be purchased, and an artisan can line is in the works.
This month, in partnership with the Friends of Crex, who donated wild rice harvested in the Phantom Lake area, they concocted a Wild Rice Lager. A portion of the proceeds will go to support Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.
They recently obtained a license to serve food such as pizza and other pre-packaged items, but they also coordinate with five local food trucks.
The Petersons recently purchased the old Fiedler Ford building across the street, with plans to use the parking lot and possibly expand the brewery or add another venture in the future.
Nicki said they would like to host outdoor musical festivals and will be involved in numerous events this summer, including the Earth Arts spring tour and food festivals in Cumberland and Osceola. They will have a beer tent at the Siren Community Ag Association Dairy Breakfast on Saturday, June 15, at their farm.
Live music, food trucks and a possible barbecue cook-off are planned for their one-year anniversary celebration Saturday, Sept. 14.
Brickfield Brewing is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 2 to 8 p.m. Sundays. Starting sometime in May, they will switch to their expanded summer hours — noon to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 2 to 10 p.m. Sundays.