As a Chatfield brewery closes, local brewers reflect on slow winter … – Rochester Post Bulletin

Weather Updates: Blizzard Warning for Southeast Minnesota until 6 a.m. Saturday
CHATFIELD — A local craft brewery has closed its doors permanently.
PawPrint Brewery in Chatfield announced its closure via its Facebook page on Dec. 17.
“I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has come through our doors,” the post reads. “It is a difficult decision to make but PawPrint Brewery will be closing permanently.”
The brewery and taproom, which opened in January 2020, was the first business of its kind in Chatfield.
PawPrint Brewery management did not respond to the Post Bulletin’s requests for an interview.
The closure comes at a time of year when visits to taprooms typically slow down.
“We have a steady clientele of people that live in the surrounding communities,” said Eric Luoma, co-owner of Karst Brewing in Fountain. “But it certainly slows down.”
Extra tourist traffic during the summer helps make up for the winter lull at Karst.
“We’re situated on a bike trail and also (U.S.) Highway 52,” Luoma said. “There’s a lot of traffic on Highway 52, people going camping or bicycling, enjoying the outdoors in Southeast Minnesota, so that helps us a lot.”
Those on-site patrons make up most, or all, of small craft brewers’ sales. While Karst Brewing does distribute its beers to some area restaurants and bars, those sales represent a small portion of the business’ overall income.
“It’s really difficult, we think at our scale, to look at distribution, to compete with other beer and breweries out on the liquor store shelves,” said Karen Heimdahl, co-owner of Sylvan Brewing in Lanesboro. “There’s a lot of really good beer out there, so we don’t plan to do that.”
Heimdahl described Sylvan Brewing as a destination brewery, focusing on not only the quality of the brews, but also the overall atmosphere.
“We strive to have a warm and welcoming environment,” Heimdahl said. “I think that’s what we like about other breweries that have been successful that we’ve noticed as well.”
Sylvan sees a similar customer pattern at Karst, Heimdahl said, with heightened business during the summer offsetting the winter slowdown.
“We do need the financial support of the tourism, the visitors in the summer,” Heimdahl. “We don’t make enough in the winter to cover our expenses, so we do rely on that summer to get us through the winter.”
The bottom line, though, comes down to local support, especially when craft beer lovers have lots of options to choose from.
“The craft beer industry … it went exponential in the last few years, and at some point, perhaps now, it’s going to level off,” Luoma said. “People are more familiar with it. With that familiarity, you get more customers, but you also get higher expectations. And there’s more competition.
“Local, small businesses need local support,” Luoma continued. “And I think we get it, but it’s important.”