The Rhombus Guys are taking their plans for a microbrewery to Grand Forks City Hall next week.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

The founders of the Grand Forks pizza shop have submitted an economic development loan application to the city’s Growth Fund Committee, which will discuss the request Tuesday. The request is for a $53,846.15 FlexPace loan, which would leverage a $100,000 Bank of North Dakota grant to help buy down interest on part of a Bremer Bank loan.

Matt Winjum and Arron Hendricks bought the historic Metropolitan Opera House building at 116 S. Third St. last year. They’ve been developing plans with the help of JLG Architects and Construction Engineers for a brewery with a restaurant and bar.  

Winjum said Thursday they are close to making a final decision on whether to definitively move forward with the project, which is expected to cost around $2 million.

“It’s a big project,” he said. “And that’s what makes us more hesitant than things we’ve done in the past. We’re really trying to do our due diligence and make sure we’re doing as much research as we can before jumping into this one.”

The application for the city loan states planning stages are already completed and construction could start this fall and finish in the spring of 2015. The costs of building improvements and purchasing equipment and machinery for the brewing portion of the project total more than $1 million.

The project also includes a restaurant and bar, but the city loan would not be used for that, the report states. The Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors as well as city staff has recommended approval of the request.

Plans and challenges

“Rhombus Guys Brewing,” as the application refers to the business, would make a line of craft beer that will be sold on location and distributed to other establishments throughout the region.

“We aim to package the beer in kegs and cans for distribution, as well as growlers for sale at the brewery,” the application states. Its distributors will sell to other restaurants, bars and liquor stores. “The goal is to have the beer distributed in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota initially.”

“We ultimately envision Rhombus beers will be sold and consumed throughout the entire Midwest.”

The sale of beer outside the immediate trade region would help meet one of the Growth Fund’s goals of bringing new wealth into the community, said Keith Lund, vice president of the Grand Forks Economic Development Corp.

Winjum said the brewery could produce about about 6,000 half-barrel kegs a year. It would also employ a head brewer, assistant brewer and two brewers, according to the staff report.

“It has a pretty good size capacity,” he said.

That beer would also be sold at a bar on location, and a restaurant would sell “high-end pub food,” Winjum said.

Winjum told attendees at a 1 Million Cups event last week that the growing interest in the craft beer market is one reason they’re pursuing the idea. But he said they also have an interest in brewing their own beer.

He said one of the challenges involved in the project is retrofitting the old building to support the heavy barrels. It was built in 1890 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Any time you go to try to retrofit an old building, it’s always more difficult than building it from nothing,” Winjum said last week. “The amount of structural engineering that’s coming into play for supporting that main floor is a huge challenge.”

Should the Growth Fund Committee approve the request, it will go to the Jobs Development Authority for a public hearing Oct. 6.