When I first went to Urban Growler, I was skeptical of its location, and furthermore, the building seemed like a hodgepodge of different century-old bricks that loosely formed a low-hanging building. However, the moment I walked inside, it seemed like I had walked out of Dorothy’s old home into the land of Oz. The interior was flooded with colored emotions and decorations. At three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, the whole brewery was crowded, with staff offering new beers, families laughing and old ladies catching up over a pale ale.
Urban Growler Brewing Company was created by a Midwestern couple, Jill Pavlak and Deb Loch. With Loch’s 20 years of brewing experience and Pavlak’s expertise in business and marketing, the two were able to create the first woman-owned brewery in the Twin Cities. Urban Growler just opened in 2014, but the brewery is located in a building that shares both the rich history of St. Paul’s past, and is built to help sustain the community for the future. Originally, the building that houses Urban Growler was the horse barn for the St. Paul Police Department. Pavlak and Loch were able to transform the hay lofts into private rooms, for community events, meetings or even weddings. Even though Urban Growler might seem a bit isolated, the building is constructed in a modular way, where the restaurant can expand further.
“It’s the bottle, the stomach and the dog,” Jill Pavlak, co-owner of Urban Growler Brewing Company, said when asked to describe the brewery’s name. Whether it is filling up your own personal growler, feeding you some delicious homemade food, or welcoming your dog to sit outside with you, the Urban Growler is an institution that clearly helps catalyze a sense of community in this industrialized neighborhood outside of Prospect Park. One way the Brewery connects with the community is through actively helping and recruiting women to become more involved in the male-dominated industry. They search and recruit women brewers from all over the nation and teach them how to brew and start their own breweries.
In terms of helping out the community, Urban Growler participates four to six times a year in what they call “Philanthro-brews”, where they help provide space for local artists to present their works, all the while the beer goes to specific charities.
When you walk into Urban Growler, the first thing you see is the painted centerpiece of three cows hanging above the bar. Because this is a brewery in the Midwest, Pavlak and Loch felt obligated to only bring in the best dairy. This is best seen in their flagship beer, the Cowbell Cream Ale. Whether you are a beer aficionado or have never had beer before, this light lager is guaranteed to refresh you. Out of all the cream ales I have had, I could actually taste the cream in this beer, probably due to the fresh Wisconsin-cream.
However, my favorite beer by far was the Wild Rice Brown Ale. Using locally-grown rice from Red Lake Indian Reservation, the beer is crisp with a nutty and earthy interpretation of a standard brown ale. In terms of local ingredients, Pavlak and Loch seek out multiple Hmong urban farms for fresh ingredients such as lemongrass and rhubarb and wild rice from Native American reservations.
If you’re looking for a good place to eat or drink, regardless of age, paying Urban Growler a visit is a must. The beer is phenomenal, the staff quite literally “makes” you try new beer for free, and the smiles inside the room are quite contagious.