Question session: Ryan Pitman quit job as Metro Transit bus driver to open Eastlake Craft Brewery in Midtown Global Market

Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market gains a new anchor in its southeast corner when East Lake Craft Brewery opens Thursday, Dec. 11. RedCurrent sat down this week with owner and head brewer Ryan Pitman and asked about launching his dream taproom after years behind the wheel on Metro Transit buses.

1. Did you start thinking about this project while you were driving buses?

Ryan Pitman,  East Lake Craft Brewery: I did. I had been kicking around the idea of doing a taproom-only brewery in an area with a lot of restaurants. My first thought was Eat Street, and I spent a fair amount of time driving the 18 and scouting for available buildings. Driving the 21 one day, it hit me as I drove by one time that the Global Market would be perfect. I like to tell people I only had to drive past the place 3,000 times before I finally thought of it. I was a driver for 13 years.

2. How is East Lake Brewery funded? Is it your life savings/retirement from Metro Transit?

I did cash out my pension for the down payment. I had a few family members help out from their retirement funds, and got the bulk of the financing from a pair of non-profits interested in funding projects in low-income areas. The City of Minneapolis also helped by guaranteeing a portion of the loan through their economic development arm.

3. What’s your personal history with brewing?

I’ve been homebrewing for about six years and just became obsessed about everything about it: the creativity, the practical mechanics, the science etc. I love to tinker and find out how things work, so I built a computer-controlled electrically-heated brew system out of restaurant stock pots and water heater parts that is very similar to the system I’m using now. A co-worker served me some beer at his home about eight years ago, and invited me over to show me how he made it. A few years later I moved from my tiny apartment to my house and picked up a kit from Northern Brewer.

4. What’s the ramp-up to your opening been like?

It’s been busy. People in the neighborhood are amped. There are a lot of regulators at a lot of levels involved with manufacturing and serving alcohol. I started planning in earnest in October 2013.

4½. Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the West Coast before settling here in the mid ’90s. There was no alcohol in the house at all. I didn’t even know beer was carbonated until some guy spilled his Bud Light on me at a Dodger game when I was 12.

This post was written by Chris Steller and originally published on RedCurrent.

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