Swinging Bridge Brewery Promotes Growth in River Falls
Monday, October 15, 2018
Swinging Bridge Brewery is a River Falls gem. They are a local brewery that sources regional ingredients, supports local philanthropic efforts, promotes River Falls wherever they go, and most importantly, has become a gathering place for the community. Their mission is to be a “Community-focused brewery that tries to provide the freshest, high-quality product that we can, while being an asset to our community. Our whole brewery is founded on the community supported brewery concept” said co-founder Dustin Dodge. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dustin about how he and his partner Mike started the brewery, their mission, and the role they see themselves playing as promoters of all things River Falls.
Q: What role does the brewery play in promoting River Falls and the region?
A: We travel to a lot of events and promote River Falls everywhere we go. We are also part of a beer tour, so a lot of times people come to River Falls for the first time, it is to visit the brewery. We hope that they like it and want to spend more time here. We provide visitors with hand drawn maps to get to the swinging bridge and promote other local businesses as a way to promote the entire community. This helps with tourism, but it’s also a way to showcase how proud we are of the River Falls community and the businesses located here.
We also strive to make the experience special for our members and regulars. We want to cultivate the experience people get when they come in. Our beer truly shines when we can serve it over the counter describe it, and communicate how we made it.
Q: Is your beer made using local ingredients?
A: Mike makes all the beer, handling brewing, recipes and production. He tries to source local ingredients whenever possible. Fortunately, Wisconsin is one of the biggest malt producers in the country. All our malting is done within 50 miles of us. We also get hops from River Falls hops farmers seasonally. Also, many of our beers are created using local produce. We feature a special beer every Friday, many of which include local fruits and vegetables. Our food menu also includes local products such as meat from RJ meats in Hudson, barbeque sauce from Croix Valley Foods in River Falls, Snappy Dogs Salsa from River Falls, Ellsworth cheese, etc.
Q: What inspired you to start the Swinging Bridge Brewing Company?
A: River Falls is a growing community and we felt there was a need for a community brewery, as people gravitate towards a locally produced product. We read a study that a sign of a healthy community is a community brewery. River Falls is one, so it needed a brewery.
Q: Once you and Mike decided to open the business, did you have help along the way?
A: Yes, there are so many assets here. Organizations like the SBDC, SCORE, and the St Croix EDC can help by asking the right questions, review your business plan, help to organize financials and get your business ready for conversations with local banks and funders. The best thing they do is ask the right question and uncover things you hadn’t thought of before. At the end you get a business plan and financials that say whether your idea is plausible or not. They guide you along and they critique the rough draft and make it better and better which ads validity to the business plan. They are very helpful people and continue to follow up after a business has been launched. They provided that support for our brewery and I still meet with our SCORE mentor.
Q: How has the community responded to the brewery?
A: Very well. The community response has been positive. People like to have another option downtown for high quality beers and light food. Being downtown is key. Traditionally a lot of breweries are in industrial areas, so we are lucky the city allowed a brewery on main street. Our business model is based on community support where people buy shares in the brewery to help us purchase the ingredients we need. In exchange for their support, our members get growlers every month or discounts in the tap room, along with invitations to special events. We currently have over 200 members and their support makes this possible.
Q: What is the downtown business ecosystem like in River Falls?
A: The Downtown Business Owners group meets monthly. Everyone is very supportive and will give new business owners suggestions about grants, etc. You don’t know about all the opportunities in our community unless you talk to other business owners, so we definitely help each other out. The city is also welcoming to new business owners.
Q: Tell us more about your community involvement and philanthropic activities.
A: Our chosen charity is Victory and Valor for Vets. We support them, go out to their events, donate beer, and do a disc golf tournament every year. We donated to over 50 charity events last year. We gave to nearly every charity who asked and used what we would have spent on advertising to support local charities.
Q: What are your goals for the brewery in the future?
A: We are a taproom focused brewery and want to expand the taproom in the future. We have fifty seats now and would like outdoor seating or expand to handle larger crowds since we fill up quickly on the weekends.
Q: What can the community do to help support your goals?
A: Visit the brewery! If you value having a brewery on main street then bring your friends and tell other about us. To really state your support, think about becoming a member of the brewer’s Mug Club or CSB Growler club.