Thanksgiving week 2018 was a historic one for the town of Woodbury, Minnesota. This eastern suburb of St. Paul that nearly 70,000 people call home is finally home to its first brewery.
3rd Act Craft Brewery, the brainchild of Woodbury resident and longtime homebrewer Steve Long and his wife Deb Long, quietly opened its doors for its first soft-opening on Sunday, November 18. It did not stay quiet for long.
“We started doing some soft openings last week. We did one for employees and guests, and we did another for friends and dignitaries,” Long said. “Not very big soft openings, so we felt like we were pretty good. Then Sunday we opened quietly, we only advertised on Facebook, I didn’t even update the website, we did no advertising anywhere else, and the line was out the door.”
Long hadn’t been anticipating a capacity crowd on day one for the business he runs with Deb and their daughter Ashley. Contractors hadn’t installed the brewery’s sign over the front door, only four of the several beers Long and his team had been working on were available, and there wasn’t enough beer for growler and Crowler sales. But within a couple of hours into the first shift it felt like all of Woodbury had passed through the doors for a taste of the newest spot on the south side of town. Several days later, the enthusiasm has yet to die down.
“All the bars and restaurants and everything are on the north end of town. There’s nothing here on the south end of town,” Long said. “We’re the only brewery for about a 10-mile radius. And I wouldn’t mind a few more breweries moving in here. It would be nice to have a Woodbury brewery crawl, but right now I’m the only game in town.”
Long wasn’t dead set on opening the brewery in his hometown, but it became a clear frontrunner after doing some research. When Long placed a red button on a map of the Twin Cities where breweries and taprooms have already set up shop, he found a neat, uninhabited, and inviting square forming the border around Woodbury.
The location is just one item on a list of 3rd Act’s attractions, which also include Neapolitan-style pizzas and jumbo pretzels cooked in a brick oven. The brewery’s wooden tables were all handcrafted by woodworker and 3rd Act beertender John Solberg. And a sprawling front lawn promises to be the site of competitive yard games come springtime.
Food and games are all well and good but beer is the central focus, of course. Long hired former Lucid and Island City brewer Tommy Rodengen as 3rd Act’s head brewer.
“I went to interview Tommy and I wanted to hire him right away,” Long said. “After drinking one flight of his beer I said, ‘what will it take to hire you?’ It took some convincing to [get him to] come here. He was interviewing with about four or five places. I didn’t hear from him for awhile and I thought I lost him. Then he called me up and said, ‘I’m ready to come work for ya.’”
Long met 3rd Act’s assistant brewer, Brandon Peterson, when they were classmates in the brewing technology program at Dakota County Technical College.
“I watched everybody in the class for about a year,” Long said. “I tease Brandon that it was the longest interview in history. He was the smartest guy in the class so I offered him a job and he came on as the assistant brewer.”
The passion for craft beer is what brought the three men together, but it’s not the only one they share.
“We’ve got three generations of film buffs,” Long said. “We’re pretty good together, too. I’m really good with the older movies, Tommy’s really good with the middle, and Brandon’s the young guy so he knows all the new stuff. We really have a blast when we’re sitting around naming these beers.”
Some of 3rd Act’s initial cinema-inspired beers include ‘That’ll Be The Day’ IPA (“The Searchers”), ‘Get Off The Scale!’ Wee Heavy (“Heavyweights”), and ‘A Beer Worked Orange’ (“A Clockwork Orange”), with the promise of more thirst-quenching tributes to cinema classics yet to come.
Brewers: Tommy Rodengen (head brewer), Brandon Peterson (assistant brewer)
Beer: That’ll Be The Day IPA, A Kolsch Day in Hell, But My Tommy Gun Don’t IPA, Get Off The Scale! Wee Heavy, There’s No Place Like Home Session Pale, Nowhere Near Berlin Berliner Weisse, I Was Born In The Darkness Oatmeal Coffee Stout, A Bloodwork Orange IPA.
Address: 4120 Radio Drive, Woodbury, MN 55129
Hours: Mon: 4pm–10pm; Tue–Thu: 11am–10pm; Fri & Sat: 11am–11pm; Sun: 11am–10pm
Opened: November 18, 2018