Crowdfunding a Brewery, with Beer as a Dividend

Unmapped Brewing offers a twist on the crowdfunding model for its upcoming brewery.
JD and Megan Park hope their brewery will be a neighborhood spot.

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are everywhere these days. Part of that fundraising model includes tiered levels of rewards for the people who invest money, with the rewards increasing in value according to the amount invested. But JD Park, owner of Unmapped Brewing, which is scheduled to open this spring, had a different idea.

“Anyone can invest somewhere and get something like a T-shirt or growler,” says Park. “We wanted to change the stakes.” Instead of offering multiple levels of investment, there’s just one: Investors who put in at least $5,000 receive a Beer for Life membership. Yep—that’s two free beers per day, for life, from the taproom after it opens.

It was intriguing enough that Park reached his crowdfunding maximum goal of $750,000, which allowed him to secure a space in the Glen Lake neighborhood of Minnetonka at Excelsior Boulevard and Eden Prairie Road. Construction on the brewery started last month, and Park is hoping to open in May.

But the willingness to give $5,000 wasn’t the only thing Park looked for in investors. “We vet the investors, because we want this to be a Minnesota venture,” he says. He wanted local residents who would become regulars at the brewery. “They will be loyal,” he says, “and they’ll help with word of mouth. Besides, who wouldn’t like the chance to say, ‘I own part of this brewery’?”

Unmapped Brewing, which is co-owned by Park and his wife, Megan, is the result of a years-long fascination with home brewing. “I’ve been developing a beer list for several years,” says Park. But even with that experience, he decided to hire a more experienced head brewer, with commercial-scale background. Park himself will still be hands-on in the brewery in a creative director role.

But he has a vision for the beers that will be served under the Unmapped name. “My goal is to try for 12 different taps,” he says. “I’d like to have six or seven year-round beers, with the remaining beers changing out for special releases, annual releases, one-offs, those sorts of things. I want to have something fun for the regulars to try.”

Park says that Unmapped will differentiate itself from the other local brewers by focusing on Belgian beers, although that won’t be the only style of beer produced. Plans include items like IPAs, saisons, abbey ales, dubbels, tripels and quadrupels.

Will there be food at the taproom? At this point, Park says no. “My expertise is not in food, so no,” he explains. “Besides, this is a great opportunity to collaborate with local businesses.” He noted that there are several great eateries nearby, including the Gold Nugget Tavern & Grille. He also pointed to the metro area’s booming food truck scene as a resource he’ll investigate.

He also plans to have special events. “Our [conditional use/liquor] license allows us three events a year,” he says. “I’m thinking we could celebrate Belgian Independence Day, have a birthday celebration or a special beer release. I want to start new traditions that our investors and customers can participate in and feel part of our world.”