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North Country Revelation

To talk about the inspiring rise of Revelation Ale—the ultra-rural craft brewery and tap house that sparked a new life for the brewery’s founders and a new, reinvigorated roadmap for an entire community—we left the tap room and walked across the street to the new coffee shop.

Ryan Evenson, one of Revelation’s founders, thought it seemed fitting to talk craft beer, community revitalization and the unique situation he, his wife and his brother helped create in Hallock, Minnesota, a small town in Northwestern Minnesota less than one hour from Grand Forks, North Dakota. Bean and Brush, the coffee shop and artist’s outlet that opened shortly after Revelation Ale across the street, was—and is—as much a part of the story as anything, according to Evenson. To him, it made sense to sip a coffee while reliving the early days of the venture he started with his family after leaving jobs in banking in Portland, Oregon. Revelation Ale, like the coffee shop, or the flooring store or some of the other new buildings that have been redone or repurposed in the last few years, was just one piece to the reimagined small town main street. When he acquired the old service station on the corner for $100 with dreams of starting a brewery, there were eight vacant spaces on the main stretch. Today there are none. Business owners used to fight to get cars and people to the area. Now, there is a parking issue. Although Evenson and his team would like to say the town’s revamp is directly linked to the quality of Revelation’s product, he knows it’s more than that.

The Magic Of Revelation and Hallock

Evenson and his family are familiar with the realties of rural. He grew up in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. His wife, Lindsey, is from the region. They went to North Dakota State University. After falling in love with the culture and lifestyle of craft beer making in Portland, he knew pursuing his passion of creating a product like craft beer would never be realized in a place so populated. “I’m not sure this was the place most people would have thought of,” he says with a smile. “But we’ve been more than surprised by what is possible.”

After working jobs in the region upon their return, Evenson decided to offer $100 to the owner of an old service station he’d always thought could be a great place for a business, especially a craft brewery. He and his brother had a dream to chase and they never thought twice about the location or the size of the customer base in the surrounding town. His dad had already shown his commitment to living near his sons. He had followed his son out to Oregon, then back to Minnesota. The cost to tear down the building was more than Evenson was offering, so the owner accepted his deal. At the time—circa 2015—the building was rough. Light shined through the ceiling, the floors were unusable, the entire facility needed major renovation. With his brother, wife and father (along with several others) the team took a year to renovate the building. The elevator once used to haul milk and tools into a lower level is still there, but most everything else has been updated. Today, Evenson says with a clear sense of pride, there are architects in Minneapolis trying to design new buildings to match the Revelation concept.

The building still features a functionable garage door opening that on summer days, allows patrons at the bar an open-air breeze with views of the rural skyline. From the inside of the building, you can hear the sounds you’d expect from a small town—the hum of a distant grain elevator, the swooshing sound of bicycle spokes riding by and the trees outside swaying to a soft wind. To get the business up and running, Evenson sought out investors, ran a Kickstarter campaign, sold t-shirts and used his authentic Minnesota-nice charm on anyone who would listen. Lindsey created several successful marketing and brand awareness campaigns. They followed their company mantra: to do beer and business differently.

Roughly two years after opening, the team is seeking new employees. They acquired another building, a few doors down, to house their brewing operations. The town, and others, are major supporters of their continuing efforts to stay on their rapid rise as a successful craft brewing operation in rural America. Overhead lights in the new brewing building are from the Minnesota capitol building. The bar top is from a piece of remilled wood taken from Devils Lake. The current booths are from a local bowling alley. Evenson has a hard time describing his tap room customer base. “People are coming from everywhere,” he says, listing major towns in every direction, including Canada, as locations where high numbers of customers travel from.

Running the brewery has changed the lives of everyone involved with Revelation, Evenson says, and unleashed a sense of purpose and happiness that he never wants to give up. When his dad moved back to Minnesota, he was ill. But today, he explains, “I just started feeling better after working here for my son.”

At times, the hours are odd, and the miles traveled to events or places to promote the product are long. In any given week, someone from the team could be in Winnipeg, Minneapolis, eastern North Dakota or further south. Running the facility has kept him and his team in a constant quest for efficiency. They’ve learned about building codes, plumbing, growing hops, telephone poles (he got some installed on a piece of ground to string up the hops he was trying to grow), how to market an ultra-rural craft brewery, and most importantly, he freely admits, how much is possible in a small town when people have a sense of direction and a spirit to approach everyday life and business the Revelation way. G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here


From Issue 4, 2019


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