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A Toast to Big Doors


A 400-square-foot door helps reinvent the Minnesota beer-drinking experience
From Builder Magazine

There are many fine craft beer companies. There are many fine craft beer companies with cool breweries, restaurants, and taprooms. And then there is Surly Brewing Co. of Minneapolis, Minn.

In December 2014, this 10-year-old craft brewer raised the gate to the upper Midwest’s first destination brewery in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, an area marked by train yards and towering grain silos. The Twin Cities haven’t been the same since.

“A destination brewery means there is something there for everyone,” explains the project’s architect, Steven Dwyer, AIA, LEED AP, senior designer for HGA, an award-winning national architectural firm based in Minneapolis.

“You can visit on one occasion and have one type of experience. You can visit on another occasion and have another type of experience,” Dwyer says. “It’s like going to the fair. There are so many different ways to connect with the brewery and people.”

The 8.3 acre campus has the expected features – a wood-paneled taproom, full-service restaurant, beer garden, and, of course, the brewery. It also features the unexpected, starting with a 400 square foot sliding glass door that symbolizes the beer brand’s connective spirit.

At 10 feet high and 40 feet long, the sliding door helps make lots of connections: the portal opens the large festive beer hall to the outdoor deck, beer garden, and multi-purpose amphitheater beyond. For Dwyer, the door aesthetic is summed up in a single word.

“Simplicity,” answers Dwyer. “The fewer moving parts, the better.

“We looked at different options. We considered a large bi-fold glass door. We also considered a hydraulic piston system and an accordion-like assembly. But that presents many jambs and edge conditions. Each edge condition is another point for air infiltration.”

Dwyer says what finally clinched the concept was a trip he made to Warroad, Minn., the home of Marvin Windows and Doors.

“We saw a door that was, I want to say, 12 feet tall. It was very impressive. But what was really remarkable was how easy it was to slide open or close the door with a single finger. In this climate you want something dependable. This is Minneapolis, not San Diego.”

What Dwyer examined was the Marvin Ultimate Lift and Slide Door, a product that presents designers with the scale, simplicity, and style options to address nearly any design vision.

Dwyer wasn’t surprised by the Marvin solution. “I’ve worked with Marvin on other projects. They’re always very responsive and supportive. They’re a good company. I think Marvin has one of the best products around.”

“When I was a young architect, I remember looking at different window manufacturers for the quality and thickness of their cladding. Marvin was so well-built. That left a lasting impression on me.”

Dwyer’s portfolio represents many noteworthy building projects across the arts, higher education, and community. How does his first foray in brewery design rank?

“This is a career-defining project,” Dwyer says. “It’s extraordinary to be involved with a client with such strength of vision and then to personally experience the project’s success. There’s nothing like Surly Brewing in the area. The project has made a real impact on the culture of the Twin Cities. I’m very fortunate.”

Shop This Project: Marvin Ultimate Lift and Slide Door