Granite City Brewing Company began in 1999 with the opening of the first Granite City Food & Brewery location in St. Cloud, MN (whose 100+ year history of local granite quarries lent the city its nickname of “The Granite City”). Over the next two years, the brewpub company added two additional locations in Sioux Falls, SD and Fargo, ND. The formula of good food, generous portions, reasonable prices, and great beer turned out to be a winner as there are now 26 Granite City locations in 11 states as of this writing, plus their brewery in Monroe, WI which supplies bottled beer to microbrew lovers in several Midwestern states.
The Granite City chain was founded by Steven Wagenheim and William Burdick, both experienced executives in the hospitality industry. Burdick was a brewing chemist with a master’s degree in brewing science from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he also worked for the William Younger Brewing Company before going on to open 140 pubs across northern England in his position with Allied Breweries. He returned to America, and in 1989 founded Sherlock’s Home Restaurant and Brewery in Minnetonka, MN – the first restaurant in the state to be allowed to brew beer on-site. That same year, Wagenheim went to work for the Champps restaurant/sport bar chain. After a while, however, he had developed a vision for a new type of restaurant and joined with his brewing friend Burdick to develop the Granite City concept.
Just prior to opening their Fargo, ND location in 2001, Burdick introduced a new, patented, brewing technique for brewpubs with multiple locations. In the system (known by the tongue-in-cheek name “Fermentus Interruptus”) their central brewing facility completes the first steps of the brewing process, creating the hopped wort (pronounced “wert”), which is essentially beer prior to fermentation. The wort is then sent to the individual brewpub locations where the fermentation and conditioning stages are completed. The innovative technique helps the company minimize the need for a full array of expensive brewing equipment at every location, while providing the chain’s head brewer an exceptional level of quality control over the critical mashing, sparging, and boiling stages of brewing.
For more info on the brewery and restaurant locations, visit them at www.gcfb.com