Rush River Brewing celebrates 20th anniversary

Credits ‘tremendous’ community support for success

By Sarah Nigbor
Posted 4/17/24

RIVER FALLS – Rush River Brewing Co. is turning 20 and will celebrate the milestone Saturday, April 20 with a party to remember.

Co-founder Nick Anderson said he’s “kind of low …

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Rush River Brewing celebrates 20th anniversary

Credits ‘tremendous’ community support for success


RIVER FALLS – Rush River Brewing Co. is turning 20 and will celebrate the milestone Saturday, April 20 with a party to remember.

Co-founder Nick Anderson said he’s “kind of low key about anniversaries but it should be fun. It coincides with the Bluegrass Festival. We will have bands, a couple of food trucks, promoting Rush River and Rush River brands.”

To “celebrate their old age,” they brewed a Canadian Dark Ale (Black IPA), which has hints of chocolate and roasted malts. The celebration coincides with the River Falls Bluegrass, Bourbon & Brews festival, so the brewery will host the Johnson Brothers from 2:30-4 p.m. followed by Chris Silver and the Fish Heads from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Benny’s Bigfoot BBQ will be serve food from 4-9 p.m.

Anderson is an original founder of Rush River Brewing. He operates the business with his brother, Stephen Anderson, friend Betsy Enstrom and head brewer Brett Bakko. His winding route to River Falls is an interesting one that took him from the Twin Cities to Washington back to the Midwest.

Anderson moved to Seattle after graduating from St. Olaf College. He planned to pursue a degree in medicine to become a doctor.

“However, I started homebrewing and caught the bug bad,” Anderson said. “I sent out a resume to all breweries in the state of Washington. I got one response and that was for a keg washing position at Mac & Jack’s Brewery in Redmond, Wash.”

He started washing kegs there and eventually worked his way up to a brewing position. One of his friends, Dan Chang from Milwaukee, took over his keg washing job and also eventually moved up to a brewing position.

“We wanted to try to do it for ourselves,” Anderson said.

The pair moved back to the Twin Cities where they met Robbie Stair, owner of the Mud Pie Restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis.

“I rented an apartment from him above the Mud Pie and we became friends,” Anderson said. “We started our first brewery in Maiden Rock (near the Rush River). Robbie had a home and pole barn there and we turned his pole barn into our first brewery.”

They grew slowly and deliberately, offering draft beer only those first three years. As the business grew, they realized they needed a larger space.

“Out of the blue, we got a call from the St. Croix EDC and they thought that we should move to River Falls,” Anderson said.

So they did, in 2007 with the goal of adding a bottling line. They set up shop at 990 Antler Court, next to the current River Falls Police Department. Things went so well that in 2015 they decided to open a taproom.

“Originally the plan was just to be like a Willy Wonka’s factory, have a truck come, pick up the beer and go away with it,” Anderson said. “However, the margins of the taprooms are much better, so it became a necessity.”

They switched gears from being a production only brewery to focusing more on the taproom experience. At the time he co-founded Rush River Brewing, Minnesota was their biggest market. There were five breweries whereas how there are more than 200, Anderson said.

“We kind of changed our motivation from being a production brewery to kind of focusing more on the taproom. That’s been the big focus in the last five years,” Anderson said. “Things have changed a lot and we’ve kind of had to shift our business operation.”

They distribute kegs and bottles throughout eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The taproom features 16 rotating options with something for everyone.

“We are always coming up with new things. We have three new beers that we’re waiting to put on. All English style ales. We have something for everybody. Light beer, sour beer, several IPAs, Unforgiven Amber Ale is our flagship, barrel aged stuff in collaboration with Tattersall,” Anderson said.

Twenty years of brewing have given Anderson and his brewers ample time to experiment and create new flavors and brews.

“We have a lot of fun beer infusions and all of that comes from our brewers, Brett and James,” Anderson said. “Time has been on our side. We’ve had a lot of time to experiment.

“When we got into it, we were not heavily financed. We did things slowly and steadily because we did not have big money behind us. The goal was to grow slowly and become a part of the community. We are really blessed to have a wonderful community behind us. They have been tremendous and I think we fit right in.”

Anderson thought about going to the Twin Cities when they moved from Maiden Rock, but felt River Falls made more sense.

“Wisconsin is a good beer-drinking state and they support their own local businesses,” he said. “We’re in a great spot with the  metropolitan area near us. This is where we wanted to be. I am quite pleased.”

Rush River has made an effort to cultivate partnerships with local food trucks, artisans and vendors as evidenced by the number of events hosted at the taproom. Classic car shows, live music, indoor and outdoor markets, and other events are common at Rush River, making for a family-friendly atmosphere.

“We are blessed to have a big outdoor area with the pergola, the large lawn and plenty of indoor space as well. That’s the goal, is to try to keep the place filled at all times with whatever we can do,” Anderson said. “We host private and public events. We’re wide open for everything.”

Rush River Brewing Co. is located 990 Antler Court, River Falls. Visit to learn more.

Rush River Brewing, beer, 20th anniversary, River Falls, Maiden Rock, Wisconsin