Society has indulged in its love of beer for centuries. Ale is one of the oldest beverages, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, and the third most popular beverage overall behind water and tea. More than 35 billion gallons of beer are sold per year, accounting for global revenues of more than $300 billion. Much of this beer is brewed by craft breweries.
Craft breweries are classified as small, independent brewers that produce fewer than six million barrels of beer annually. According to the Brewers Association, for the past decade craft breweries have averaged a 10.9 percent growth per year. In 2016, the volume of craft beer produced grew by 20 percent, while total sales increased by 24 percent.
Junkyard Brewing Company has become one of the most popular craft breweries in the greater Red River Valley area since it moved to its current location in 2014. Prior to that, brothers Dan and Aaron Juhnke sold kegs out of a little spot behind a local homebrew store. It is safe to say that Junkyard has now moved out of the dugout and into the big leagues. “Our business has grown beyond our expectations,” Aaron said. “We’re brewing way more beer than we had ever imagined we would, and we’re hosting a lot more people on a nightly basis than we ever dreamed.”
Part of Junkyard’s success is the welcoming and inviting nature of the business. It isn’t uncommon to hear patrons talk about how comfortable and homey the brewery is. “I continue to increase my appreciation for how much people matter and how important personal relationships are in business,” Aaron said. “I imagined that being in business was going to be more about the numbers and finances, but people are very important, both our guests and people who work for the brewery.”
The other contributing factor for Junkyard’s success is simply their product, which has quickly become a local favorite among beer connoisseurs. The brewery’s Peanut Butter Bandit stout has been named “Best Local Beer” in Fargo Monthly’s Flavor Awards two years running. According to Aaron, other crowd favorites include Junkyard’s sour beers as well as its hazy IPAs, like the “Shake-o-Matic” milkshake-style IPA series. “Coming up we plan to brew a beer with hazelnut flavor that should taste a bit like Nutella spread,” Aaron said. “We’re excited for that one.”
Junkyard has recently become very active in the community, hosting multiple events over the past year. Aaron feels a sense of responsibility to give back to the community. “I think that we are in a special position as a public space where we can facilitate and promote the interaction of people in our neighborhood and the wider community,” he explained.
“When I say ‘public space,’ I’m referring to the sort of places where people go and generally bump into their neighbors, like coffee shops, grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and churches. Having public spaces in a neighborhood is vital to creating a sense of community for people,” Aaron continued. “So, participating in charitable events and fundraisers is an extension of what I see is our role as a facilitator of community interaction. We like to help support the communities that have supported us.”
Since becoming popular, it has been increasingly difficult for the brewery to accommodate large numbers of patrons. It is an issue Aaron and Dan are aware of. “We are very happy where we are, but as many people have observed, we seem to be running out of space for our guests. This is especially troubling in the winter when we have to close our large patio area and lose a ton of seating, so it can get a bit crowded inside,” Aaron said. “But being cozy is kind of what people want in the winter anyway, so it works in a way. As for expansion plans, the move that seems to make the most sense to us would be to open another taproom location somewhere.”
It is hard to believe there are still people who haven’t enjoyed one of Junkyard’s many craft beers. The biggest reason seems to be that some people just don’t like beer. Aaron would like to see those people give the brewery a try. “If you’ve never been here before, I’d like you to know that beer can taste a lot different than the domestic light lager that many of us are familiar with,” he explained, adding that beer can be tart, sweet, fruity, chocolatey, or a combination of flavors that have been infused into the beer.
“Some folks just aren’t into beer, and that’s okay too, but a lot of people are really surprised by the beers they taste here,” Aaron continued. “They’ll say that they ‘don’t like beer,’ but when they taste one of our unique beers, like our sour beers for example, they say, ‘Wow! I actually like this,’ or, ‘I didn’t know beer could taste like this.’”
Nobody said drinking beer had to be boring, and that is a concept the Juhnke brothers have embraced. In addition to becoming the hottest place to hang out and drink stellar craft beer, Junkyard has become a popular venue for live music as well, with local artists performing nightly. Lawn and board games are also available, and on any given night you can find a local food truck parked out front. Visiting Junkyard isn’t just about the beer.
More information about Junkyard Brewing Company, including their live music schedule and list of events, can be found at junkyardbeer.com.
By Jamee Larson