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20-year-old St. Paul brewpub to close this week

Last call.

Last call. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Say goodbye to Great Waters Brewing Co.

Over the weekend, the downtown St. Paul brewpub announced that this week will be its last. Their final day in the historic Hamm Building at 426 St. Peter St. will be this Sunday, November 18.

City Pages talked at length with Great Waters founder Sean O'Byrne a few years ago, noting then that his place predated pretty much all of Minnesota's craft beer boom. When it opened in 1997, there was no Surly Bill—there wouldn't be a Surly for another eight years. Brewpubs were still a rarity; this one came before compatriots like Town Hall and Rock Bottom.

Hell, you weren't even allowed to sell growlers yet.

The brewpub team notes as much in their short but sad Facebook farewell: "Great Waters opened in downtown St. Paul years before the Xcel Energy Center was built and was one of the first breweries to come along in many years. By the end of this year, there is expected to be 145 breweries in Minnesota."

Elsewhere in that City Pages conversation, O'Byrne talked about the rash of brewpub closures around the country and noted what makes this line of work particularly challenging.

"That failure has a lot to do with the beast that a brewpub is: A brewpub has to have good beer, good food, and good service," he said. "A brewery can just have good beer. A restaurant can have good food and good service, but a brewpub needs that third leg of the stool to survive."

That Great Waters stuck around as long as they did is a testament to just how sturdy their stool has been over the last two decades. 

You can read our interview with O'Byrne here, and find their goodbye in its entirety (along with hundreds of heartbroken comments) below.

And if you get to Great Waters for one last pint before they close, you can pick up a little piece of Twin Cities brewing history: They're unloading all merch at a 50 percent discount.