Against the grain

OLIVIA VOLKMAN-JOHNSON JULY 26, 2018

UPDATED: JULY 26, 2018 - 1:58 PM

How a biomedical engineer and a business sales guru became the founders of Minnesota’s first women-owned microbrewery.

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Twin Cities residents Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak were on a bike ride one afternoon in the neighborhood of St. Anthony Park when they happened upon a rather old brick building, seemingly out of place among the industrial warehouses.

The 19th-century structure, though it used to be a horse stable and maintenance depot, housed a pottery studio and a vacant unit. Pavlak and Loch, who were shopping around for a space for their new brewery, immediately knew: This was the place.

Six years later, Urban Growler Brewing Company opened its doors to anyone and everyone looking for good food, good beer and a good time.

Pavlak, a Minneapolis native, studied at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for speech communications and psychology — two unlikely, yet effective qualifications for the owner of a brewery.

Pavlak spent most of her life working in sales, but she always dreamed of opening a restaurant.

“I wanted a restaurant,” said Pavlak, who quickly noted a key difference from working in high-stakes business sales. “If you screw up an order, it takes months to repair that relationship. If someone comes in here and they order a meal they’re not in love with, I can take care of that in 30 seconds, and they’ll be happy. It’s a much shorter sales cycle.”

Loch, meanwhile, grew up working in her family restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin.

“Of course, the last thing I wanted to do was be in the restaurant business — because that’s what my folks did,” Loch said. “So I went off to college and became a biomedical engineer.”

Working in the medical-device industry by day and crafting home brews by night, Loch discovered a passion for brewing.

“Even though I went to undergrad in Milwaukee, I never realized that brewing could be a career,” Loch said. “In fact, being a biomedical engineer is perfect training for being a professional brewer.”

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