What started as a 'hole-in-the-wall operation,' Moorhead's Junkyard Brewing is now the community's thriving gem

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MOORHEAD—Junkyard Brewing Co. has grown from its start as a small "hole-in-the-wall" operation in 2012 to a thriving gem of the Moorhead business community.

"It continues to surprise us as it keeps growing. We thought last summer was crazy? It's, like, expect 30 percent crazier this summer," said Aaron Juhnke, co-founder of Junyard with his brother, Dan.

Aaron Juhnke said he and his brother were both homebrewers when they started the company about six years ago in a "hole in the wall" on First Avenue North not far from the brewery's present location at 1416 1st Ave. N.

They officially sold their first beers in 2013, and moved into their current location in the fall of 2014.

Shortly after moving into the new digs, they hired their first employees. The business now has about 30 employees, with about six of those being full-timers.

Aaron Juhnke said they expected the new space would handle their needs for some time, but they soon had to rent more space in the building complex to expand production capacity.

That larger production room went online in the spring of 2017.

This summer, Junkyard is completing a project that will expand seating and serving space and provide two more garage doors, which will enhance flexibility when it comes to using the brewery's outdoor patio.

Although the area's craft brewing scene has become somewhat crowded with the arrival of several breweries setting up on the North Dakota side of the Red River, Juhnke said the market was wide open when Junkyard started six years ago.

"We saw a big opportunity there," he said.

He added that they loved the thought of making different flavors of beer and the idea of breweries being a part of the local culture.

That idea appears to have caught on, as sales of tap beer have grown about 30 percent a year, according to Juhnke.

In addition, Junkyard packages beer in 750 ml cans and distributes it as far away as the Twin Cities.

"I think we have 90 some brands registered with the state," Aaron Juhnke said, adding that when you tally up all the variations on those brands Junkyard is home to more than 200 different beers.

What accounts for Junkyards appeal?

"I think our focus on experimentation and constantly rotating what we're doing has really interested people," Aaron Juhnke said.

"Craft beer drinkers in general tend to be not brand loyal; they tend to be always interested in trying the next thing," Juhnke said.

"We're the same way," he added. "We don't want to stick with a lineup of beers and say. 'This is all we're going to do.'''

Success stories this summer include Junkyard's New England India pale ales and their sours, according to Juhnke.

Also this summer, there is live music nightly and Junkyard is continuing its relationship with food trucks , which Juhnke said partner well with what they sell.

The mobile vendors include: Potato Brothers, Detroit Deli, Pico, and Texas BBQ.

In addition to the beer, Juhnke said Junkyard's laid-back vibe is another ingredient to its success.

"We allow people to bring kids. Sometimes, you'll see a baby. Just having that family friendly atmosphere makes people feel safe here," he said.

"People do have parties here," he added. "But, it's not what you think of as a party spot. It's more of a public place to meet your friends and neighbors."

Dave Hunstad agreed.

Hunstad owns two businesses located next door to Junkyard—First Avenue Promo and Old Lutheran.

He's also Junkyard's landlord.

"It feels good to have given life to this block by inviting them in," Hunstad said.

"It's one of those town square places in Moorhead where people gather," Hunstad said, adding that Junkyard's customer demographic is so broad, "I can see my friends and my kids' friends."

When Junkyard needed more room for production, Hunstad gave up warehouse space to accommodate his neighbor and tenant.

That required a building project to meet his own business needs, and work on that space is progressing along with the Junkyard project.

"I vacated my warehouse and staging space so they would have space to continue to grow," Hunstad said.

"I think of it as a partnership," he added. "I don't think of myself as the typical landlord."

Aaron Juhnke said Junkyard's new addition is expected to be ready sometime in July, but a precise opening date hasn't been decided on.

"We might sneak it open when it's ready," he said.