Creating a Model Citizen: New London brewery expansion includes farm-to-table restaurant
NEW LONDON — There's more than just beer brewing at the Goat Ridge Brewing Co. in New London.
After 2½ years in business — and following an expansion last year — Goat Ridge is adding another 1,600 square feet onto the business.
The addition will create space for an expanded taproom, a bigger brewhouse and a bigger dance floor for their frequent live music shows and space for a farm-to-table restaurant.
"It's a nice fit," said Josh Reed, who owns Goat Ridge with his wife, Christa Otteson.
"It's going to be cool," Reed said of the addition, which will marry the eclectic style of the existing taproom with the new seating area, dance floor and restaurant. "We're going to keep the vibe we have," he said.
Construction of the 28-by-58-foot addition has been taking place over the winter and is expected to be completed by the end of March.
The restaurant, called Model Citizen, will open in early April.
While Reed and Otteson are funding the construction of the addition, the restaurant is being equipped and leased by Mateo Mackbee and Erin Lucas, who will operate Model Citizen as a nonprofit business.
They have a gofundme campaign underway to help fund the venture.
Mackbee and Lucas are chefs with successful careers at Twin Cities restaurants who had longed to implement a unique style that combines farming, cooking and educating.
At the same time, Goat Ridge had put the word out they wanted to team up with someone who had the same "ethics" and positive attitude about putting community first to run a restaurant in the brewery, Reed said.
After striking up a conversation with a local Lutheran pastor who was in the Twin Cities for a visit, the chefs — who had never been to New London before — visited several times last summer to see if this might be the spot to launch their Model Citizen business plan.
"They kept coming back," Reed said. "We didn't scare them away."
Even though they are "outsiders," they discovered they have "shared values" with the community and the Goat Ridge Brewing owners and decided to move here to start their restaurant, Mackbee said.
Because of their current jobs in the metro area, they will make the final move to New London after the Super Bowl.
But they make frequent trips to Goat Ridge to check up on the carpenters' progress.
During a tour last week of the construction site, Mackbee and Lucas explained where each piece of equipment will go in the kitchen and where food would be served at a walk-up window inside the brewery.
There will be no servers at the restaurant.
During warm weather when customers can sit outside by the brewery on the bank of the Crow River, a serving window will also be available underneath a long, covered porch.
Cooking what they described as "elevated comfort food," the two chefs intend to use locally grown meat and produce at the restaurant, including vegetables they plan to grow at Reed's and Otteson's family farm.
Reed said the beer, style and events at Goat Ridge reflect the "live and unfiltered quality that is unique to this community" and that the Model Citizen restaurant will add to the "entire experience for people."
Mackbee said future plans for Model Citizen include adding a catering service and hosting events such as weddings at the farm.
Eventually, they will use the acreage at the farm as hands-on teaching grounds for middle-school-aged children from local communities and the Twin Cities to experience the process of planting vegetables.
That education will then extend to teaching kids how to cook with the vegetables they grow, how to sell produce at farmers markets and how to compost food waste to create fertilizer that is fed back into the soil.
"We want them (students) to get their hands in the dirt," said Lucas during a presentation at a recent 1 Million Cups networking event at the Barn Theatre in Willmar.
It's hoped that the exposure to land, cooking and running a business will help the children become better citizens in their own communities, Lucas said.