Roundhouse Brewery to expand to Nisswa

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Gull Dam Brewing as it looked before its opening in 2014 on Smiley Road in Nisswa at the former Werneke Water Wheel Center property. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

Bursting at the brewery seams, Roundhouse Brewery is expanding to the north into the former Gull Dam Brewing Inc. building in Nisswa on Highway 371.

The expansion will at least triple Roundhouse’s current capacity. While Roundhouse’s Brainerd operation and the former Nisswa brewery aren’t an apples to apples location, the increased size will allow for expansive growth. Roundhouse has a seven barrel system, while the former Gull Dam Brewing operated with a 20 barrel system.

“In layman’s terms it’s three times the size but there is probably potential for more than that,” said Roundhouse co-owner and President Mark Lelwica in a phone interview.

Lelwica said the Roundhouse Brewery location in Brainerd, at the NP Center on 13th Avenue, is expected to remain for the foreseeable future.


Patrons of Roundhouse Brewery in the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd can take the beer home in growlers. (Brainerd Dispatch, Kelly Humphrey - Gallery and Video)
Patrons of Roundhouse Brewery in the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd can take the beer home in growlers. (Brainerd Dispatch, Kelly Humphrey - Gallery and Video)

Lelwica said the main reason to consider the move is the need for room to grow.

The expansion, carrying on the historic railroad theme on which Roundhouse is built, was described as “laying new track” as the business plans for the future and continues its railroad heritage. The new location will be called Roundhouse Brewery-Nisswa.

Roundhouse reported the plans for expansion and looking for a site the brewery could own were laid in late 2019.

“We took inventory of our business plan and decided that a change was necessary to facilitate further growth,” said Dan Meyer, co-owner and Roundhouse chief financial officer, in a news release. The company leadership reported goals included finding a site that could carry their brand and link to the lakes area’s railroad legacy along with its attraction as a recreation center and yet stay within arms reach of Brainerd. Buying the Gull Dam Brewery building hit on all those details and offered a brewery that closed less than two years ago.


Four years after it started, Gull Dam Brewing’s owners, Mark and Barb Anderson, announced in late 2018, they were going to retire and were shuttering the Nisswa microbrewery. Gull Dam Brewing opened for business in October 2014, coming online as the area’s second microbrewery and starting up in an iconic building in Nisswa that was constructed in 2002 with an eye-catching water wheel and waterfall.


Lelwica said there are plans for a moderate buildout affer the closing of the sale with a goal to make the building represent the Roundhouse brand.

“The goal being to make it represent our brand and we really want to continue our brand up there and kinda of the theme that has been a staple for us is our connection to the history of this area,” Lelwica said. “The railroad didn’t only just stop in Brainerd there is a railroad history that connects to Nisswa as well. And that combined with the recreation and the vacation opportunities that are up there, there is obviously a long history of that. And just tying the history of that area together into our brand is what we are really focusing on.”

“Right now, our production space is maxed out. We have very little storage space, and as we produce more beer, because people like drinking our beer, more storage space is needed. Kegs, grains and cans all take up valuable space” Lelwica stated in the news release. “We have increased our capacity by adding fermenters and a canning line. We have also purchased a company car and hired a Brand Ambassador to be our champion in the field. This all adds up to a need for more space, and the expansion of Roundhouse Brewery-Nisswa gives us all that, and room for more.”

In talking about the importance of the history, Lelwica noted the instant nostalgia that comes from the images of the area’s railroad heritage, the preservation of the Lake Hubert railroad station and from Nisswa’s iconic downtown.

“We’re super excited about that location for a lot of reasons,” Lelwica said of the Nisswa site. “It expands our market. It expands our reach. The facility itself obviously increases our capacity.”

Lelwica noted the Gull Dam Brewing space for events as well as the brewery operation. He said food will play a role in the business plan there with more details on that to come in the future.

One thing that isn’t expected to play a role going forward is the waterfall on the water wheel building south of Schaefer’s Foods. The stone and wood building, once the Werneke Water Wheel Center, was created with its own waterfall, water wheel and 9-foot deep pool. Lelwica said plans are to remove the waterfall, which he said poses maintenance concerns, and to give the building a fresh look indicating the building’s new purpose and one that fits with the Roundhouse image.

“I think when people see what we are thinking of, they are going to appreciate it,” he said.


Roundhouse Brewery is in the clock tower at the NP Center in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Roundhouse Brewery noted it has become a staple in the community as a gathering space and for hosting events, party’s, fundraisers, games and live music. Roundhouse added the Nisswa location will allow the company to continue to grow its brand, as well as expand its event options, and to continue to provide that craft brewery experience so many locals and tourists alike have come to seek out.

“There is such a strong presence of craft breweries in the area,” Lelwica stated. “And I have maintained that we are much stronger and more successful together than we could ever be on our own. Each brewery provides a unique experience and offers customers a variety of choices of brews, as well as brewery related events.”

Expansion plans were set in motion prior to the stay-at-home order and the shutdown of businesses March 17.

Roundhouse leadership stated they anticipate restrictions to eventually be lifted, and the retail climate to eventually return back to normal. Roundhouse plans to have the Nisswa location open for business yet this summer, with obvious obstacles to overcome. They reported they also believe it will be a long and slow process of reintegration back to normal. With this expansion, Roundhouse feels they can better serve the needs of the Brainerd lakes area, as well as adhering to the mindset that ‘We can do Better.”

Roundhouse employed 10 people before the shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic and expects to add jobs to accommodate growth.

“I think the community has really embraced us,” Lelwica said. “We are very optimistic we’ll be expanding and having some job opportunities to go along with our expansion.”


Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

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