By Dené K. Dryden
PINE ISLAND — Sen. Amy Klobuchar made a stop at South X SouthEast Minnesota Brewing Co. Tuesday morning, touring the women-owned Pine Island business while employees filled crowlers by hand.
"It's just a great example of what's happening in southeastern Minnesota," Klobuchar said. "So, we want to promote this business. I've worked hard in Washington to make sure that small brewers get better tax treatment; we made some changes because they were being treated the same as the big guys, and that's ridiculous, because these are jobs right here in Minnesota."
"We had planned to do mostly bars and restaurants, so that kind of went away," Fahy-Gust said. "So, I had to rebuild our business plan around cans, and clearly we hadn't had a plan for cans. That's why we do it manually, one can at a time."
Now, Fahy-Gust and Leung are working to triple South X SouthEast's capacity with a new brewing space in a large shed behind the taproom. They told Klobuchar that supply chain issues have delayed the process of bringing the brewery expansion online, but South X SouthEast has not had issues finding employees like other businesses have.
"What is so cool about this is not only their tenacity making it through the pandemic, figuring out how to adjust their business model, but how good their beer is," said Klobuchar, who sampled the peanut butter-flavored Frontage Road Stout.
The brewery also aims to have a small carbon footprint. Fahy-Gust said solid waste, like crushed grains and hops, is used by local farmers as livestock feed, and liquid waste is reclaimed through land application.
"So our footprint in this brewery for waste is the same as a four-bedroom house," said Fahy-Gust.
Klobuchar touted South X SouthEast as one of only a handful of women-owned breweries in the state.
"She is the first (female) master brewer in the history of our country," Klobuchar said of Fahy-Gust. "She should be in the — not Guinness — South X SouthEast record book."
The senator's visit comes during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Klobuchar, who received a stage 1A breast cancer diagnosis last year and underwent treatment at the Mayo Clinic, spoke on the importance of routine mammograms and researching diseases that impact women.
"The more we can get women in positions of power," Klobuchar said, "we're gonna get those diseases researched, because for a long time, they were only researching men's diseases. ... The treatments (for breast cancer) have vastly improved even over 10 years ago."