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Keeping it local

The Swinging Bridge Brewing Company is now open for business. It's located in downtown River Falls between the Whole Earth Market Co-op and the South Fork Cafe. (River Falls Photos by Matthew Lambert)1 / 2
Dustin Dodge owns the Swinging Bridge Brewing Company and said his vision is to keep it as local as possible. Swinging Bridge has a wide variety of Western Wisconsin beers and there's always one tap from another location in Wisconsin as well. 2 / 2

Sláinte. A fitting saying for the Swinging Bridge Brewing Company. It means “health” in Irish Gaelic. Paired with the word mhaith, it translates to “good health”, a common toast used by the Irish and present at the company as well.

Dustin Dodge owns the brewery located downtown in River Falls, and said he and his brewmaster Mike O’Hara have Irish backgrounds they celebrate.

That’s why their opening day is March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, to give the people of River Falls a unique beer tasting experience.

Swinging Bridge is a throwback to old community gathering places, according to Dodge. A place for people to gather and have fun.

“We like to think back on the old days of brewery’s when that was kind of that third space,” Dodge said. “You had your work, you had your home, you had your community gathering space and bar or old taverns used to be that.”

Dodge served 11 years in the United States Air Force and is a part of the Minnesota National Guard as well. Along with his monthly responsibilities with the National Guard, Dodge is a volunteer for the River Falls Fire Department, works at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport as a firefighter, and has three children at home.

Both Dodge and O’Hara are transplants to the River Falls area. Dodge from Spooner, Wis., and O’Hara from Detroit, MI. Dodge attended college at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and didn’t want to leave.

Dodge said he met O’Hara through a mutual friend and said he was convinced that O’Hara was the right man for the job because of the beer and his outlook on how the business should be run.

“He has a lot of the same visions as far as just serving the community and not trying to be that brewery that tries to go big and serve the whole state,” Dodge said. “We’re just trying to serve River Falls.”

The micro-brewery has a wide variety of beers to choose from like Bobtown, Rush River, Oliphant, Barley John, and Pitchfork. All local, Western Wisconsin breweries. 

They also serve soda, Lake Street's Kombucha, and coffee as well for non-alcoholic drinks.

For their own beers, they have 4 Winds IPA, a beer Dodge said is one of his favorites, nitro IPA, Cleary’s Dry Irish Stout, and nitro stout.

“I haven’t had a bad beer yet,” Dodge said on O’Hara’s beers.

The Swinging Bridge name gives an homage to the historic pedestrian bridge at the end of West Cascade Avenue that connects to Glen Park, just another way they keep the business local.

For those interested, the Swinging Bridge has a group called the Mug Club that people are able to join. All you have to do is ask to join at the bar, get a mug etched with whatever you want on it, take it home, bring it back and fill it up.

The mug is larger than the usual pint glasses and costs the same as a normal beer.

Along with the membership, people get access to new beers early, have an annual party for members, and their are referral chips that people can give to a friend for a free beer.

They’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. for their grand opening with their usual hours being 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekend. Monday through Wednesday are reserved for brewing days.

Dodge said if you’re looking for adventure, come to the Swinging Bridge.

“You’ll be able to try something you’ve never had before,” Dodge said. “I think this is really going to open up your mind to beers out there that you never thought to try.”

You can check them out on Facebook and their website:

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism.