The Minnesota beer scene continues its mighty growth surge. Yesterday was a big day for beer-world announcements – two very public and one that came to me late last night in an email.
I first wrote about the 612 Brew guys (and gal) in the Heavy Table two years ago (almost to the day). At the time they were working out of a garage just south of Uptown, brewing small batches and dreaming of big ones. They had done a few publicity events, leading me to wonder just exactly what they were. Were they homebrewers showing off their beer at very public gigs, or were they a production brewery that didn’t seem to have beer available anywhere but these shindigs? Turns out the homebrew side was closer to the truth, but they were in the process of getting licensed, so the TTB put a stop to those events.
Not much had been heard from 612 since, until yesterday. On 6/12 – get it, 612 – they announced that a lease had been secured, a brewery had been ordered, and things were moving forward to open a brewery in Nordeast. The building at the corner of Broadway and Central sits below street grade. It’s an old industrial building about to be redeveloped that the brewery’s press release says will feature “exposed brick and timber along with polished concrete floors, an outdoor patio and a rain garden, creating a perfect atmosphere for the brewery.” Indeed, renderings of the finishes space make it look very inviting. The team is working with local manufacturer Minnetonka Brewing and Equipment, to build a custom 15-barrel brewhouse designed to be architecturally compatible with the space.
612 is steering away from the big beers that have been all the rage in craft-brewing for the last several years. They plan to make lower alcohol session beers, starting with SIX, an American pale ale, and Rated R, a spicy and hoppy Rye IPA. Other brews are also in the plan including a German lager with ginger called Mary Ann (a Gilligan’s Island reference for those too young to remember). The plan is also to serve Indian street food in the taproom.
The second big announcement came from up north. The Star Tribune reported that Fitger’s Brewhouse plans to open a new brewpub in downtown Minneapolis at 107 3rd Ave. N. They plan to open in late fall or early winter, but the brewery won’t be in place until sometime next spring or summer. In the meantime they will feature some made-in-Duluth Fitger’s brews along with guest taps from other Minnesota beer makers. The design may include outdoor seating and a possible rooftop beer garden. This is big news to many Twin Cities beer fans that currently have to trek the 150 miles to Duluth to enjoy some of the best beers in the state.
Blacklist Brewing and Wolf Revival
The last announcement came to me in an email with the subject line “Two More Beer Projects.” The first of these project is something called the Blacklist Brewing Beer + Art Project. The brainchild of 7-year veteran brewer Brian Schanzenbach and marketing guy/Certified Cicerone Jon Loss, Blacklist will operate as itinerant brewers in the mold of Mikkeller in Denmark, leasing time and space in other brewery’s facilities to make their beers, although they haven’t ruled out eventually building their own plant. They’ll form collaborations with regional artists to meld unique beers with artwork to match, a different beer and a different artist every month. The pair plan to work on a membership model similar to Crooked Stave in Colorado. Membership buys you a monthly shipment of beer and art starting in 2013. Different membership levels get you different amounts of each. Memberships are already available for purchase at the Blacklist Kickstarter project page. A glance at the proposed beer list reveals some creative concoctions including a lot of sours. How ‘bout a white grape strong Belgian golden or an imperial IPA with fennel and spruce.
But that’s not all. Loss and Schanzenbach are involved in a second project centered in Stillwater. They are collaborating with the great-granddaughters of the Joseph Wolf family to revitalize the pre-prohibition brewery of the family name. They plan to introduce 750 ml bottles of Belgian strong golden and Berliner Weiss in Stillwater and limited outlets in the TC Metro later this summer. Initially these beers will be brewed at Dubrue in Duluth. Apparently the group is trying to purchase the old Wolf brewery buildings on Main Street in Stillwater, but are running into some difficulty.
It’s definitely an interesting time to be a beer fan in Minnesota.