Royal Foundry Craft Spirits’ walls are mostly bare and white, with a notable exception.
Behind three lanes of skittles, a nine-pin bowling game, looms a giant, 3-D Union Jack. Royal Foundry co-founder Nikki McLain believes it to be the largest depiction of that other red-white-and-blue flag outside the United Kingdom.
That’s only one of the very British touches at this cocktail room, event space and distillery in Minneapolis, which opened quietly this month (241 Fremont Av. N., Mpls., 612-208-1042, royalfoundrycraftspirits.com).
The 15,000-square-foot space also features a large bar handcrafted from barrel wood. It stands in front of a curved wall lined with subway tile and concert posters, made to look like half of a London Tube station. There’s one of those signature red phone booths. And on the opposite wall are four 7-foot vinyl cutouts of an image of co-founder Andy McLain’s great-grandfather, an English detective.
McLain’s roots are the driving force behind Royal Foundry Craft Spirits. His parents are from the U.K., and he spent part of his childhood there. He goes back to visit every year with his wife, Nikki, and their two children.
In all his travels, he came to realize one very important thing.
“All of my passions and appreciation for booze has been from exposure there,” he said.
So he learned their spirit-making ways and launched his own Anglophilic drinking spot in Minneapolis, down to the equipment. Single-malt whiskey produced in the Scotch style, London dry gin and navy rum are among the spirits being made into cocktails here, and, eventually, sold on store shelves.
“The idea is to take something and make it better” as a small craft operation, McLain said. “And it’s good stuff. Scotches are good whiskeys. London dry gins are good gins.”
McLain, who worked in house construction and did most of the woodworking in the distillery, hopes the venue becomes popular with the expat crowd — another Brit’s Pub, he suggested.
The McLains, along with co-founder Kelly Everhart, have converted a former eyesore of a warehouse (the exterior was painted with polka dots) full of office fixtures into a multipurpose space just west of downtown Minneapolis in the Harrison neighborhood. They share the building with the recently opened La Doña Cerveceria, the Twin Cities’ first Latin-style brewery, in this developing neighborhood at the nexus of several bike trails.
“We believe Harrison is going to be what the North Loop was 10 years ago,” Nikki McLain said.
A yet-to-be-built deck on the 2nd Avenue N. side of the building will seat 100 and offer sweeping views of downtown. That deck will overlook a cycle speedway track for leagues and individuals to compete in this British cycling sport. (There will likely be a rule to cycle first, then drink. “I’ve already got the waiver drafted,” said Everhart, an attorney.)
For now, food trucks and British-inspired popcorn are the only food options (prawn cocktail popcorn, anyone?).
But the drinks are the real focus. So far, the short menu consists of a pear Old Fashioned made with rum, a whiskey and housemade blackberry shrub drink, a grapefruit-and-whiskey Collins, and a vodka drink with honey, lemon and a lavender rim.
The cocktail room is now open daily, and a grand opening is planned for sometime in January.