The Twin Cities taproom boom continues unabated. July saw three new brewery openings in as many weeks, giving area beer fans several new options to gather for a pint. From Minnesota’s first ever woman-owned and -operated brewery to a tiny, two-barrel taproom with plans to add a comedy club, these newcomers bring unique twists to the metro area’s fastest-growing trend.
Here is a rundown of the latest spots with my preference for what to try at each.
This takes its name from a 1942 essay by French philosopher/novelist Albert Camus in which he compares the “absurd” reality of the human condition — an endless repetition of mundane tasks — to the plight of Sisyphus, a character of Greek mythology who is condemned to eternally push a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down. For Sisyphus Brewing founders Sam Harriman and Catherine Cuddy, this condition wasn’t cause for despair, but a call to action.
They quit their corporate jobs so that Harriman could pursue his true passion, stand-up comedy. A cross-country comedy tour with stops at several breweries led them to an even stronger passion — making beer.
With a two-barrel brewhouse, Sisyphus is the Twin Cities’ smallest brewery. This makes operating the brewery a Sisyphean task. As quickly as the couple can fill a serving tank, it is drained by thirsty patrons. This works with their model, though, which calls for frequently changing the lineup of brews sold only at the taproom. Expect to see a different beer list on every visit.
The Sisyphus taproom is a super-casual space that eschews fancy decor to let the beer and the people speak for themselves. Two long shuffleboard tables provide the arena for some friendly competition. Plans for the space include a 100-seat theater for live comedy and music shows.
Beer pick: Brett IPA. Brettanomyces — “Brett” for short — is a wild strain of yeast that brings earthy and succulent fruity notes to beer. Combined with an abundance of citrusy hops, it results in a beer that is a cornucopia of pineapple and tropical fruits. Bitterness is moderate, but enhanced by leathery flavor from the yeast. It’s good as is, but I would be intrigued to see what even more hop character would bring.
Sisyphus Brewing, 712 Ontario Av. W., Mpls., no phone, www.sisyphus brewing.com. Hours: Wed.-Thurs. 3-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. noon-1 a.m.
Bauhaus Brew Labs
This is the latest addition to the blossoming Northeast Brewers District. The brewery’s philosophy and look arise from the Bauhaus art movement of 1920s Germany. The Bauhaus artists sought a melding of form and function to bring artfulness to everyday life. That’s exactly what Bauhaus brewer Matt Schwandt wants to do with beer.
For Schwandt, beer is an expression of art and craft that injects an easy dose of beauty and enhanced sociability to the day. That sensibility carries over to the taproom space as well. The soaring, early-20th-century industrial space has the energy of a German beer hall, with long, communal tables encouraging social interaction. Splashes of bright color add a playfulness that also harks back to the German Bauhaus aesthetic. There are happenings in the taproom nightly, from karaoke to make-your-own T-shirts. And don’t be afraid to bring the kids. Bauhaus Brew Labs is a family-friendly place with toys to keep the little ones entertained.
Beer pick: Wonderstuff Neü Bohemian Pilsner. True to their artsy inspiration, Bauhaus beers are centered mostly on German lager styles, but with subtle creative twists. Wonderstuff has the heart of a traditional pilsner with graham-cracker malt flavors and floral hop aromas. Additions of nontraditional Citra and Sorachi Ace hops bring sprightly lime and lemongrass high notes.
Bauhaus Brew Labs, 1315 NE. Tyler St., Mpls., 612-276-6911, bauhausbrewlabs.com. Hours: Wed.-Fri. 3-11 p.m., Sat. noon-11 p.m.
What you first notice upon entering the Urban Growler taproom are three copper-banded serving tanks towering at the center of the room behind the bar. They anchor the space, making it clear that beer is the focal point of the bustling beehive all around them. On the wall next to the door is a plaque bearing the names of donors who provided the crowdsourced funding that made the brewery happen. It’s a tribute to another of Urban Growler’s centering principles — community.
Owners Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak believe in bringing people together through beer. They developed the plan for the brewery during a contentious and polarized political campaign season and thought things would be better if people could sit down and get to know one another. The brewery is their way of facilitating that. The notion of community also manifests itself in their desire to make Urban Growler a neighborhood gathering spot and in their use of locally sourced ingredients for food and beer.
Urban Growler is the first taproom in the Twin Cities to feature its own kitchen. Chef Paul Suhreptz serves up a small menu of beer-friendly foods. His signature pork carnitas are made with the brewery’s Smoked Chipotle Porter.
Beer pick: Cowbell Cream Ale. Light body, low to moderate bitterness and smooth, grainy malt sweetness make this delightfully easy to drink. Low alcohol means you can have more than one. This is the perfect patio beer for enjoying our remaining days of summer.
Urban Growler Brewing Co., 2325 Endicott St., St. Paul, 612-501-1128. www.urbangrowlerbrewing.com. Hours: Wed.-Thurs. 4-9 p.m., Fri. 3-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m.
Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at email@example.com.