Flat Earth Brewing Co. confirmed Wednesday that it plans to expand into several abandoned buildings at the old Hamm's Brewery in St. Paul.

The microbrewer, part of the Twin Cities' burgeoning craft beer economy, has won initial approval from the city for a $375,000 loan to spur the move from its current (and cramped) quarters on Benson Avenue. City Council approval is still needed for the loan.

If approved, Flat Earth will move its brewing operation into Building 8, which is the former Hamm's keg-washing operation. Flat Earth is also looking to lease-to-own Buildings 7 and 9 for future use as a public tap/tasting room and perhaps an outdoor beer garden.

One of the goals for the St. Paul-based microbrewer, which currently employs seven people, is to expand its distribution network outside of Minnesota, said Franco Claseman, a partner and director of operations.

While brews such as Angry Planet Pale Ale and Livid Planet Pale Ale and seasonal favorite Black Helicopter Coffee Stout are popular among Twin Cities beer-drinkers, "we just don't have the room to produce more," Claseman said. (Privately held Flat Earth produced 1,300 barrels of beer in 2012.)

Claseman said Building 9, a former carpentry shop that dates back to 1864 and 1867, is in the worst shape, especially after much of it burned in 2005. Buildings 7 and 8, erected in 1893 and 1901, respectively, are structurally sound, but need a lot of work after having been abandoned for many years and falling prey to vandals and wayward merrymakers.

"Really, so much has to be done," Claseman said. "It will take us the rest of the year to complete everything we need to do with the city."

Flat Earth will join a new company called Urban Organics at the 8-acre brewery complex. Founded by Twin Cities public relations executive Fred Haberman, and partners Dave Haider and Kristen Koontz Haider, the firm is currently repurposing the former Hamm's stockhouse into an aquaponics operation. Ultimately, the group hopes to raise tilapia, lettuce and herbs.

Back in the 1950s, Hamm's was the nation's fifth-largest beer company, and an economic powerhouse in the Capitol city, employing 2,000 people. But a series of corporate ownership changes, and the company's delayed entry into the light-beer market doomed the brewery, which closed in 1997.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752