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British booze, bowling, and biking: 5 things to know about Royal Foundry Craft Spirits

Get ready for next week's grand opening festivities.

Get ready for next week's grand opening festivities. Stacy Brooks

Utepils Brewing, La Doña Cervecería, and now Royal Foundry Craft Spirits: There’s a bit of a craft beverage boom brewing in Minneapolis’ Harrison neighborhood.

Royal Foundry’s 2,500-square-foot cocktail room—the largest in the Twin Cities—has been running in soft open mode for the past couple of months, with grand opening festivities scheduled for March 7-10. In the meantime, here’s what you should know about this new addition to the local distilling scene.

1. It’s very British.
The giant Union Jack on the wall pretty much sums it up. Royal Foundry specializes in spirits that reflect the British tradition: gin, rum, and whiskey in the style of Scotch single malt. (Plus vodka, although according to founder and chief marketing officer Nikki McLain, it probably will only be served in the cocktail room and will not be distributed.)

Then there’s the decor—the aforementioned Union Jack, an iconic red phone booth, a curve of subway tile over the bar that evokes the London Tube. There are even striped Royal Foundry-branded scarves that will look familiar to soccer (or Harry Potter) fans. The spirits and design aesthetic are inspired the heritage of founder and Chief Distiller Andy McLain, who was born in the U.S. to British expat parents and spent part of his childhood in the U.K.

Skittles: not just a candy!

Skittles: not just a candy! Stacy Brooks

2. It doesn’t feel like a typical cocktail room.
While most local rooms have a dark, speakeasy vibe, the space at Royal Foundry is intentionally light and bright, with sun streaming through huge windows and soft white walls.

Nikki explains that the feel is inspired by her background in event planning. In addition to the expansive cocktail room, Royal Foundry boasts a 3,000-square-foot barrel room that can be used for private events and a tasting room that can be rented for more intimate gatherings. “What people always asked for [in a venue] was natural light, no dark carpeting, no chandeliers—so that’s how we designed our space,” she says.

3. You can try your hand at British-style bowling.
There are three Skittles lanes here, which can be used free of charge on a first come, first served basis. Like bowling, you use a ball to knock down pins—but since the ball is small enough to roll between the pins without knocking them down, it may prove tricky once you’re a few drinks in.

“It’s more frustrating, not ego-boosting like bowling in the U.S.,” says Andy with a chuckle.

This is now the Twin Cities' largest cocktail room.

This is now the Twin Cities' largest cocktail room. Stacy Brooks

4. And you can pair your drink with custom popcorn.
Royal Foundry doesn’t have a kitchen, relying instead on a rotating lineup of food trucks. However, they do offer one option for snacking: bags of flavored popcorn from local purveyor Hip Pop. In addition to salt & vinegar and cheese & onion, there’s a flavor you won’t find anywhere else—prawn cocktail. “We’re on our third reorder,” Nikki says. “People seem to really like it.”

Inspired by Walker’s Prawn Cocktail Crisps, a popular British potato chip, the popcorn tastes exactly as advertised, like dollop of cocktail sauce from a seafood platter. And it actually paired quite nicely with the gin-based cocktail we sampled.

5. It’ll be home to the country’s first cycle speedway track.
Once the snow melts, construction will begin on what’s being billed as the first cycle speedway track in the country. This British style of bike racing originated after WWII—kids would race their bikes around bomb craters—and competitors use single-speed bikes without brakes.

Royal Foundry’s oval-shaped clay track will be short (70 meters) and will be open to any cyclist who brings their own bike, wears a helmet, and signs a waiver. (No bomb craters here.) They’re going to build a deck attached to the distillery and overlooking the track, too, so spectators can sip a drink and watch the races. “This is our total vision,” says Nikki. “The distillery, the cocktail room, and the cycle speedway.”

Royal Foundry Craft Spirits
241 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis
612-208-1042; royalfoundrycraftspirits.com

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks