In a tucked-away corner of northeast Minneapolis, surrounded by train tracks and a dirt parking lot, there stands a modest building. For years, this space is where craft beer dreams have been built. Now, a new one is coming to fruition.
The nondescript structure has a robust history for Minnesota craft brewers. In 2013, NorthGate Brewing (RIP) purchased the 780-square-foot space at 3134 California Street NE to build a nanobrewery. They filled the tiny cement building with a five-barrel brewing system and a couple of fermentors. In 2014, they moved out, opened a new taproom, and sold the California Street space with all its equipment to 56 Brewing. Then, in May 2017, 56 Brewing followed suit, passing the space on to a third craft beer tenant -- Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative -- most likely known to Minneapolitans for their three flagships: Community Kolsch, Pecan English Brown, or Lavender Uprising IPA.
Though Broken Clock inherited its space and equipment from other breweries, the owners branched out with their business model, opting to open a cooperative, member-owned nanobrewery not unlike Fair State’s. It’s managed by a board of directors and collectively owned by 366 members, all of whom give input on beer recipes, create art for crowler labels, and volunteer at beer festivals and samplings.
Now, those members are getting to work on an even bigger project together: opening a taproom.
On March 2, members of Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative banded together to begin converting an old construction warehouse into their future watering hole. From engineers to IT professionals to power washers, the members are hosting a modern-day barn raising.
The 5,000-square-foot soon-to-be taproom space is adjacent to Broken Clock’s current nanobrewery, a setup that will enable brewing operations to continue seamlessly as the taproom undergoes construction. A small hallway between the two buildings will serve as a storage space as well as a passageway between brewhouse and brewhall. Currently, there’s a hole in the wall of the brewhouse, because, well, opening a taproom is exciting news, and patience isn’t a virtue we all possess.
As a production-only facility, the business has only been allowed to offer samples of beer on site, except for twelve “pint nights” each year, when they sell full pints to both members and the public. Opening a taproom in time for the summer season will benefit the business as well as for the community of members.
Jeremy Mathison, Operations Manager, explains: “When we built Broken Clock, we wanted to tackle the problem of social isolation.” Building a brewery with a cooperative business model wasn’t easy legally or financially, but it shifts the focus entirely to the membership.
Because of its emphasis on building a member community, Broken Clock is rife with volunteers and business connections. “Our members are literally building the entire taproom,” Mathison notes. The landlord will handle structural changes and installing the HVAC system, but it’s entirely those who make up Broken Clock who will haul concrete, power wash walls, build tables, and even bartend.
“I just want people to be able to come in and say, 'This is my brewery,'” says Mathison. Could the statement be any more true than for those who put in the blood, sweat, and beers to build it?
The Broken Clock team hopes to have the taproom ready in time for Art-A-Whirl (May 18-20).
All thanks to plenty of help from those member-volunteers.