Dangerous Man's new growler shop keeps it fresh and easy

To fill a crowler, bartenders wash unmarked cans, blow them out with carbon dioxide, fill them, can them, and label them all by hand.

To fill a crowler, bartenders wash unmarked cans, blow them out with carbon dioxide, fill them, can them, and label them all by hand.

Since its founding in 2013, the most dangerous thing about Dangerous Man Brewing Co. has been the lines to get in the door.

The Nordeast microbrewery's taproom — named best in the Twin Cities in 2014 — is overwhelmingly popular. Its 91-person capacity is consistently met, to the point that bartenders don't have a spare moment to wash, sanitize, and fill growlers in between serving pints. So, when betrothed co-owners Rob Miller and Sarah Bonvallet got a chance to snatch up the 1,600-square-foot studio adjoining their brewhouse, they decided to turn it into a carry-out shop for people to get their grog and go.

After a soft opening on October 25 and some under-the-radar sales this weekend, Miller and Bonvallet are opening their growler shop to the general public this Thursday. Though the hours haven't been finalized yet, Bonvallet says that they'll be open Thursday-Sunday, 11-6 p.m. initially.

"[The soft opening] was amazing. We had the place filled, and we moved everything," says Bonvallet, who admits she's still figuring out what the growler shop's demand may be. "For me, the exciting part is figuring it out. We can be a reactive business."

The new space was acquired in February, with construction beginning in May. The expansion has doubled the overall size of the brewery while also tripling their brewing capacity. This capacity hasn't come in the form of new mash tuns or a bottling line, but directly behind the new filling station in the growler shop, Dangerous Man has added two 20-barrel and four 10-barrel fermenting tanks. "We just couldn't keep up with production, so adding fermenters was the biggest piece of it," Bonvallet says.

The new tanks will help uncork the production line and allow Miller — who also serves as Dangerous Man's head brewer — to work in styles that need to ferment longer. The brewery's first pilsner is currently in the tanks and should be hitting taps in five or six weeks.

Miller and Bonvallet inspect one of their four new 10-barrel fermenters

Miller and Bonvallet inspect one of their four new 10-barrel fermenters

"It's a traditional bohemian style pilsner," Miller says. "It's a little hoppier than some. It has a different hop schedule than a traditional German." He's excited because Dangerous Man has never had the ability to lager a beer before. "It's a whole new road for us. We have the tank space, so we can give beers the time they need. We're not rushing anything out now."

Dangerous Man has been the butt of Minneapolis's flighty beer laws since its inception. Only after the abolition of two blue laws — one outlawing brewery taprooms, and another forbidding brewers to operate across the street from churches — were they allowed to break ground. Even now they're constrained by nit-picky rules: Though local ordinances now allow Dangerous Man to fill growlers from other breweries, they're still limited to only selling in only two volumes. They'll be vending the traditional 64-ounce growler ($12-$15 for a fill) as well as 750-milliliter bottles and crowlers ($7) from their 10 taps. It is illegal for them to serve pints, though curious drinkers are allowed to sample.

Of the offerings, the crowlers (can-growlers) are especially intriguing. They're a laborious endeavor — bartenders wash unmarked cans, blow them out with carbon dioxide, fill them, can them, and label them all by hand. Though customers will be able to grab popular brews like Peanut Butter Porter and Milk Chocolate Stout pre-canned from fridges, crowlers are also canned to order at the bar.

This is largely in line with Dangerous Man's "good beer is fresh beer" ethos. In their taproom, one handle links directly to a bright tank. In the growler shop, individually labeled cans and bottles are micro-produced to order. At most breweries, the road from brew kettle to can to customer is months and hundreds of miles long. At Dangerous Man, you can get a beer that was brewed hours ago canned and handed to you 30 feet from where it was made. 

"When you get it, we've had control over the beer the whole time," Miller says. "For me, as someone who's a homebrewer and someone who's passionate about beer, that's important. Having control over the beer from when you're brewing it until people are drinking it."

Aesthetically speaking, Dangerous Man's growler shop is more of a spiritual offshoot to the taproom than a carbon copy. The main carry-over is the artwork by Minneapolis local Peter Geyen, whose spidery installation sits austerely about the merch wall (which has been relocated from the taproom) and is a sibling to the piece in the bar. The shop's streamlined environs are less homey than the taproom, but that's because the space is all about efficiency. Get in, get beer, get out. However, the growler shop isn't without its charms. Despite the cold minimalism of the lead pipe clothing racks, stainless steel appliances, and concrete floor, Miller and Bonvallet embedded a nod to their home life in the bar top, which was reclaimed from a pine tree that died in their yard.

"We had to take it down two years ago, and John Buck of Wood from the Hood took a huge part of the trunk, kiln-fired it, and dried it and then turned it into this bartop," says Bonvallet. " It was a great way to reuse something that Rob and I had enjoyed for so long."

Ultimately though, the expansion is about convenience and service rather than megalomania. Miller and Bonvallet aren't looking to open a huge commercial brewing operation. The cardinal virtues of Dangerous Man are freshness and variety, and they need to stay small and nimble to accomplish that. Miller and Bonvallet prefer to keep pre-filled growlers, crowlers, and bottles on the shelf for no longer than a week, and they're constantly bringing new beers to the mix. They'll keep Peanut Butter Porter, Chocolate Milk Stout, and Cream Ale permanently on tap, with a variable-recipe house IPA taking up another tapline, but everything else will be up to the whim of the brewery, which is thriving in its hyperlocal niche.

"We're gonna try to keep it all here for now, not distribute," says Miller. "There's a lot of beer sold out of here, so, so far, so good."

Dangerous Man growler shop

Opens Thur., November 12

1307 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis

11 a.m - 6 p.m. Thurs. - Sun.