It's been a curious journey for Flat Earth Brewing Company. Founded in 2007, they've sold 22-ounce bottles since before words like “taproom” and “double IPA” were a mainstay in the Twin Cities lexicon. But while newcomers like Surly and Lift Bridge expanded across the region, the conspiracy theory-themed brewery in St. Paul continued quietly giving tours and pouring samples in their brewery — an outdated method that didn’t generate income or draw in the crowds.
Then in 2013, they moved into the old Hamm’s brewery and brought much bigger plans with them.
In August, Flat Earth opened a makeshift taproom on the first floor of its partially restored building. It's a temporary space to bring in some money and show off their progress while they continue to work on the rest of the building.
Eventually, Flat Earth will open a taproom on the second floor, above their current one, with plans for a scenic beer garden outside that will overlook Phalen Creek. In the meantime, it’s a partitioned warehouse with a different feel in each room. There’s an entryway where they sell growlers, a spacious and welcoming room lovingly restored from decayed brick and graffiti concrete, where visitors are met by a comfy armchair and ambient lighting. The entry leads to another seating area and then a homemade bar. Bar seating is traditional, but tables throughout are mostly patio furniture. The walls all the way through are decorated with transitional photos from the restoration of the building.
From the bar, there’s a full wall window looking into the brewhouse. Actual brewing takes place far away from that window — the view is dominated by keg storage — but it’s a necessary segue from industrial to relaxed, connecting the consumer with the process. Once that connection is made, attention turns back to the bar.
Flat Earth’s staple beers are all on tap: Northwest Passage IPA is even better fresh than out of the bottle, and Cygnus-X1 porter (named for a Rush song) remains one of the better porters in town. Topping off the flagships, they offer two “high gravity” beers, Bermuda Triangle Belgian Trippel and Eastside Double IPA, and three “specialties,” Mercantile dubbel, Ovni biere de garde, and Mummy Train pumpkin ale.
The Belgian beers are heavily candied while the porter is brisk and coffee bitter. Throughout the room, patrons ordered pizzas from nearby establishments, with Carbone’s a top pick. Theirs is definitely an older, relaxed crowd and while there was a high chair in the corner and a kids’ play set tucked away, the Thursday evening crowd was a more traditional after-work set.
While the beer should be the talking point, Flat Earth’s taproom is really all about the building. From entry all the way to the beer in the back, the walls are covered in restoration photos. With the bar in the second room, one must follow a trail of photographs to find a pint. Flat Earth’s business is making and selling beer, but a visit to the taproom tells a more encompassing story, past leading to present.
688 Minnehaha Ave. E., St. Paul