Reclaimed barn wood. Shaker furniture. Hammered tin light-up letters.
Enki Brewing managed to include only one of these suburban brewery cliches in their totally revamped new digs, which opened to the public on Friday.
Above their bar, the Victoria brewery showcases its name in rustic bulbs, one of the only holdovers from their previous taproom a three blocks away on Victoria Drive.
There are still a couple old high-tops in the back of the bar and the old chalkboard is still propped up in prominent view, but all the other decor is totally updated. Gone are the corrugated metal bar and wrought iron chandelier, replaced by exposed HVAC, painted I beams, and bright industrial highlights.
Co-founder Dan Norton says he worked with HGA, the architecture firm who also designed Surly. “This space didn’t really allow us to be the old red-brick type of place. So, we didn’t try to force it. We let it become what it became.”
The 17,000-square foot warehouse used to be home to digital component manufacturer HEI Inc., but after they went out of business in 2015, Enki swooped in. They blew out the offices and clean rooms to establish a slick, open brewery that operates on two floors.
Enki’s taproom is anchored around its architecture. As you walk in the door, a mesmerizing yellow wall leads your eyes to a gigantic cutout in the floor that overlooks the brewery tanks. Norton, who got the idea after visiting Chino Latino in Uptown, calls the experience “brewing theater.”
“At first, I had no interest in this building,” he says. “The ceiling heights weren’t high enough. But if we put a hole in the floor, all of a sudden we have the space for a brewery, and we have the opportunity for a unique taproom that overlooks the brewery.”
The 20 barrel brewhouse below the cutout is also a holdover from Enki’s 3,000 square foot starter brewery, but now that they have the basement of a building quintuple that size to make beer in, larger vessels will be added.
40 and 60 barrel fermenters will mean that Enki can do larger batches of beer, and they’ll also be able to lager beers without taking tank space from other beers. That means that their highly popular Litmus Pils will soon be a full-time offering.
Having more room to brew was a big factor in the move, but the main reason Enki started looking for new real estate was the lack of room for expansion. Enki’s experimented with bottling beers by hand, but they want to have a larger distribution footprint.
Soon, they’ll add a canning line in the basement and move stalwarts like Tailfeather, Cacao Portern, Victoria’s Gold, and, yes, Litmus into cans and move them to their accounts in the Twin Cities.
“I see [Litmus] being our best-selling beer, overtaking our Tailfeather IPA,” Norton says. “It’s such a nice beer. I wish I was drinking one right now.”
Though Enki wasn’t planning on opening the lines on their new state-of-the-art MicroMeter tap system until mid-October, Enki decided to try and capture some of the Ryder Cup traffic by soft-opening on September 30. The brewery will be open regular hours from here on out, but Norton and his crew will be throwing a proper grand opening party on October 15 with music and limited edition bottles of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Warming Hut Brown Ale.
Enki has a long way to go before they’re finished refining their already-gorgeous new home -- next spring, they’ll look to add a patio, for example -- but for now, the Victoria homebodies have upgraded just about every facet of their operation and redesigned it for the future.
“Before, we had to rent air,” Norton jokes. “We were totally maxed out. Now we’re in a space that will continue to let us grow in the next 15 to 20 years.”