First look: Venn Brewing emerges from the chaos in south Minneapolis

Jerard Fagerberg

Jerard Fagerberg

For seven months, it’s been nothing but work.

When Kyle and Connie Sisco signed on to be the first commercial tenants at Oaks Station Place on the corner of 46th and Hiawatha, they knew it’d be a grind. But it was a grind that was long overdue.

Kyle, a 10-year veteran of the homebrewing scene and a nationally ranked BJCP beer judge, had already been involved in one failed brewery venture. When that fell through, he went on to take over the head brewer position at Robbinsdale’s Wicked Wort Brewing. He’d been biding his time since then, and Oaks Station Place had been weighing its suitors. It wasn’t until June that the two sides finally met and decided to make each other’s ambitions come true.

But since Venn Brewing was announced six months ago, it’s been utter chaos for the Sisco family. Kyle’s been working 100-hour weeks, and Connie’s been supplementing her full-time marketing job by getting the brand off the ground.

On December 16, their chaos will come to fruition when the newest brewery in south Minneapolis opens its doors.

When the Sicsos signed the lease at Oaks Station Place, the ground floor of the mostly residential building had sat vacant for three years. The landlords had been waiting for a “neighborhood amenity” to move in -- most likely a coffee shop or restaurant -- but had yet to be swayed by their suitors. Wild Mind co-founder and commercial real estate agent Jason Sandquist insisted the Siscos take a look at the virgin space, but they weren’t initially sold.

“We wanted to be along the Hiawatha corridor,” Kyle says. “But we thought we’d end up in Seward or some place with more industrial space.”

What they were introduced to was a gigantic, empty rectangle of commercial space sitting below 200 residential apartments at one of the busiest light rail stops in Minneapolis. Its 4,400 square feet was less than they’d hoped to secure, but the location was impossible to argue with. The two immediately got to work.

Kyle did all the woodworking for the new taproom himself -- everything from the bar top to the rafters to the tables. “I made everything that’s wood here except the doors,” he says. “It was a tremendous amount of work.” He took exactly one day off to put his family dog to sleep.

The ceaseless toil has resulted in a big, open space with clean lines and a seven-barrel brewhouse in back. The Siscos have developed the taproom as the sole location for Venn Brewing beer, borrowing from the no-wholesale model of Dangerous Man Brewing.

“It’s a ballsy move to enter the industry with a focus on wholesale,” Kyle says. “In my humble opinion, the future of Minnesota brewing is the taproom.”

The on-site emphasis fits into the couple’s drive to make Venn a neighborhood pillar. They envision it as an uber-family-friendly space that has absolutely zero barriers to entry. That means you can walk in on a Monday night and not be ambushed by drunken karaoke.

As such, their beers tend toward the middle. Right now they have nine offerings on tap, but they’re aiming to have 12 by the time the grand opening rolls around. All are ultra-clear, clean-finishing beers that cover the gamut of what Sisco has to offer as a brewer.

“Every day, we go home and drink two or three pints together,” Sisco says of his and Connie's ritual. “This needs to be beer that, when you finish it, you go, ‘Shit, it’s gone?’”

Venn will have no flagship, and their cast of beers will rotate as soon as they leave the 10 fermenters in back. In general, they’ll represent the four major beer markets of the world (the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, and the United States), but nothing is absolute at the moment. The highlight of their current run is the opaque, squishy session IPA, but darker options like the black lager and winter ale show the depth of maltiness Sisco is able to obtain.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Petite Saison -- a likely favorite among nontraditional beer drinkers -- is a golden, clove-laced treat that shows how playful Sisco can be when he’s given a little freedom. And now that the doors are preparing to open, it looks like that’s just what Sisco will be getting.

But that doesn’t mean he’ll be resting on his laurels.

“It’s really just trading one kind of chaos into another,” Kyle says. Without hesitation, Connie jumps in: “We knew what we were getting into,” she says, “and that’s just par for the course.”

Photos by Jerard Fagerberg.