isn't just the latest entry into the burgeoning Minnesota beer scene, it's also the first new non-brewpub brewery in the city of Minneapolis since the Grain Belt Brewery closed in 1975. The brand-new brewery is housed in a nondescript commercial building on Minnehaha Avenue south of Lake Street, just a few doors down from Patrick's Cabaret and the Hub Bike Coop. Founder and brewer Jason Sowards spent most of November and December getting the brewery installed and clearing the last bureaucratic hurdles before sneaking in his first brewing session just a few days before Christmas. The first batches of Harriet Brewing beer are conditioning in the tanks and should be packaged and ready for delivery to area bars by late January or early February.[jump]
Sowards emphasizes mindfulness in his brewing. As he told me, "I have a motto that I have used recently and that is 'brew with intention.' If I brew a beer because I have to give people something rather than because I want to brew it, it changes things. It causes me not to pay attention to process. It's easier to make mistakes and to make a beer that isn't up to my standards. I try to have the mindset that brew days are sacred. I try to focus on doing a perfect brew every time I brew." The brewery's website elaborates further on this principle.
At Harriet Brewing we emphasize intention as the primary component in recipe development. It's what makes good beer special. We take pride in using our knowledge of traditional beer styles, our open minds, and eclectic pallets to brew both unique and traditional beer styles. Our goal with every recipe is authenticity... to develop a particular character that allows the beer to stand out and be remembered. It's authenticity that we crave as beer drinkers; so, it's authenticity that we strive for as brewers. We study beer, determine what we want, then manifest it! For most of us here, it's not just in brewing; it's a way of life.
A chemical engineer by degree and home brewer by obsession, Sowards brewed his first
batch of beer in college as a class project. He harbored thoughts of opening a brewery, but the idea of making beer professionally became more serious when he was laid off from his job. Unemployment afforded him the time to make brewing his full-time occupation. In a few short months he developed a business plan, selected equipment, scouted a space, and secured financing.
One hurdle remained. While the state had approved growler sales for packaging breweries, the city of Minneapolis had not. Small breweries in Minnesota make a significant portion of their revenue selling growlers, 64-ounce jugs of beer, from the brewery. Other metro municipalities allowed growler sales, putting potential Minneapolis breweries at a competitive disadvantage. Working with Ninth Ward council member Gary Schiff, and drawing on the support of other players in the Minnesota beer industry, Sowards got the "Brew Beer Here" legislation passed in early August, clearing the way not only for himself but for other wanna-be Minneapolis brewers. On January 2, Harriet Brewing got past the public hearing regarding their microbrewery license. The application now goes to the full City Council for approval, which Sowards says should happen by the end of the month.
Sowards has several metro accounts clambering for his beer. However, he plans to start small, serving only a limited number of accounts until he is certain he can meet demand. According to a recent Facebook post from Blue Nile Beermeister Al McCarty, a launch event for Harriet Brewing is planned in late January or early February at the Seward neighborhood Ethiopian restaurant. McCarty says the restaurant is working on some special food pairings for the event. It should be fun.
A Perfect Pint