New St. Paul brewery will be a first-of-its-kind drink sampling wonderland



Unless you once tried to mass-produce your own alcoholic seltzer or launch a new kombucha brand, you've probably never heard of Little Canada-based BevSource. 

Some quick background, before the exciting stuff, then: The 50-ish person, 16-year-old company "takes beverage dreams and brings them to life," explains BevSource CEO Janet Johanson, who started the company when she was just 24.

Say you have your grandma's lemonade recipe, and you need to get it to The People, but you don't know how. BevSource helps you formulate it, scale up production, navigate regulations—all that stuff. They helped Crispin Hard Cider, Not Your Father's Root Beer, Spiked Seltzer, and dozens of other brands get off the ground.

But all that happens sort of behind the scenes. So this spring, BevSource is bringing the first drinker-focused arm of its brand to St. Paul: The Lab.

The pilot production facility and "playground" at 767 Eustis St. will give Twin Cities tipplers a first-of-its-kind opportunity to try popular drinks—alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike—providing feedback that could ultimately get those drinks on the market. (Or not.)

"We're making all this cool stuff," Johanson explains, "and we're like, it'd be really cool if customers could give us feedback before we actually go run 10,000 cases."

She admits that somewhat selfishly, they need a facility to do these test brews. It'll certainly be appreciated by their head brewer, former Lift Bridge brewmaster and Great American Beer Festival World Beer Cup medal winner Matt Hall.

But it should be a fun new experience for the community, too, with an ever-changing roster of 12 beers, malt beverages, and spiked drinks on tap, plus 12 or more NA products to sample. At the Lab, you might be drinking the next White Claw or Mike's Hard Lemonade, or nationally distributed protein waters and kids' drinks that will never make it to the Twin Cities.

One difference is that you might not know it: Products won't be labeled by name or brand. But if/when those drinks pass muster and hit shelves and taplines around town, Johanson wants to invite folks who provided positive notes back to celebrate—like a Kickstarter launch to say thank you for the support. 

"Not everybody likes a taproom, because not everybody likes a hoppy beer," Johansen says. "I wanted this to be a taproom where everybody can drink something ... hopefully we'll bring people to our space that don't necessarily feel welcome in a taproom because they're not the standard beer drinkers."

It'll feel like other taprooms, though: warm, inviting, family-friendly. There'll be a bar, but also a self-serve tap wall, so you can do flights, or cautiously sip two ounces of your first switchel—choose your own adventure. There's space out back where they'd like to host bands and other events. 

Hours will mirror your standard taproom as well: nights and weekends, Wednesday through Sunday. They're shooting to have a grand opening by the end of April.