Opening a brewery in northeast Minneapolis is no longer the guaranteed cash grab it once was.
Today, going commercial in Minnesota’s beer mecca means taking a risk. It requires an adventurous spirit.
And that’s the ethos of HeadFlyer Brewing. The new brewery and taproom opens in the old Miller Textile building on April 22.
Risk-taking is in HeadFlyer co-founder Amy Miller’s bloodline; the Wisconsin native grew up in a family of small business owners. When she and husband and HeadFlyer head brewer/co-founder Neil Miller decided to open their own business, they knew they wanted to capture the intrepid, playful element of entrepreneurship in their space.
The Millers positioned HeadFlyer under the slogan “take a flyer” (which means take a chance), summoning patrons along for the ride.
“We wanted to invite people to try something new,” Amy Miller says, “to do something out of the ordinary.”
Amy and Neil originally wanted to open a small suburban brewery, but when they came upon this space in the refurbished Miller Textile Building, they knew they’d have top-tier digs to compete with Insight, 612 Brew, Able Seedhouse, and Bauhaus Brew Labs -- all of which are within a mile and a half.
The Millers with the help of Christian Dean Architecture, gave the taproom a clean, modern look that’s punctuated by neon tube lights. The neon lights are a striking trademark for HeadFlyer. The sign that reads “The more you drink, the better I look” outside the bathrooms is sure to be among the most Instagrammed features of any Twin Cities brewery.
Despite the challenges of entering a saturated market, the one thing that hedges the Millers’ bet is the quality of the beer. Though good beer is no longer a guarantee of success, HeadFlyer sports a run of seriously schooled brews that Neil developed as a homebrewer. HeadFlyer’s 15-barrel system has resulted in beers that stand up to the quality standards set in the neighborhood.
HeadFlyer’s early flagship is their None the Wiser Golden Ale. It’s a light-drinking brew that’s fortified with some late-addition amarillo hops. Hops are undeniably the signature of Miller’s brewing style -- he’s a devotee of the IPA, and of the five taps at HeadFlyer right now, three are pale ales with meaty IBUs.
Most notable is the It Was All a Dream Northeast IPA, which gives props to Notorious BIG’s “Juicy” with it's tart, grapefruity, and yes, juicy, body. Right now, HeadFlyer is sticking to ales, but they’re planning to round out the tap list to 13 offerings, so less hoppy beers like the Amy Miller-honoring Freckled Amber are on the horizon.
Upon opening on April 22, HeadFlyer hopes to be a community leader in the revitalized Miller Textile building. They’re already collaborating with the incoming Five Watt Coffee, and they’re hoping that employees of Stahl Construction will make their patio a frequent stop off after punching the clock in their offices upstairs.
By leaning on their neighbors and the goodwill of folks who need a comfortable place to have a drink, the Millers and HeadFlyer Brewing have a formula that’s tough to doubt, even in the ruthless market they’re entering.
Grand opening on April 22
861 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis