Saturday, December 16, 2017

Venn Brewing, a preview

Venn Brewing in Southeast Minneapolis is slated to open as soon as this month, and overall things have been pretty quiet, media-wise. I wanted to learn more about co-owner and head brewer, Kyle Sisco, as well as the Venn taproom, which will serve a beer desert, an area previously only served by Northbound Smokehouse (and the late Harriet Brewing). Kyle and I became acquaintances during my occasional forays into beer judging, namely at The State Fair and the Minnesota Mashout.

Venn 1

Kyle Sisco began homebrewing in his Uptown apartment in 2007. After a few years, during a trip to his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, a treasure trove of great brewing, he said aloud, “There’s no reason I can’t do this.” The beer he was drinking at the time? Founders Red’s Rye. He remembers the moment well.

“After that, the gears changed and I decided to start mimicking everything professionals were doing at home,” he says. He shifted his focus to chemistry and numbers for several years, brewing once or twice weekly, year-round. Kyle started toying with the whole idea of scaling things up. In 2012, the necessary opportunity arose, when Kyle brewed with Mike Hoops at Town Hall Brewery for the Pro-Am division of GABF … and it went very well. Bronze medal well.

“It was my first glimpse into commercial brewing, and that experience gave me the confidence that I could figure out the mechanical side of larger scale brewing, and translate what chemistry I’d learned at home effectively,” he told ABV.

Kyle modestly explained that he was recruited to brew full-time for a friend’s place, but that didn’t pan out. Instead, he took on the head brewing role at Wicked Wort in Robbinsdale.

We visited to help move the enormous wooden bar from its sawhorse supports onto it’s forever home, after which I asked some more about the origin of Venn:

Alcohol by Volume: What made you want to open your own place?

KS: We decided to open our own place kind of out of fate, I guess. Exploring the idea of starting a brewery with friends got me hooked on the notion that I could be my own boss, do something I love every day, and share happiness in a glass with other awesome folks in the process. I think that anyone who embarks on the journey of opening a brewery (or any business) eventually finds that the path to the finish line is a long arduous one. It just so happened that at the end of that road, Connie [Kyle’s wife] and I had an opportunity to turn years of hard work into what Venn has become.

Venn 2

ABV: What will draw people to Venn aside from quality beer? What is your niche?

KS: Our primary goal at Venn is to provide the Southeast Minneapolis/Highland Park community with a gathering a place. A “local” as the Irish like to call it. We hope people will be drawn to the simple idea that there’s a place where neighbors can gather in their own community around beer that’s brewed specifically for them.

We’re not an exponentially growing production facility, we’re not trying to take over the Minnesota beer market – We’re here to let the good times roll among friendly and familiar faces. Our proximity to the light rail and roughly 10 connecting bus lines is unique among breweries, being that we’re roughly 100 feet from one of the busiest transit stops in the metro.

For beer, we hope to always feature at least one style from what I consider to be the four major brewing regions: the UK, Germany, Belgium, and the US. I think many breweries choose a regional niche and ignore the rest or at least most, we aim to represent global brewing to the best of our abilities.

Venn 3

ABV: Were you inspired by other taprooms or other beers?

KS: Dangerous Man is absolutely the inspiration for what we hope to do with Venn – The Dangerous Man of Southeast instead of Nordeast, if you will. They established themselves as a staple of their community, serving the neighborhood and local beer enthusiasts exclusively from their taproom. While, in contrast to DM, we’ll be open to distribution to what extent is possible with excess production capacity, we hope to not be able to keep up with local demand in the same way [as Dangerous Man].

ABV: Does your proximity to the light rail cause you to cater to a certain type of customer?

KS: I don’t think our proximity to the light rail will cause any certain customer catering, no. Our doors are open and we welcome anyone whose interest is piqued – be it frequently-returning nearby neighbors, or travelers and passers-by who we might only see one time. Ultimately, everyone’s welcome and we hope to share beers with them (as long as they’re not a dick).

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ABV: Finally, what does consumer education mean to you? How will you implement education?

KS: Like many things in life, everyone’s in a different place, and most everyone is doing everything they can to make it work for themselves. We appreciate that. We expect to serve everyone from novice beer drinkers who might be skeptical about anything beyond Bud/Miller/Coors to the virtually unsatisfiable “beer snob.”

We believe beer is meant to be the facilitator of good times, not a source of intimidation or the subject of intense scrutiny. Novice beer drinkers probably already understand the essence of drinking with friends but might be intimidated by the wide array of flavors and strengths that beer the world over can offer. Not only are we tolerant of that but we encourage and aim to promote their exploration. On the other hand, some more experienced beer drinkers might tend to get lost in over-analysis and Yelp-style judgment, missing the whole point of beer, in our opinion. We’ll tolerate that, too, though.

Venn 5

Ultimately, consumer education for us means encouraging people to enjoy beer the way it’s meant to be: Simply and with friends. It doesn’t need to be complicated, it doesn’t need to be difficult. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Of course, we’ll strive to have experienced staff who are well-versed in beer terminology, descriptive vocabulary, historical and style-relevant information, everything the consumer could want to know.

Hillary [Blair, Taproom Manager] will be in the forefront, along with Ben Michaels, our Co-Head Brewer, and I, in ensuring that’s the case. But in all honesty, that’s very much secondary to making sure that everyone is simply enjoying themselves because their drink makes them happy.

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