When they were just under two weeks away from opening, Falling Knife Brewing Company’s chief revenue officer, Dan Herman, admitted there were still things left to do.
“I’ve got about three months of work to do in the next 13 days,” Herman says. “But I’ve got an understanding fiancée and a need to never sleep.”
The brewery’s founders have had the keys to the space for 18 months, which has given them time to map out exactly the kind of place they wanted to create. But after meticulously mapping out their brewery and taproom since they moved into their space in April 2018, Herman, CEO Andy Rutledge and chief brewing officer Tom Berg are champing at the bit to open the doors on October 18, 2019.
“We built the taproom we want to spend our time in,” Rutledge says. “Forgetting for a second the business side of things, this is a place we want to be at and we hope that translates to our guests.”
To create the atmosphere they envisioned, they partnered with Kaas Wilson Architects in Bloomington, Minnesota, for the architectural plan and interior design. The result is a polished, warm, and welcoming space. The bar (adorned with a row of kitchen-knife taps) anchors the main room engulfed by a sea of dark hardwood tables and soft leather seating.
The back of the main taproom leads to a smaller area with some more tables, a few TVs (the guys are big Timberwolves fans), and five pinball machines that give the space more of a regular beer bar feel (Herman is an avid pinballer).
From there, three large windows give you a clear view of the production-scale brewhouse complete with five 20-barrel fermentors and two 40-barrel fermentors. While the taproom is a critical part of their space, Falling Knife is already built to can and keg and has even started pouring at a few select bars and restaurants around town.
What they hope will really elevate their taproom experience is full table-service seven days a week and a carefully vetted staff of servers and bartenders.
These three founding partners have been friends for over a decade and Herman and Berg have spent even longer working in beer and hospitality around town. Herman started working in restaurants when he was 16 and continued up until just about two months ago, ending an eight-year stint at Tilia as a bartender. Berg started homebrewing 15 years ago, is a certified Brewing Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judge, and has bounced around volunteering at places like Saint Paul Brewing and Day Block. Most recently he worked for two years doing recipe design at Wicked Wort and went on to collaborate with Kyle Sisco from Venn before Berg ramped things up at Falling Knife.
“We’re not just figuring this out as we go along,” Berg says. “I want to come out of the gate swinging because I know in Minneapolis, there is a high expectation of quality.”
“In our business,” Herman adds, “the grace period of giving you six months to figure it out is gone.”
Falling Knife added head brewer Robby Denaway (Surly, Fair State) and brewer Charles Chapman (Bauhaus, Sisyphus) to round out the three-person brewing team.
Berg is hoping to balance his deep love for traditional beer styles while leaving room for having a little something for all kinds of beer drinkers.
“A lot of variety is what we’re shooting for,” Berg says. “I spent a lot of time as a homebrewer trying to brew every kind of BJCP style there is. We’re pushing the hops because we all love hoppy beers. But I also love classic German styles and classic Belgian styles.”
The opening lineup includes five hop-forward beers, an India pale lager, a roasty coffee stout starring coffee from Minneapolis’ UP Coffee Roasters, a North German Pilsner (a half-barrel of which sold in about three hours at a soft launch at Grumpy’s NE) with a barleywine coming down the line.
While there’s plenty of risk in opening any small business, let alone a craft brewery in a city that already has more than a few good ones, it’s the kind of risk these guys seem well-suited to take.
Brewers: Tom Berg, Robbie Denaway, Charles Chapman
Beers: Freischutz Northern German Pilsner, Ghost Step Coffee Stout, Terminally Chill West Coast IPA, Verbal Tip, Citra and Mosaic Hazy IPA, DDH Cloud Surfing, Double Dry Hopped Hazy Double IPA, Atlantean Belgian Golden Strong, The Joy Fermentable, Denali and Mosaic Hazy IPA, Evil Pockets…