After months of anticipation, Sisyphus Brewing Company
opened its doors to the general public on July 11.The new nano-brewery
, located in a former Dunwoody College of Technology storage space near the I-394/94 interchange, has a 100-seat taproom with local artwork, shuffleboard tables and exposed brickwork.That's the first phase.
A 100-seat performance space on the opposite side of its building is still under construction. And a massive, Kickstarter-funded mural on the north side of the building--facing busy I-394--is ready for admiration.
The beer is flowing, too.Owner and head brewer Sam Harriman unveiled four brews at the July 7 "thank you" party for Kickstarter contributors.The Kentucky Common, which is brewed with ingredients you'd find in a typical Kentucky bourbon, was chewy yet refreshing. The Oatmeal Pale Ale--"I've only tasted one other example of this before in the many beers I've tried," says Harriman--evokes several different styles without being derivative.
The black ale with coffee displayed the final stage of the "brewing" process, with Harriman's associate pouring an ounce or so of dark roast coffee into the freshly poured beer. The Brett IPA toed the line between brewer's dream and nightmare, using a wild strain of yeast (brettanomyces). Regarded as a malodorous contaminant in most styles of beer, brettanomyces imparts a sour, spicy, slightly floral note in the right doses. (It worked beautifully.)
"The brewing world is steeped in tradition, and that tradition says bringing brett into a production brewery is a dangerous proposition," says Harriman. "But others I've talked to do it successfully, and with proper cleaning we'll be able to do it successfully too...I view the use of brett as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves in the Twin Cities market."
Harriman is also cognizant of how the Twin Cities' brewery scene looks from an outsider's perspective. The region's craft beer advocates, he argues, can get so caught up in new brewery openings and locals' increasingly sophisticated palettes that they downplay the work that still needs to be done.
"People in the Twin Cities may think we have an awesome brewing culture, which we most certainly do," he says, "but we lag behind many, many cities in the US...to set ourselves apart, we need to do things that aren't being done here yet."
Harriman and the Sisyphus crew have no plans to step on other brewers' toes, though. They won't can or distribute, with the possible exception of a partnership with the Comedy Corner (in the basement of the Corner Bar).
Even that will require regulatory wrangling that Harriman doesn't yet have time for. And even if he wanted to, the taproom's volume would probably make that impossible. With a 2-barrel brewing setup, Sisyphus is officially the Twin Cities' only nanobrewery--the smallest brewery designation there is.
Since he can't brew much of any one brew, being small will actually help Harriman experiment with different styles and circle back to fan favorites. "I brew what I like to drink, and I have a really concrete idea about what I like," he says. "There are so many beers out there nowadays, and it takes something really special to stick out in your mind and make you come back for more...Inspiration and focus is what will set us apart in the long run."
A big part of that inspiration are Harriman's plans for a comedy/performance space in the still-in-progress section of his building. The timing of the buildout--and the opening of the space itself--will depend on the taproom's cash flow.
Harriman hesitated to give a timeframe, but was hopeful about its prospects: "If our customers like our beer enough," he says, "we'll be able to build out the other side of that space."
For now, the brewery is open between noon and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Additional hours are in the works.