Having just turned two years old, 612Brew is celebrating more than just an anniversary. On Feb. 16 the brewery is rolling out a new lineup of canned beer, extending the brewery’s influence well beyond the walls of their popular taproom in Northeast Minneapolis.
“It took us a while to roll out the cans because we spent our money to build the taproom instead,” says co-founder Robert Kasak, though they were written into the 2010 business plan all along. “When you’re building the business you only have finite funds.”
The brewery is launching with their three core beers: Unrated Rye IPA, Six Pale Ale, and Gateway Park pre-Prohibition lager. The three will be packaged in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans, each bearing a different brightly colored design courtesy of local artist Adam Turman. Turman previously designed the mural visible upon entry into 612’s taproom, and his work is distinct and colorful. “The art really pops on cans, especially with the colors,” notes Kasak, and the artwork utilizes the can format well, wrapping around each container in a unified design that includes local iconography along with the familiar 612Brew logo.
The canning line gives the brewery a chance to reach a new audience. “We’ve always been a destination for the taproom but there’s people who don’t get a chance to come up to Northeast very often,” Kasak explains. “Now you can get 612 in the suburbs, in your home, in your refrigerator.”
And it will greatly impact the brewery’s production. Co-founder Adit Kalra predicts at least five new hires will result, including the addition of new brewer Austin Myhran, who previously worked at Flossmoor Station and Brewery in Chicago.
The canning line is a 2-head filling system designed by Wild Goose out of Colorado. It is on rollers allowing 612 to move it about the brewery space, but with the company’s beer production expected to double space is getting tighter. The 600,000 cans that arrived in their first shipment are stored offsite until needed in production, as the brewery’s space is limited.
612 chose the line based on feedback from other local companies who used the model, such as Bent Paddle, Indeed, and their neighbors at Bauhaus Brew Labs. “We spent a few days in and out of Bauhaus looking at their line before we made our decision,” says Kasak, noting the importance of peer feedback. Once fully running, they hope to fill 24 cans, or 1 case, per minute.
When the brewery opened in 2013, says Kalra, “we wanted to hone what our recipes and our brands would be,” taking it slow and tweaking to perfection. They are following a similar path with the introduction of cans. Cans will begin with limited distribution, reaching approximately 50 metro stores serviced by Bernick’s.
Entering a new market is a balancing act to keep all three brands regularly stocked and fresh at area stores. “We don’t want to make a promise and under deliver,” Kasak says, and the emphasis this spring is to keep up with production and demand on the three flagships, including the recently renamed Unrated.
A few months ago, the Motion Picture Association of America sent the brewery a cease and desist order to stop using the name “Rated R” with their rye IPA. Rather than spend resources in a legal battle, they opted to rebrand as “Unrated.” Thankfully the letter came before they had ordered the new cans, easing the transition. Eventually seasonal offerings and perhaps sampler packs will be added to production, but not until the kinks have been worked out.
612 has several other upgrades in progress. They recently added The Cellar, a private room available for special occasions, which hosts about 50 people. There is also a new barrel-aging program in development with Payback oatmeal porter being aged in Breckenridge Distillery bourbon barrels just next to the new canning line.