Craft beer institution The Happy Gnome in St. Paul will close Sunday, December 22, according to the company’s Instagram.
The Happy Gnome first opened its doors in 2006 and quickly became a landmark for local craft beer fans thanks to its sprawling and well-curated beer selection that eventually encompassed 90 taps. The gastropub was originally started by Mark Van Wie and Paul Schatz (founders of The Muddy Pig) and was subsequently sold to current owner Tony Andersen. The Happy Gnome announced in an Instagram post that it has decided not to renew the lease. The Growler reached out to Andersen for comment but was unable to reach him.
The gastropub’s annual Firkin Fest—which ended in 2019—was for many years a premier event series showcasing cask-conditioned beers for Twin Cities beer lovers, and the Gnome also played host to many local and national beer releases and special tappings during its run.
The Happy Gnome was an early local champion of elevating beer from a humble bar drink to a beverage on par with wine that could accentuate the flavors of food. The pub became known for its beer dinners featuring unique beer and food pairings and collaborations between chefs and brewers.
All of these features made The Happy Gnome a perennial favorite and helped the bar garner eight straight Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice awards for Best Craft Beer Bar in Minneapolis–St. Paul and even land it on a few “Best in America” lists from national blogs like Thrillist and Complex.
The Happy Gnome’s closure follows the June 2018 closing of other high profile craft beer bars in the Twin Cities, such as The Muddy Pig and Ward 6 in St. Paul and Grumpy’s Downtown in Minneapolis.
The craft beer industry is undergoing substantial shifts. More drinkers are leaving the beer segment for wine, spirits, non-alcoholic beverages, and flavored malt beverages such as hard seltzer. Sales at several regionally distributing breweries in the U.S. have been flat or negative growth in recent years and the Brewers Association’s annual report projects craft beer to grow at only 4% production volume for 2019, which is consistent with last year’s growth mark. The Brewers Association also estimates over 300 brewery closures in 2019, which is up from 219 in 2018.
While change in the industry and the loss of breweries and craft beer bars is inevitable, The Happy Gnome will leave an indelible mark upon the drinking culture of the Twin Cities, and its presence will be sorely missed by the craft beer community.