Falling Knife has no handle, but it does have a brewhouse

There’s a new brewery taking over the former NorthGate Brewing space off of Highway 280 and Broadway in Minneapolis—Falling Knife Brewing Company.

After a potential sale of NorthGate to Tod Fyten fell through, Falling Knife founders Andy Rutledge, Dan Herman, and Tom Berg toured the 7,400-square-foot brewery, which still has NorthGate’s 20-barrel brewing system installed, and took over the space in April 2018. Since then the trio has been slowly working to open their own brewery concept.

“It was an opportunity that we had to seize at that point in spite of where we necessarily were. So after that, it was getting everything together from a business plan, securing loan approval, and finishing out what we want to turn this place into, because we don’t want to just open another exactly similar taproom here. We’ve got some unique ideas that we want to introduce into the taproom market.”

The three founders met each other through the Minneapolis music scene (Berg is a bassist for bands Self-Evident and Zebulon Pike) and became friends who homebrewed together. Berg went on to brew commercially at Wicked Wort and collaborate with brewers at Venn Brewing Company, Back Channel Brewing, Saint Paul’s Flat Earth Brewing, and Day Block Brewing Company. He will serve as the company CBO, or chief brewing officer.

Herman comes from a hospitality background having worked in the industry for nearly 20 years at restaurants such as Tilia and Kincaid’s. Herman will serve as the company’s CRO, or chief revenue officer, and brings an eye for service to the taproom.

Rutledge, Falling Knife’s CEO, comes from a corporate background and says they hope to open the doors to the brewery by late-summer of 2019. “Fingers crossed,” he adds, noting that things have taken longer than expected along the way.

When they do open, it’s clear that Falling Knife’s identity will first and foremost be defined by customer service, which will be present in the taproom through subtle design changes—moving the draft system from the back of the bar to the front so bartenders never have to turn their back on guests—and in more obvious ways—namely, servers to take orders at tables in the taproom.

“What we like to do when we go out is be around the people we want to be around and really get to enjoy each other’s company. If somebody’s constantly going up to get a beer, you have to figure out who’s paying what at the end of the night, and all of that kind of stuff—it creates a static that I don’t really like.”

They are working with BevCraft on brewery consultation and will be expanding the brewing system with new fermentors and expanding the cold storage room. For taproom renovations, they are working with James Lee of Building Assets, the firm that worked on Stacked Deck Brewing, and Kaas Wilson Architects for interior design. The remodel will bring a Chicago cocktail room aesthetic to the space that incorporates “some darker wood, a little more modern, a little bit of Craftsman to it,” says Herman.

“Someone could have purchased what we did out here, walked into this situation, and turned it around really quickly—you know, painted the walls and gotten their permitting and then opened the place up—but we weren’t ever going to do that,” says Rutledge. “When this opportunity presented itself, I don’t think we wanted to shortchange anything. That’s the way the company has existed from the very beginning—making sure we do things right.”

Another piece of the remodel will extend the taproom into the current production area directly behind the bar, to create a more lively entertainment room with TVs and pinball machines.

As for the beer, Berg plans to fill the taproom’s 16 taps with an array of beer styles, including many hoppy styles and trendier styles that beer drinkers are clamoring for, like hazy IPA and pastry stouts. While they may not stick to any particular brewing tradition in the brewhouse, there is one principle that will guide the brewery’s offerings: “Good beer tastes good,” Herman states.

The brewery’s name comes from the phrase, “A falling knife has no handle.” The adage is commonly used in investing circles and denotes the risk involved with buying into a falling stock. “What we’re doing, we acknowledge that it’s a risky thing. We’re going whole-hog into this, so we’re going out and reaching for that handle,” explains Herman.

Stay tuned for more information about Falling Knife Brewing Company in The Growler’s Now Open (Or Damn Close) column.

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Brian Kaufenberg is the editor-in-chief of The Growler Magazine.