Lowertown St. Paul brewery announces closure, effective June 1

12welve Eyes' taproom is located in the basement of St. Paul's historic Pioneer Endicott building // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

12welve Eyes’ taproom was located in the basement of St. Paul’s historic Pioneer Endicott building // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Nearly two years after opening, Lowertown St. Paul’s 12welve Eyes Brewing has called it quits, shutting its doors for good as of June 1, 2019.

12welve Eyes Brewing’s brewery and taproom was located in the basement of the Historic Pioneer Endicott building off of 4th Street East in downtown St. Paul. Like many of the breweries that have opened in Minnesota in the past two years, 12welve Eyes’ business model was primarily focused on its taproom experience, rather than distribution. Operating on a 5-barrel brewing system, they featured a regularly rotating lineup of beers in the taproom and limited off-sale distribution in Crowlers.

It’s unclear as to the reasons for the abrupt closure—The Growler could not reach the owners for comment. 12welve Eyes is the second brewery in downtown St. Paul to close in the past seven months, following longtime brewpub Great Waters Brewing’s closure in November of 2018. St. Paul still has three breweries in operation in Lowertown—Tin Whiskers, Birch’s Lowertown, and Barrel Theory—and several more just outside of downtown, including Bad Weather, Waldmann, Clutch, Vine Park, and Summit on West Seventh Street; Wabasha Brewing on St. Paul’s West Side; and Yoerg Brewing and Saint Paul Brewing on Dayton’s Bluff.

With over 175 breweries in the state, plus dozens more out-of-state brands distributed in Minnesota, competition is at an all-time high. When 12welve Eyes opened, brewery president and co-owner Elliot Grosse commented on the craft beer market at the time, saying, “I believe there is finite room in the market for large, packaging breweries. I think there is much more room for hyperlocal, taproom-oriented breweries, probably on a smaller brew system, and that’s what I’m here to encourage more of.”

The taproom at St. Paul's new brewery, 12welve Eyes Brewing // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

The taproom at St. Paul’s 12welve Eyes Brewing // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

All but a few of the 48 breweries that opened in Minnesota following 12welve Eyes are taproom-centric breweries, built to serve their immediate neighborhoods or communities rather than focusing on on-sale and off-sale distribution at retailers such as bars and liquor stores. Still, 12welve Eyes’ closing shows that the taproom model, even with its higher margins on beer sales than in the wholesale and retail markets, cannot guarantee success.

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