Three friends, three pairs of thick-rimmed glasses, and one pipe dream. Elliot Grosse, Dalton Buchta, and Karl Eicher have been friends since they were waiting at their suburban St. Paul bus stop.
A decade later, the men were still goofing around together, though they’d moved from the playground to a homebrew system. Beer eventually transformed the trio of childhood friends into brewing and business partners at 12welve Eyes Brewing.
It took just two years for the homebrewers’ dream to become quite concrete (and subway tile and hardwood). They found investors, leased a space in the Pioneer Endicott building, and bought equipment. In short, they were young brewers with a vision.
However, in the time between moving out of their garages and putting the finishing touches on their taproom, 12welve Eyes lost a pair of glasses—and the man behind them. Eicher left the band of brewer-owners to pursue different career opportunities.
Despite the massive shift, 12welve Eyes’ vision will remain the same says Grosse, president and co-owner. “Nothing has changed, but we have to admit the reality that the people behind it have,” he comments.
After Eicher’s exit, Grosse and Buchta pivoted quickly, and they knew exactly where to turn. Josh Oestreich, a homebrewer they met over a year ago through a mutual beer industry friend, was their ideal candidate for the assistant brewer role. Oestreich’s industry connections and knowledge gathered from volunteering at a Northeast Minneapolis brewery will benefit the otherwise green team, but brewing for the start-up will also give him the first-hand experience he’ll need to one day open his own taproom—a longtime dream.
“I believe there is finite room in the market for large, packaging breweries,” says Grosse. “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.”
He and Buchta came of drinking age at the start of the taproom boom in Minnesota, and used their experiences as patrons at local breweries to shape the vision for their own brewery. “I was personally intrigued by seeing the status quo of what a typical Minnesota brewery is,” says Grosse. “I was inspired by the opportunity to do something a little different.”
To that end, 12welve Eyes taproom that is cozier than it is spacious. While the brewhouse is a separate room in the historic Pioneer Endicott’s basement, the drinking area adopts a unique aesthetic compared to most local taprooms. Hardwood floors, lower ceilings, and quieter acoustics create a sense of intimacy that many large industrial spaces can’t offer.
The beer will be an intimate experience, too. A five-barrel brewing system from Portland Kettle Works will give them the flexibility to populate the twelve draft lines in the taproom with new recipes. Grosse, Buchta, and Oestreich hope the changing lineup will encourage local patrons to return regularly in search of new experiences in the same social community.
In addition to “infinite recipe possibilities,” as Grosse puts it, their eight fermenters also create opportunity for a lagering program—something not many small craft breweries of their size have the capacity to do.
Immediately after installing their equipment, the brewers launched into filling their 12 tap lines. Their summer opening date will feature plenty of sessionable warm weather brews. The lower ABV options suit their vision of a social space where people can enjoy several drinks in a sitting.
Patrons can also look forward to unique collaboration beers, such as a stout featuring chocolate from Pioneer Endicott’s own Legacy Chocolates and beer releases coordinated with new exhibits at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, which is expanding within the Pioneer Endicott.
The brewery hopes to further connect with Lowertown’s art scene by featuring local art, including murals and a gallery wall. Televisions—when not showing local sports—will serve as rotating galleries.
12welve Eyes is another piece in the ongoing revitalization of Lowertown. The skyway-connected taproom is just blocks from downtown St. Paul, right off a light rail stop, a stone’s throw from a host of talented artists, and a quick walk from the three-year-old Tin Whiskers Brewing and the new Barrel Theory Beer Company. Abby Grosse, taproom manager and sister of Elliot Grosse, comments, “We hope that people who are passionate about beer can see this square mile as a real destination.”
Photos by Kevin Kramer, The Growler
Brewers: Dalton Buchta (head brewer), Elliot Grosse (brewer), Josh Oestreich (assistant brewer)
Beer: Cream Ale, Lowertown IPA, Belgian Pale Ale, Dry-Hopped Hefeweizen, Lemon Hefeweizen, Black IPA, Summer Brown Ale, Legacy Chocolate Stout, Mosaic Wheat IPA, Saint Paul Pale, Milk Stout, Citra SMaSH IPA
Address: 141 E 4th St, Suite LL2, St Paul, MN 55101
Hours: Mon–Thu 4pm–9pm, Fri 3pm–10pm, Sat 12pm–10pm, Sun 12pm–8pm
Grand Opening: July 28 at 3pm