Lonnie Manresa remembers brewing beer before he’d learned the multiplication table. “My dad was homebrewing before homebrewing was a thing,” he recalls. “I was always perched over some vat with big fireproof gloves on while my dad was pouring five gallons of boiling liquid,” he laughs. For his troubles, Manresa got a share of the bounty in the form of his dad’s homemade root beer and a passion for brewing that has continued into adulthood.
Now, Manresa and longtime friend Brett Michlitsch are preparing to open their own brewery, Clockwerks Brewing, just two blocks from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis in mid September.
Manresa met Michlitsch at Jackson Middle School in Brooklyn Park and stayed close as life took them in different directions. Manresa went on to work in the hospitality industry for over 10 years—experience he’ll put to use as the brewery’s front of house manager. Michlitsch helped start Shuga Records (now based in Chicago), a software company, a pharmaceutical sample distribution company, and more.
Michlitsch is also a homebrewer with more than 15 years of experience and a BJCP-certified judge who recently passed his national tasting certification, though he’s put the written portion on pause to dedicate his time to starting the business. While he admits he’s lost some of that connection to the homebrew scene during the buildout process, he hopes to reconnect in a big way through Clockwerks.
Clockwerks’ taproom will have seven taps, one of which will be permanently dedicated to recipes submitted by local homebrewers. “We’re primarily lagers and sessional ales, but we’re going to have some big flavors too,” Michlitsch says, noting that high gravity beers like doppelbocks may come once the brewery is up and running. “I think a lot of our big flavors will come from the homebrewing club.”
“We want to give them an outlet because we think the homebrewers of America are making some of the best beers in the world,” adds Manresa.
The brewery will feature a three-vessel, seven-barrel brewhouse on the main floor in full view just behind the bar. The fermenters are immediately below in the basement of the 1890s building. A former vault, made of brick, is adjacent to the brewhouse and will be used to store grains. It also separates the brewhouse from a cold kitchen where they will prepare charcuterie and snacks and hope to someday prepare their own cheese in-house.
Named Clockwerks, the process to opening the brewery has been anything but. The two friends originally drew up plans before the Surly Bill became law, but between finding a building, financing, and life events, the process has drawn out for more than five years. There was another building near Loring Park that fell through and set them further back, but they’re excited to be in their current home.
The taproom sports a steampunk aesthetic and features items found in their basement as varied as an old boiler face, a cue locker from one-time tenants City Billiards, and even a pool table likely to stick in the taproom as a nod to downtown’s more recent past.
“Downtown is posh with grit […] this used to be nothing but grit,” says Michlitsch of the changing environment between the Warehouse District and Washington Avenue. With hotels and condos rising around them and the city’s projected downtown residential growth, they see Clockwerks as a destination for locals, a regular place to grab a beer and relax. The original business plan was for a full-service brewpub that emphasized hospitality and, while the restaurant was eliminated from the equation, the brewpub ethos was not. Clockwerks will only serve pints and fill growlers on site with no distribution planned beyond their taproom.
Photos by Aaron Davidson, The Growler
Brewers: Brett Michlitsch, Lindsey Cordie (assistant)
Beer: Rye Pilsner, American EPA, Belgian Wit, Kölsch, Alt, ESB, and IPA
Address: 25 N 4th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Hours: Wednesday–Thursday 4–11pm; Friday 4pm–12am; Saturday 12pm–12am; Sunday 12–9pm