Now Open (Or Damn Close): Clutch Brewing Company

The East entrance of the Keg & Case food hall sits underneath the bar and sign of Clutch Brewing Company, which is on the upper level of the old Schmidt Brewery // Photo by Aaron Job

The east entrance of the Keg & Case food hall sits underneath the bar and sign of Clutch Brewing Company, which is on the upper level of the old Schmidt Brewing Company keg house // Photo by Aaron Job

Jordan Standish and Max Boeke have been friends since the sixth grade. They spent their middle school years together, and when high school came, Jordan moved up north. About a year after graduating, he got a job with a local beer distributor and spent his weekends visiting Max with plenty of craft beer in tow.

Several seasons of six packs later, Jordan’s homebrewing cousin joined the crew of beer enthusiasts and taught Jordan and Max how to brew. They took to it immediately, and eventually cobbled together a system to continue pursuing the hobby. “We built this three-tiered contraption by welding together old bedframes,” Jordan recalls. “It really sucked, not gonna lie. We quickly got out of that and built a much better system.”

Max and Jordan quickly latched onto brewing as an outlet for their creative energy. As the years passed and their brewing output grew, so, too, did thoughts of how to grow their hobby into a career. “We’d always wanted to start our own business,” Jordan says, “and homebrewing for 10 years plus, we kind of fell in love with the industry. It was a perfect fit for us.”

When Jordan landed a volunteer gig at Flat Earth Brewing, he took every opportunity to get on the production floor with the head brewer, Bob Roepke. That volunteer relationship eventually turned into a job as Flat Earth’s sales manager, bringing the friends one step closer to realizing their dream.

Jordan Standish, left, and Max Boekes, right, of Clutch Brewing Company // Photo by Aaron Job

Jordan Standish, left, and Max Boeke, right, of Clutch Brewing Company // Photo by Aaron Job

“We always used to kid around about starting a brewery,” Max explains. “We’ve been brewing and I’ve been [building stuff] as a carpenter for 15 years. With loving brewing and Jordan having industry experience—experience to make it all come together—it was just kind of like, ‘Why aren’t we opening a brewery?’”

So, they wrote a business plan, started gathering investors, and began searching for a location. “At that time when we were looking for places we didn’t have all of our funding yet, so the landlords didn’t give us the time of day,” Jordan says. “We tried for eight places [before pursuing Keg & Case].”

Jordan lives in the Schmidt Artist Lofts and drove by the old Schmidt kegging facility every day on his way to work at Flat Earth. “I’d been watching the construction [on the Keg & Case market] forever, and there was a real estate sign out front, so I called it,” Jordan recalls.

Initially, the realtor turned them down. Instead of moving on, Jordan decided to take a different approach. He found the contact information for the building’s developer, Craig Cohen, through the community development organization that serves the West 7th neighborhood and reached out directly to Cohen with their proposal. Cohen responded with guarded excitement: He loved the idea of a brewery going into the space, but only had one spot left to lease. The space was unlike that of any other brewery in the Twin Cities, and Cohen didn’t know if Jordan and Max would be able to make it work.

The brew house of Clutch Brewing Company in Keg & Case // Photo by Aaron Job

The brew house of Clutch Brewing Company in Keg & Case // Photo by Aaron Job

“It’s the mezzanine,” Jordan explains—a second-story, wrap-around (indoor) porch overlooking the center of the market. The concept for Keg & Case, which is housed in the former Schmidt Brewing Company’s keg house, is a food hall with a list of tenants that reads like a who’s who of the Twin Cities food scene: Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Sweet Science Ice Cream, Five Watt Coffee, Rose Street Patisserie, and a new restaurant from the team behind Revival and Corner Table. Jordan and Max loved it. “We both looked at the plans and were like, ‘This is perfect. There’s nothing else like it. This is amazing.’”

The seating area // Photo by Aaron Job

The bar and brew house are on opposite sides of the mezzanine, and are split by a seating area and several other vendors // Photo by Aaron Job

Top: The memorabilia and seating area. Bottom: The bar and brewhouse of Clutch Brewing are on opposite sides of the mezzanine, separated by a seating area, several vendors, and a staircase // Photos by Aaron Job

Clutch Brewing will occupy nearly the entire second floor of Keg & Case. Its open layout is flooded with natural light thanks to huge antique windows that offer glimpses of the West 7th neighborhood. For entertainment a la people watching, one needs just look down into the main market space.

The brewery’s presence brings full-circle the building’s original use as Schmidt Brewing Company. “It’s really cool that we’re getting to brew in here again and bring beer back to the Schmidt Brewery,” Jordan says. “We were over the moon when we were able to get the lease signed.”

Helping take things a step even further was Phil Gagne, the last head brewer at Schmidt, who worked with Clutch to literally bring Schmidt history back to the building. “Phil was the last brewmaster at Schmidt, he’s the operations manager here [at Keg & Case], and he’s also kind of the Schmidt historian,” explains Max. “It’s in his blood,” Jordan adds.

With Phil’s help, Clutch Brewing will double as a museum, including multiple display cases built into different nooks housing old Schmidt artifacts and information on the history and timeline of the complex. A lot of the artifacts will come from Phil who “has garages full of all sorts of cool [Schmidt artifacts],” Max says.

One of the antique Schmidt Brewing Company beer cans that is set to be on display in the seating area // Photo by Aaron Job

One of the antique Schmidt Brewing Company beer cans that is set to be on display in the seating area // Photo by Aaron Job

As excited as they are about bringing the past back to life, Jordan and Max are equally enthusiastic about the building’s future. “One of the things we were most excited about with this location is the opportunity to collaborate with all these people—having so many unique things in the market and being able to use those ingredients in some of our beers,” Jordan says.

They want to make a mushroom beer, and hope to do so in partnership with Forest to Fork, a specialty food vendor at Keg & Case that plans to have an operational mushroom farm that nets 800 to 1,000 pounds of mushrooms a week. Other ideas include making beer floats with Sweet Science Ice Cream and brewing a coffee stout with Five Watt Coffee.

Clutch’s beer styles tends to push the boundaries of craft. Their blueberry milk stout won a best-in-show award at the 2016 Renaissance Festival; a hoppy cream ale will be one of their first flagships. “[We like] blending styles and seeing what flavors pair together to make beers you might not see everywhere,” Jordan says. “We also have a certain affinity for smoked beers. It’s almost guaranteed that there will always be one or two smoked beers on tap here.”

Through collaboration and sheer enthusiasm, Clutch is poised to be one of the vendors at Keg & Case that best emulates the ethos of the market. “I think the spirit of the brewery is to highlight craftsmanship and artistry in St. Paul, in this place, and be very supportive of this community,” Jordan says. “Something new and something old.”

“When it’s all finished and open, there’s going to be a lot of life in this spot,” Max adds.

Brewers: Jordan Standish and Max Boeke

Beers: Outta’ Style cream pale ale, Hefe”Wine”zen dry-hopped hefeweizen, “Straight 8” mosaic IPA, “Sweet Jane” milk stout

Address: 928 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102

Hours: Tuesday‒Thursday, 3pm‒10pm; Friday, 3pm‒12am; Saturday, 12pm‒12am; Sunday, 12pm‒9pm

Online: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Opening date: September 14