Starting a brewery wasn’t a spur of the moment decision for Wicked Wort’s Steve Carlyle. As with most brewers, the idea had been building for some time. But it wasn’t until 2014, when he was enjoying beers at Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette, Michigan, that he got serious. Blackrocks is a unique taproom, built into a remodeled house, and it was just such a set-up that spurred Carlyle to turn his own business plan into a bricks and mortar reality. This Friday, one-and-half-years later, his new Wicked Wort Brewing Co. will open in Robbinsdale, Minnesota.
Carlyle already had with strong connections in the Minnesota brewing scene before Wicked Wort: He has owned OC Mechanical since 2004 and has built 18 breweries in the Midwest. It was this mechanical background that gave Wicked Wort its prime selling tool on the production side of things.
“For me, it was more fun to build a brewery for someone to come brew in,” Carlyle says. “One [that] can attract brewers.” Using his expertise in equipment and design to create an efficient and state-of-the-art 10-barrel brewhouse, Carlyle did just that, drawing the attention of current head brewer Kyle Sisco, as well as Josh Denny, who will take Sisco’s place once he starts his own brewery, Venn Brewing (still in planning).
In addition to showcasing the beers of Sisco and Denny, Carlyle also sees Wicked Wort as a playground where homebrewers can share their recipes and volunteer for brew days. It will give a collaborative element to the company and unites the community in the same fashion that OC Mechanical and Wicked Wort connect other players in the industry, he says.
“We’re trying to keep it open, fresh, and fun,” Carlyle adds, explaining that that philosophy extends from the taproom upstairs to the brewing process below. Ultimately, his goal is to use his industry connections to unite with rather than compete with others.
Wicked Wort will sell its beer in-house only and feature an ever-rotating lineup that hits a wide range of styles. Carlyle says he wants to keep only one regular beer on tap—Birdtown Blonde—while experimenting on the other nine taplines. He expects customer demand to create a more regular lineup in time.
Initially, Carlyle was reluctant about creating Wicked Wort in its location, a former bank building. But after an extensive demolition and build-out, which included cutting a giant hole in the floor to expose the brewery and replacing the depressing cubicles with a taproom that includes a corner stage for entertainment, the 200-person capacity space feels like home.
The brewery has the feel of a classy, edgy mechanic’s garage. There’s reclaimed sheet metal from a South Dakota barn and garage doors facing Broadway Avenue. Vintage bars from the 1930s and ‘40s and green under-bar lighting add a space-age nightclub element. Carlyle envisions eventually hosting live music in the spacious taproom and plans to serve popcorn, frozen pizzas, locally made pretzels, and other foods alongside the beer.
Seated behind the smaller of the two bars, Carlyle says he’s excited to finally have his own place—even if it did get a little bigger than a house, he says, circling back to Blackrocks. Regardless, he’s captured a comparably unique spirit with Wicked Wort—a place he hopes will draw people in to gather over fresh, local beers and shared good times.
Wicked Wort’s grand opening weekend is Friday, January 22 (4pm–12am), Saturday, January 23 (12pm–12am), and Sunday, January 23 (11:30am–9pm).
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Brewers: Kyle Sisco, Josh Denny
Beer: JP Dooley Irish Red Ale (Irish Red Ale), The Wicked Pill (Pilsner), Geno Stout (Session Stout), Big Deal Kolsch (Kolsch), Burly-Eyed British Bitter (British Bitter), Birdtown Blonde (Blonde Ale)
Visit: 4165 W Broadway Ave, Robbinsdale, MN 55422
Hours: Thursday 4–10pm; Friday 2:30pm–12am; Saturday 12pm–12am; Sunday 11:30am–9pm