Fate seems to have led Kathleen Culhane step by step through her life toward the grand opening of Sídhe Brewing in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood. She is a trained chemist who has worked in laboratories, built pilot ethanol plants, troubleshot mechanical systems, and managed quality control processes. Those experiences and her twenty-year homebrewing hobby have conspired to make Sídhe Brewing a reality.
Culhane’s fingerprints are all over Sídhe Brewing’s brewery and taproom on St. Paul’s East Side. Located inside the bright yellow Plaza del Sol building, Culhane and a team of family and friends hand built nearly every aspect of the 68-person taproom and two-barrel brewhouse, from hanging sheetrock to building the bar, welding tanks, and building the fully-electric brew system’s control panels.
It’s been a long road for the entire Sídhe Brewing team as they have fought to gain funding to bring the 2,300 square foot brewery space up to code and turn the lights on—literally. But soon they’ll be rewarded when they pour pints and growlers for their first customers.
“Our philosophy is make approachable beers, gateway beers,” Culhane explains. “We’re trying to make a beer that your average person from East Side St. Paul can walk in and that they can find palatable.” Among those beers will be a cream ale, nut brown ale, Irish dry stout, Belgian strong ale, IPA, and Mexican lager.
Sídhe Brewing aims to be a destination for the East Side neighborhood, which Culhane has called home since relocating from South Dakota in 2002. She is excited about contributing to area’s diverse working-class, salt-of-the-earth culture, as exemplified by Strip Club Meat & Fish, Ward 6, Tongue in Cheek, and Cook St. Paul.
“This is going to be a welcoming and safe place for weirdos of every stripe because I’m a weirdo of many stripes. I’m queer, I’m non-traditionally gendered, I’m a sci-fi geek, a gamer, a rennie, I’ve been in theater—enough that I like theater people—and I want all those various, diverse, weird, vibrant communities to feel like they have a place to come to hang out and know that they’re going to be not just tolerated, but welcomed.”
If Kathleen didn’t represent enough diverse communities in our society, she is also Wiccan—that’s reflected in the brewery’s five-pointed logo. For Culhane there is a powerful parallel between Wiccan beliefs of combining the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire to create the fifth element of spirit, and the brewing process in which she combines grain, water, yeast, and fire.
“I have written a ritual specifically for brewing. This is consecrated space; there are stones embedded in all the cardinal points. This will be a magic ritual circle, and it will be magically produced, every single batch” explained Culhane. “Whether or not that actually means anything to anybody but me, who knows. It means something to me and I think it makes the beer taste better.”
Brewers: Kathleen Culhane
Beers: Cream Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Irish Dry Stout, Belgian Strong Ale, IPA, and Mexican Lager
Visit: 990 Payne Ave., St. Paul
Hours: Thu–Sat 4–11pm, Sun 12–5pm