Photos by Doug Hoverson
The architecturally-minded drinker might think there was something a bit unusual about both the taproom and the brewhouse at Sisyphus Brewing in the Loring Park neighborhood. It’s not the exposed brick, or the large windows—these are common enough in taprooms located in historic structures. The exposed rafters look normal, but wait! They’re too low. That’s it. Breweries are supposed to have high ceilings so they can fit all those tall tanks in. What’s going on?
The reason is that Sam Harriman, co-owner with his wife Catharine Cuddy, is as much a comedian as a brewer and wanted to pair a comedy club with the brewery and taproom. A room with a brewery’s typical high ceilings would sacrifice the intimacy required for a good comedy space. While the club space is not built out yet, Sisyphus has already hosted comedians in the taproom, which also has become a gathering place for people from several adjacent neighborhoods.
So what about the brewery? It fits. Since there are no plans ever to serve the beer at any other location, a 3 bbl system is big enough. In fact, since most of Sam’s beers are on the higher end of the gravity scale, he usually just makes 2 bbl batches in order to leave room for more grain or other fermentables. The fermenters can then be short, and in fact they are using small portable fermenters that can be wheeled in and out of the cold cellar as needed.
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The small batch size means guests are likely to find different beers every week or two. Since opening last July Sam has made about twenty different beers, but some favorites have evolved and been repeated since then. After the initial flurry they cut the rotation down to a dozen beers (four of which are on tap at any given moment), but some new styles are on their way. Three new fermenters have been ordered for barrel-aged and sour beers. There are already a couple of barrels resting in the brewhouse, and the first of the barrel-aged offerings will be an imperial brown ale aged in barrels from Panther Distillery in Osakis, Minnesota.
Comedy is not the only art on display at Sisyphus. While many breweries have used Kickstarter campaigns to fund the brewery, Sam and Catherine used one to fund a mural on their building facing Lyndale Avenue. The successful campaign enabled them to commission two artists well known to the local beer community—Adam Turman and Jawsh, whose styles are instantly recognizable in the resulting work. Behind the bar, tile handcrafted by Mercury Mosaics displays the brewery logo.
When planning their operations, the pair wanted a location that was easily accessible. An added bonus of their site is that there is nothing else going on at night in the immediate area, so on-street parking is less difficult to find. They also elected to stay open later, so groups doing a pub crawl would have options after other taprooms closed. Growler sales just commenced in late December, so while you can drink it at home, you’ll still have to get it Straight From the Source.
Beer Profile: Oatmeal Pale Ale
6.7% ABV, 52 IBU
Ingredients: Crystal 120˚, Rolled Oats, Galaxy Hops, English Ale Yeast
Notes: The Sisyphus Oatmeal Pale has a subtle citrus flavor and aroma reminiscent of tangerines. The rolled oats provide a smooth mouthfeel and help highlight the biscuit-like character of the malt.
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