Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Show & Tell: Best Open Mic in the Twin Cities

Open mic night is hosted by The Nighthowlers at Can Can Wonderland every third Thursday of the month.

All entertainers welcomed and encouraged!

Show starts at 9pm. Sign up starts at 8pm.

$2 artist fund, 21+ after 9pm.

**Please be sure to check our website, www.cancanwonderland.com, for the most up-to-date information!

Now Open: BlackStack Brewing

BlackStack Brewing opened its doors on March 13 // Photo by Aaron Davidson

BlackStack Brewing opened its doors on March 13 // Photo by Aaron Davidson

For the Johnson family of St. Paul, it’s always been about the beer. In the 1990s, Scott Johnson owned All Saints Brands, Inc., a distribution company that helped bring European classics like La Trappe, Tripel Karmeliet, and Pauwel Kwak to Minnesota. Johnson eventually got out of that business, but he’s always loved beer. It’s a passion he shares with his wife, Shawne Murphy-Johnson, and his three children (at least the two who are over 21).

“I remember a family road trip in Washington, D.C.,” remembers 16 year-old daughter Quinn. “We were walking through Georgetown, and Dad was talking about opening our own brewery.” She was eight years old at the time, and Minnesota’s taproom bill had yet to reshape the local industry. When the bill passed a few years later, it changed the financial picture of starting a brewery.

At that same time, Scott’s son Murphy was coming of age. They inspired one another’s thirst for craft beer, so much so that Scott created a business plan, ad moved back to St. Paul, and began BlackStack Brewing in earnest. Shawne, his brother Cooper, and Quinn were also all on board.

The family planned to work together, using their different skills to build a full team, but they still needed a brewer. Scott wanted the beer to be clean and distinct, emphasizing quality ingredients without muddling flavors. His nationwide search for a brewer brought him to Bob DuVernois (formerly of Excelsior, Great Waters, and Town Hall) to seek out industry connections. Instead of turning in a list of names, the veteran brewer turned in his application.

BlackStack Brewing head brewer Bob DuVernois // Photo by Aaron Davidson

BlackStack Brewing head brewer Bob DuVernois // Photo by Aaron Davidson

This was nearly three years ago. BlackStack’s historic building (that once produced cans for Schmidt’s, Hormel, and more) came with many regulatory upgrades and general repairs.

BlackStack used the extra time to update their space, while DuVernois was perfecting recipes on a garage-based pilot system designed to upscale to a 20-barrel brewhouse. Murphy was always with Bob during those pilot batches, and he earned the role of assistant brewer through hours in the garage.

The four beers BlackStack will release when they open are Punch Press, inspired by De Koninck Brewery in Antwerp, Belgium; Ratify White Beer; Spare Parts, a dark lager; and Local 755, a Northeast IPA that came at Murphy’s insistence.

While BlackStack, as a whole, prefers clear and picturesque beers, Murphy fell in love with Northeast IPAs, inspiring Local 755, their most-tested recipe. He expects it to be brewed with a rotating list of hop varieties for a different experience each visit.

BlackStack will open by pouring beer in-house, expanding into select accounts this spring and, later, selling 16-ounce cans. In the taproom, BlackStack will always have something new. “We want to brew a lot of styles and varieties and we never want to be predictable,” Scott summarizes. Each of their launch beers, he points out, use different yeast strains and he expects that diversity to continue.

Scott Johnson, owner and founder of BlackStack Brewing // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Scott Johnson, owner and founder of BlackStack Brewing // Photo by Aaron Davidson

The brewery itself is 20,000 square feet, located in the same building as mini-golf destination Can Can Wonderland just a few blocks north of University Avenue and the Green Line. There is a distinct smoke stack that sets the complex apart amid the heavily industrial area.

While its name showcases the building’s gritty history, the brewery and taproom are expansive and dazzling, with an emphasis on cleanliness and attention to detail that matches their attitude toward brewing. They’ve installed noise-absorbing insulation along the high ceilings to minimize the echo chamber familiar to many taproom visitors.

The 40-foot bar is the centerpiece, but the true character shines through the original window framework, the gigantic support beams and natural sunlight that comes in from east and west to reinvigorate a once-dilapidated building.

“We set out to do something we think of as an industrial cathedral,” says Scott. Historic, “but a certain coolness or modern museum feel to it.”

With the open and carefully detailed layout, BlackStack merges St. Paul industrial history with modern cool. A classically framed brick building, a looming smoke stack, and the beer that brings their family together.


Brewers: ​Bob DuVernois (head brewer), Murphy Johnson (assistant brewer)

Beer: Ratify (white beer), Spare Parts (dark lager), Local 755 (Northeast IPA), Punch Press (Belgian ale)

Address: 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul, MN 55104

Hours: Monday–Thursday: 4–11; Friday: 2–12; Saturday: 11–12; Sunday: 12–10

Online: blackstackbrewing.com

[Updated on March 15, 2017 with photos]

Can Can Wonderland is weird and that’s why you’ll love it

Pages: 1 2

The seating area next to the main bar at Can Can Wonderland // Photos by Kevin Kramer

The expression on my face must have conveyed awe to the bubbly host that greeted me at the door. “It’s weird right?!” she asked with boastful pride and earnest excitement.

Having successfully navigated a catacomb-like warehouse in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, I had arrived at Can Can Wonderland, which officially opens today. And weird it is.

In fact, the entire project is steeped in that sentiment of celebrating strange and embracing the extraordinary. From 18 whimsical holes of mini golf (see before and after photos of their construction on the next page), to a live entertainment venue, to an aggressive, spirited cocktail list, Can Can Wonderland is unlike anything else in Minnesota, if not the world. The 20,000 square-foot space that formerly served as a SPAM can factory has been transformed with the help of dozens of local and regional artists.

“The most unique thing is the unexpected,” says co-founder Rob Clapp. “It will never be the same experience twice. One night you might see amateur wrestling and the next night you might see a DJ spinning in our artist-built treehouse.”

Clapp’s co-founders Christi Atkinson, Chris Pennington, and Jennifer Pennington are no strangers to the Twin Cities art scene. The group has had their hands in a bevy of Twin Cities art projects through the years, including the artist-designed mini golf course at Walker Art Center, the Ten Second Film Festival, and Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement.

Drawing on past experiences, the group has created something truly unique in this new venture. While the imaginative and enchanting mini golf course is absolutely the main attraction, they didn’t cut corners on the artistry of their bar program either. Crafted by the beverage brains at Bittercube, the adult offerings at Can Can Wonderland are served at two different bars, and are appropriately outlandish in their own right.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!! – Bittercube Birthday Cake Vodka Blend, Cream Cheese Frosting Syrup, Milk, Sprinkles, Sparklers, Poppers

The Happy Birthday!!!!!! (yes, with six exclamation points) at Can Can Wonderland is made with Bittercube Birthday Cake Vodka Blend, cream cheese frosting syrup, milk, sprinkles, sparklers, and poppers // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

The Happy Birthday!!!!!! is perhaps the most extreme example of this over-the-top mentality. The drink, which features “a secret blend of four birthday cake flavored vodkas,” and comes equipped with a sprinkler, sparklers, poppers, and a song, is one of many eccentric delights on the quirky cocktail list.

“If you thought the cocktails were going to clarify what the hell is going in this building you were sadly mistaken,” quipped Nick Kosevich of Bittercube as we sampled through a list that includes That Carrot Drink, a well balanced carrot juice cocktail with rum and sherry that’s served in a clay pot-shaped glass and garnished with edible dirt; and the return of Monkey Business, a chocolate banana adult malt which you may remember from the seminal bar program at the original Town Talk Diner. They also offer a selection of canned wines and local craft beer. (See the full menu from the Main Bar and Wee Bar.)

Photos by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Adults don’t get to have all the fun though. For the kiddos and the non-drinkers there will be an array of house-made sodas and non-alcoholic malts.

Without the benefit of a full kitchen, the group worked with Scott Pampuch of Mise en Place Consulting to conceive a menu of concession-type fare for hungry patrons which includes a selection of grilled cheese sandwiches, six different hot dogs, pizza, mini donuts, and cotton candy–wrapped bourbon bacon on a stick.

In a Twin Cities dining and entertainment scene that has had a habit of emulating itself over and over again, Can Can Wonderland stands out as something weird and one-of-a-kind. And that’s exactly what we think you’ll like about it.

Next page: See Can Can Wonderland’s amazing transformation in before and after photos