12welve Eyes Brewing in Lowertown
Today in the Toast: A tasting of four accomplished brews by newly opened 12welve Eyes Brewing in Lowertown, St. Paul.
Though St. Paul has nowhere near the number of breweries that Minneapolis does, the proliferation of breweries in the Lowertown neighborhood this year has been profound. Joining the 3-year veteran Tin Whiskers Brewing Company is Barrel Theory Beer Company, and Sidhe Brewing is in the process of moving from Payne-Phalen to a location near Union Depot.
The most recent addition is 12welve Eyes Brewing, housed in the lower level of the historic Pioneer Endicott building.
Unlike Barrel Theory, 12welve Eyes opened seemingly overnight to little press or anticipation from craft-beer enthusiasts. Its taproom is partially underground, down a stairway on a street that is relatively quiet because the Light Rail’s Green Line leaves little room for car traffic.
The company began when three glasses-wearing friends (thus the 12 eyes) bought some home-brewing equipment. After a move to Portland, Ore. to develop their skills, the Minnesota natives returned to St. Paul to open 12welve Eyes Brewing.
Elliot Grosse is the president. Co-founder Karl Eicher is not active in the company. The third founder, head brewer Dalton Buchta, runs the day-to-day brewing operations with help from assistant brewer Josh Oestreich. While they are by no means industry veterans, the quality of beer in the taproom is accomplished.
Buchta and Oestreich strive for a frequently rotating, balanced portfolio of sessionable beer. Though not everything falls into the ever-expanding “session” category, the incredible variety is impressive. “We want our reputation to be focused on the overall beer experience in our taproom, not just being able to serve one or two particularly well-made styles,” says Oestreich.
The broadly-appealing Mosaic Wheat IPA ($4 for 10 ounces) has a strong, grassy, tangerinelike aroma and is lighter-bodied than many IPA variants. The wheat adds a soft mouthfeel and rounds out bitterness on the palate. A lingering aftertaste is more bitter than the sips themselves.
An excellent dark beer in the warmer months is the Summer Brown ale ($4 for 10 ounces), with its earthy, light-roast coffee and toasted bread aroma. Flavors of bitter cocoa come through as the glass warms, while the finish remains neither sweet nor dry. The light body is seasonally appropriate, but low carbonation prevents it from feeling thin. For a more robust dark beer, the Legacy Chocolate stout, which utilizes chocolate from neighboring Legacy Chocolates, fits the bill.
Finally, the most surprising beer on the menu is the Lemon Hefeweizen ($4 for 10 ounces). Make no mistake, there is way too much lemon in this beer, yet it is shockingly popular. The extreme use of the fruit is attractive in its own way, and in fact the beer becomes almost cocktail-like. An unapologetic amount of lemon comes across with a flavor similar to that of Moroccan preserved lemon. Try cutting it half and half with the Dry-Hopped Hefewiezen for more balance, or enjoy it for the lemon bomb that it is. Summer is almost over.
There were no major recipe flubs that we could find, but instead, a significant detergent smell permeates the glassware. The glasses should be rinsed longer prior to pouring, or, ideally, the formula in the glass washer should be changed.
The current plan calls for 80-90 percent of sales to be through the taproom. Light distribution is possible within the year in kegs or crowlers. Hesitancy toward strong distribution is due in part to Grosse’s preference to engage the surroundings in Lowertown before expanding.
12welve Eyes Brewing may have opened only weeks ago, but Grosse is already thinking about the depths of Minnesota winter. As a young business owner, it’s hard for him to define the dozens of hats he must wear as the infant brewery begins to develop, but anxiety is his current state of being. “We are hoping that being connected to the skyway system really helps,” he says, adding that the neighborhood has been consistently supportive.
12welve Eyes Brewing, 141 E 4th St, Suite LL2, St. Paul, MN 55101; 651.493.8106