Given the speed at which information spreads these days, then surely by now, just two weeks into its existence, you know the Bang Brewing story well: It’s that new grain bin brewery in St. Paul with one beer on tap whose name – Neat – evokes thoughts of spirits, not suds.
If its grain bin were all that Bang Brewing had going for it, it’d be off and running — people will come just to see this place. But a recent Saturday afternoon visit to “the bin” revealed that there’s more to the Bang Brewing story than one beer and a 30,000-bushel, post-industrial, farm chic grain bin.
Located north of the Central Corridor light rail line that will run down University Avenue, east of Highway 280, and south of a massive convergence of rail lines, Bang Brewing is basically in the middle of nowhere — a sort of urban boonies. Google “2320 Capp Road” and you’ll see.
The prefabricated, corrugated-metal grain bin itself sits on a small parcel of land that still holds traces of diesel fuel from its industrial past life, defiantly rising above the squat brick warehouses that have forever defined the landscape of this part of town. A train rumbles by to the north. A lonely wind rakes a small field of barley planted last spring. Parking is ample.
Standing in the street looking at the striking, sign-less brewery is an oddly disorienting experience, like stepping off a plane in some far-flung land for the first time. The only reason we know we’re in the right place is because we’ve seen pictures of it on Facebook.
This odd little brewery and taproom comes to us courtesy of Jay and Sandy Boss Febbo (below). He’s the seasoned homebrewer whose ambition and passion first outgrew the kitchen, and eventually the entire house. She’s the brewer’s wife who not only tolerated having their home overrun by complex brewing apparatus, but even encouraged it. He’s a software engineer. She works in advertising. “Bang” is what folks in their somewhat related industries call an exclamation point, a mark that found its way into the recipes of Jay’s homebrews. They share a passion for pursuing a sustainable lifestyle that regards environmental responsibility in the highest esteem. This sensibility is woven into the fabric of the tap room, which is decked in reclaimed wood, and more uniquely into the beer itself. As a point of differentiation, Bang is committed to brewing only 100% organic beers with ingredients of local-ish provenance without the use of clarity-enhancing finings. Their malts come from Wisconsin and their barley from North Dakota and Canada. Organic hops are tougher to find locally. So currently Bang sources theirs out of Maine and Oregon. But they’re working to bring that relationship closer to home.
So there’s all that.
There’s also beer. Albeit one for now, but beer nonetheless. And it’s why we came in the first place. So let’s drink.
Neat is a 100% organic very pale ale with an exceedingly modest recipe: single malt, single hop, water, and yeast. It’s so named because, like any spirit served neat, there’s nothing extra to hide behind. No superfluous malts. No palate-annihilating hops. Everything you need and nothing don’t. And here it works. Neat is bright and bitter and hoppy (95 IBUs) with a medium body and clean, almost vanishing aftertaste that lends the beer an I-could-drink-this-all-day quality. Despite its modest ingredient list and 100 percent organic designation, it supports the idea that when something is thoughtfully made with high-quality ingredients, just enough is plenty. It’s really good, and we leave with a handsome growler and the promise that a new beer — a mild — is coming down the pike soon.
With its off-the-beaten path location, unique space, thoughtful product and overall ethos, Bang Brewing has admirably transformed a sliver of forgotten industrial wasteland into a bright, warm, and promising organic brewery. It all comes together so nicely and unexpectedly, we leave feeling like there might not be a problem in the world a little beer can’t solve.
(Bang Brewing, 2320 Capp Road, St. Paul, MN)