Beer, if not a full-scale brewing operation, is returning to the old Grain Belt Brewery’s historic keg house. The Community Tap House is part taproom, part wine bar, part community center, and part art gallery, all rolled into unassuming but full-of-potential space formerly inhabited by a solar panel distributor. It’s shooting for a September opening, in time for Northeast’s annual Oktoberfest bash.
"We want to be a hub for all the disparate elements of Northeast Minneapolis," says co-owner Nate Field, who continues to run the Northeast-based landscaping company he built with his dad. He plans to fill the space with local artwork, marrying Northeast’s two signature cultural components: beer and art.
The Community Tap House concept is simple and novel. Patrons enter a taproom-style space with plenty of table seating and a small bar, buy an 8- or 16-ounce glass from a cashier, and move into a smaller "pour room," where "beer sommeliers" (officially known as tap tenders) keep watch over 16 taps.
Tenders are there to answer questions and manage the flow, but patrons get to pour their own beers. The goal: a more relaxed, educational experience than what’s typically on offer at bustling brewery taprooms and craft beer bars, where tenders lack the time or energy to play teacher. Sort of like a wine bar but without the wine.
According to Field, at least one (of four or five) tap tables will have a monthly rotating selection; potential themes include seasonals, featured styles and new breweries. The plan is to have at least two ciders on hand at all times, and likely more during fall’s peak cider season.
Minnesota breweries and cideries come first: "We want to be a resource for people interested in exploring Minnesota’s craft scene," says Field. "If they try something they like from a place they’ve never been to, hopefully they choose to visit the brewery itself." He’ll also have kegged root beer and perhaps locally made sodas on hand.
Also included: a commercial kitchen focused on seasonal, healthy-ish snacks and small plates. Soups, paninis, kale salads, nachos artisanal pizzas, Sriracha peas and charcuterie plates — stocked, hopefully, with ingredients from Northeast’s Red Table Meats and Lone Grazer Creamery — are all under consideration, though the menu won’t be finalized until closer to Community Tap House’s open date. And despite the working kitchen, visitors are encouraged to bring outside food — including, true to the place’s "community" spirit, homemade dishes.
Off the main taproom, Field plans to make a community/party room available for rent; off the pour room, an old garage bay could double as an indoor porch. With ample parking in the area, Field hopes for permission to turn part of the building’s parking lot into a patio.
Hours are subject to change this far out, but they look generous so far: 4pm to midnight during the week, 4pm to 1am Friday, 11am to 1 am Saturday, and 11am to 10pm Sunday.