Shoreview natives’ St. Paul brewery will be about the beer, and the space, too


Karl Eicher, Elliot Grosse and Dalton Buchta stand at the main entrance to 12welve Eyes, located in the basement of the historic Pioneer Endicott building on Robert and Fourth streets in downtown St. Paul.

Elliot Grosse, Karl Eicher and Dalton Buchta, who all grew up in the same Shoreview neighborhood, stand at the future bar in the future taproom of the brewery they’re opening in downtown St. Paul. Still undergoing renovations to create a “modern cafe” vibe, they say 12welve Eyes should be open by July.

In another world, “12welve Eyes” might have been the name of their high school band, but for three young men from Shoreview, sights weren’t set on making tunes in a garage, but beer in a basement. And that’s what they did ... once they reached legal drinking age, of course. 

Now in their mid-twenties, Dalton Buchta, Karl Eicher and Elliot Grosse —all of whom wear glasses — are moving their beer-brewing operation, 12welve Eyes, from a residential basement to the basement of the historic Pioneer Endicott building on Robert and Fourth streets in downtown St. Paul.

 

Brewery on tap 

With plans to have 12welve Eyes, their brewery and taproom, open by July, the trio has no plans for distribution, meaning they’re placing their focus on their beer, using all the techniques they’ve sharpened over the years, and some of the recipes they concocted in their parents’ basements in Shoreview.

With the help of a Portland, Oregon brewer to translate a lot of their home-brewing knowledge into commercial-brewing terms, for the past year they’ve only been making beer they 

know they “can make commercially, to prepare.”

They aren’t concentrating solely on beer, though — the three aim to make their 2,400-square-foot taproom space the ideal space to drink the beer, too.

“There’s kind of a status quo for breweries out there,” Grosse says standing inside the future 12welve Eyes space as heavy construction goes on around him, explaining many local breweries are “doing it the same way: all this or all that. I guess we just saw the opportunities in what hasn’t been done yet.” 

One of those opportunities: creating a different kind of taproom environment. 

 

Taproom not an ‘afterthought’

“We’ve spent pretty much our entire legal drinking lives home-brewing together,” Grosse says. “Now we’re trying to create the optimal space to enjoy that beer, whether in a group or by yourself.”

Grosse explains — amidst the sounds of hammering and sawing — that “taprooms are often an afterthought, like they’re for post-brewing operations or just an added bonus; an emphasis on comfort isn’t really there in many places.” 

The three men say their approach to their space will have a “modern cafe” vibe. 

Exactly what the finished product will look like is yet to be seen as the space is still undergoing renovations. But what is clear is that it will feature a central bar — like on the TV show “Cheers” — with taps coming down from the ceiling, plenty of windows for light and possibly outdoor seating, as the space has access to a private alley where folks can sit and food trucks can park. 

 

Three spaces, not one

“We actually have three separate spaces in the basement, not just one giant facility like most breweries,” Grosse says, noting the taproom, brewhouse and cooler room for kegs are all separated, but all on the garden level of one side of the building. “Because our taproom and our brewhouse are in two different rooms, it allows our taproom to have 10-foot ceilings rather than 24-foot ceilings, and rather than having an echo-box, we’re putting some energy into making the taproom as acoustically pleasing as possible — it’ll be more intimate and comfortable.”

They say “intimate and comfortable” also describes the seating and furnishings they plan on having.

“If you look at the senses, craft beer is an artisan taste sense,” Grosse says, “so we want to create an atmosphere where the other senses [can have] as high quality an experience as the beer.”

And the beer

Buchta, Eicher and Grosse thought of themselves as a brewer collective long before they began the process of starting a business. In fact, they say the name “12welve Eyes” is how they’ve referred to themselves for years, “almost like a jam band,” Grosse says. 

As for the beer, it will be brewed in small batches in a five-barrel brewhouse a few doors down a hall from the taproom, in the building’s former boiler room. 

“We’re a small brewhouse and we’re excited about our model,” Grosse says. “But we’re also ordering in a lot of tanks, which will allow us to have constant batch turnover.”

The trio says that means they’ll be in a position to make many kinds of brews. They hope to always have on tap a light, crisp beer, a hoppy beer, a dark beer and a malt-forward beer, among others.  

“We’ve created a flavor profile matrix,” Grosse says. “We know what general flavors we want at any given time, but what those beers are exactly, can change.”

As for a flagship beer, they say they don’t want to push anything on anyone. 

“We want our neighborhood to tell us what our flagship should be,” Buchta says, adding if there’s one beer a lot of people like a lot, it’ll remain on tap.  

 

Set apart

One thing that might set 12welve Eyes apart from other breweries in town is that Buchta, Eicher and Grosse, who are all owners and brewers, will also be familiar faces behind the bar. 

“We may hire a few people,” Grosse says. “But really, we’ll be the ones getting this off the ground. A lot of times, the owners and head brewers stay behind the scenes, but we’ll be at the counter taking orders, too.”

For more information about 12welve Eyes go to www.12welveeyes.com.

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. 

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