Photos by Nick Pearson and Bryant Scannell
When they’re not visiting the Dogwood warehouse and beating us at ping-pong on our own turf, our relatively new friends and neighbors at Able Seedhouse + Brewing are really nice to be around. Sure, it’s great to have another beautifully designed taproom within walking distance of our roastery here in Northeast Minneapolis- and of course we like it that they serve our Neon cold brew next to all their tasty beer- but the best part of these brewery partnerships is getting to know the people behind what’s being created.
It occurred to me recently that even though the word “Seedhouse” comes before the word “Brewing” in their name, I hadn’t asked them much about their vision for the seedhouse concept. So a couple weeks ago I sat down with Casey Holley (co-founder) and Bobby Blasey (brewer) to learn more about how Able came to be and what they’re planning for the future. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
How did you all (Able’s 4 co-owners) know each other before this?
Casey: I’ve known Rick since we were born. He’s my oldest friend. Our parent’s were really good friends. I met John in the fourth grade and we’ve been great friends since then. We all met Matt when we were out fundraising for this. Everyone’s played a really important role. They each possess skill sets that I just do not have and I knew we deeply needed if we wanted to do this.
Bobby, you were at Mankato Brewery before this, right? How’d you get into brewing?
Bobby: Yeah, for two and a half years. I was a home brewer and knew I wanted to be a brewer “when I grew up” so I went to school for it at the American Brewer’s Guild. After school I did an internship with Lift Bridge before being lucky enough to get that head brewer position down in Mankato.
Able was your idea right, Casey? Since your background isn’t in beer, what inspired you to start this project?
Casey: I had the idea almost four and a half years ago now. I’m inspired by creating- when I get to make something. Minnesota’s in the grain belt and we grow great small grains. I saw a bit of a disconnect between the raw material supply of grains and the actual beer. Who’s growing the grain? Where’s it coming from? What does it taste like? What are the varieties? I just felt like there was an opportunity to tell that story. Not just where it comes from but who are the people that touch it along the way? There’s a lot of products we could’ve connected it with- food, baked goods or distilled spirits- but I didn’t anticipate a time where I wasn’t going to like drinking beer so it was a natural choice.
I think for the average craft beer drinker, talking about where the grains for malt come from or how it was made is a bit foreign. That connection seems like one of the most unique things about what you guys are trying to do.
Casey: Yeah this whole thing is one giant experiment for us. What happens if we take single-source grain and try to malt it ourselves? What happens if we grow it here and process it in-house? What does it do to the beer? With beer, for the most part, this hasn’t been done since before prohibition. If we want to work directly with small farmers and support what they’re doing there’s not really a road map to follow anymore.
How much of this is happening already? You guys aren’t doing it quite yet, right?
Casey: We just now got to the point where the malthouse is basically built. I started building out the supply chain relationships three years ago to fit our small-scale and our first orders of barley and rye are coming in the next week or so.
So you’re just about to embark on this part. Excited?
Casey: To finally get to the point where we can pay these farmers and get grain in is very exciting. We know the quality of the grain is good. Now we just have to figure out what it’s going to do in the malthouse. We have a lot of mistakes to make that we don’t even know about yet.
How much of your own malt will eventually end up in the beers?
Bobby: I designed each of our beers to use at least a small percentage of our malt. There are beers coming up that will hopefully have 100% of our malt but we have a lot of hurdles to cross to get to that point.
Do you actually like coffee beers?
Bobby: I think if it’s done well it’s nice but I’m not in love with coffee beer. I like it once in a while but it’s definitely not something I could drink every week. Typically I like my coffee and beer separate.
Able Seedhouse + Brewing is located at 1121 Quincy St. NE in Minneapolis. They were also just named Best New Brewery by the Star Tribune. If you haven’t gone yet, get down there and check it out. And if you like coffee in your beer, ask for a pull of neon in your nitro BLK WLF.