Tap Talk: Broken Clock Brewing, NE Minneapolis’ Newest Co-Op

As Fair State Brewing Cooperative is preparing to move its organization over to St. Paul, a new co-op brewery is preparing to move into Northeast Minneapolis.

Broken Clock Brewing is the newest brewery on the block in the arts district.

Like many craft breweries, it sprang from a desire to escape the doldrums of corporate America. But unlike many craft breweries, it didn’t spring from homebrewing.

“We wanted to start a business that really put employees first,” founder Jeremy Mathison said.

Frustrated with experiences in their own lives, Mathison and his business partner set out to create a company that empowered its employees and put its community first.

The pair met several times, generally at area breweries, to brainstorm what kind of business they should pursue. When one day, Mathison said, it clicked.

“I was like, ‘Why don’t we just open a brewery?'” he said. “There’s nothing more communal than beer.”

As he researched the best business models for breweries, he became particularly interested in a model frequently used in Europe – the cooperative model.

At the time there were 13 cooperative breweries in the United States. Mathison reached out to each of them, and realized this was the model his team was going after.

With a business model intact, they needed a space.

They narrowed down their search to Northeast Minneapolis and St. Paul, and in a serendipitous encounter with a customer during a fundraising event they learned a brewing space, complete with equipment, was going to be available soon.

“One of our customers pitched that 56 [Brewing] was moving to another brewery,” Mathison said. “They wanted to sell their equipment because they were moving to a bigger space with new equipment.”

Mathison and his team were able to claim the space and the equipment, locking down their new home in the creative arts community.

Now, there were 14 co-op breweries.

(credit: Broken Clock Brewing)

(credit: Broken Clock Brewing Facebook)

All that was left was the name.

Throughout the opening process, the brewery began acquiring members. The very first few were the ones to give the brewery its name.

“We had about 15 names proposed, and they ended up voting for Broken Clock,” Mathison said, “Originally…the idea was when you’re at Broken Clock, whether you’re working or just there enjoying yourself, time stands still.”

Mathison said members found other meanings – “A broken clock is right twice a day,” – leading he and his team to ask all new members what the name meant to them.

“We just kind of let people take it from there to really make it what they want it to be,” he said.

Of course, as it is a co-op, the name isn’t the only thing members vote on.

Broken Clock does have a head brewer, but each and every beer that goes to tap is voted on by the members.

Additionally, Broken Clock offers special memberships for homebrewers.

“We give our homebrewer members a chance to brew with us and for us,” Mathison said. Every month we do a round table and they get to pitch ideas for beers. Then, all the brewers come together and work out test batches.”

Once the brewing period is done, Broken Clock hosts a party where members are invited to come and vote on the beer. Each member gets one vote.

“So, at the end only the best beer makes it to tap because it’s been voted on by the people who have been consuming it,” Mathison said.

Currently, there are 101 members, eight of which are brewers that come together to create Broken Clock’s offerings.

Mathison said that as production begins to ramp us, there will be some flagship beers that are always available. These, of course, will be chosen by the members as well. In fact, there are already two that members liked so much they continually want to see – the Kolsh and the Lavendar IPA.

But any other beers will be decided as they go along.

“It’s really our members that are going to drive what’s going on,” Mathison said. “Our philosophy is member drive beer. It’s what’s going on now.”

As Broken Clock grows along with the Twin Cities brewing scene, Mathison hopes to see more breweries, particularly co-op breweries, join the ranks.

He believes in the model because he believes it keeps businesses beholden to the community and acting responsibly.

For their part, Broken Clock is attempting to be more involved in the community by having its employees volunteer their time to an organization of their choosing, and hosting community events for families.

“We try to bring in more of the family and communal aspect versus just the beer drinking culture,” he said. “We really want to do more of the connecting.”

(credit: Broken Clock Brewing Facebook)

(credit: Broken Clock Brewing Facebook)

Broken Clock Brewing will move into the space formerly owned by 56 Brewing, at 3134 California Street NE. They expect to be up and running by February 2017.

There are four levels of membership: a single membership at $150, a household membership (two people) at $200, a brewer’s membership at $300 and a joint brewer’s membership.

Prior to their opening, the will continue to host monthly parties where locals can learn more about their co-op, become members and try beer.

Their next party is on Saturday, Oct. 8. From 3 to 8 p.m., guests can learn more about Old Town In Town Cooperative, Intertwine Northeast and Broken Clock while exploring their community. The dog friendly event will include music, food and beer from member homebrewers.

For more information on upcoming parties, to become a member or to donate, visit Broken Clock online.

More from Katie Fraser

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