Ask most brewery owners to tell you the story of how their business began and it will often involve the words “home brewing.”
Almost every tap room in Minnesota began as a dream of a home brewer. Day Block Brewing Comapny wasn’t much different.
“Much,” however, being the operative word.
Their story included a couple other words, and quite a different motivator.
In the early 2000’s Jeff Hahn was searching for a new home for his Internet company.
He had been working out of Northeast Minneapolis and, since the Internet had rather caught on, his company was growing at a good rate.
Hahn decided that they had outgrown their space, and that he no longer wanted to rent. As he set out to buy a building, however, he had some trouble with his broker.
“The broker I had was nothing short of terrible, as far as listening to me and finding what I wanted. So, one night I got really frustrated and I just drove around town looking for properties. This was one of the addresses I saw,” Hahn said.
The building, 1105 S. Washington Avenue, was part of the Day Block. In 1883 Leonard Day purchased a number of buildings all along that strip of Washington Avenue and named the block after himself.
“I always like to say it’s like a vanity license plate of the 1800’s,” Hahn said.
In 2005, Hahn purchased the three-floor building, and spent the next year and a half gutting the entire building.
“The joke is that…they put $5 in between 1960 and 2005 to maintain it,” Hahn said.
After the remodel was finished, the support structure remained but the entire inside was completed renovated.
After setting up his company on the third floor, Hahn set out to figure out what to do with the bottom two floors.
Following an expensive remodel during the real estate market crash, he was rather tight on money. So, he decided to rent out the floors.
The first floor he rented out to a restaurant. The second – to an architect. Within a year the architect moved out and Hahn began intermittently renting the second floor out for parties. Soon, he decided to turn that into a business of its own and the second floor became the Day Black Event Center.
The restaurant soon followed suit of the architect and moved out.
Hahn decided he no longer liked being a landlord and wanted to do something of his own on the floor. In the years since opening, he and his brother Chris took to home brewing with their friends in the building.
As the floor was already wired to be a restaurant, Jeff and Chris decided to turn their home brewing into a business and open a brewpub.
It was 2011 and laws had changed though, allowing for tap rooms to stand on their own. The pair debated heavily between the two models – tap room or brewpub – and decided on the latter.
“We went with the brew pub model because we wanted to have a boarder appeal to the neighborhood,” Hahn said. “This is pretty expensive real estate so we needed to make the most out of the things we were selling.”
So, in January 2014 Day Block Brewing Company opened for business.
Follow them: on Twitter at @DayBlockBrewing, on Facebook at Day Block Brewing Company, or visit their website online.
Owners: Jeff and Chris Hahn
Brewer: Adam Weis
Location: 1105 S. Washington Avenue
Hours: Monday – Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Day Block got its name from the man who built the building back in the 1800s, Leonard Day. Tell me, were there any other names you toyed with before choosing to name it after Day?
Hahn: Sure. One of the names that we looked into was Mill City Brewing because this is known as the Mill City area. The challenge with that is there are a lot of Mill Cities around the country and there are a lot of businesses named Mill City [here] – like Mill City Nights.
What lead you to use Day’s name then?
Hahn: We decided upon Day Block because we already named the event center Day Block Event Center.
Well that certainly makes it easier for you and customers! It seems like Leonard Day was the inspiration for another name at your brewery as well.
Hahn: Yes. Our IPA, one of our flagship beers, is Leonard Day IPA. Then the other flagship beer is Frank’s Red. Frank’s Plumbing was in here, [in fact it was] the Franks family who I bought the building from. We named the Frank’s Red Ale after the Franks Family.
So, since we’re already chatting beers, let’s talk about what you have on tap. Tell me what you have right now?
*Listen as Hahn describes the flagship offerings.
Do you have any seasonal offerings?
*Listen as Hahn described the seasonal offerings.
How about up-and-coming beers? Is there any flavor that you’re working on at the moment?
Hahn: One thing that people are fans of is our Coffee Porter. We’ve tried to do our darker beers in the summer time and they just don’t sell. People who are big fans of beer, they’ll buy it. But, that’s generally not enough of the people that walk through the doors. So, we have to appeal to a wider audience than that. Our Coffee Porter will be on this fall, so a nice little segue to that is one that is coming out that I’m really excited about. [It is a] Coffee Kolsh. There’s been a few coffee blonds that have been released, but nobody has done a Kolsh that I’ve seen. It’ll be a blond color beer, the nose will have a coffee scent and it’ll be rich. I like to think of it as a good breakfast beer.
That sounds delicious! Sounds like it will go great with your Sunday brunch. Tell me, which one of your beers is the most popular?
Hahn: Those three magical letters – IPA – are always winners. People like that hop flavor. There is a certain amount of addiction that goes with hops. There’s usually a higher amount of alcohol, so that’s appealing to some folks. It’s probably neck-and-neck between the Citra Pale Ale and the Leonard Day IPA. They are all within a small margin of each other though, I would say between 5 and 10 percent.
Being a brewpub, does what you serve influence what types of beer you brew or vice-versa?
Hahn: It does a little bit. With the Berliner Weisse you can treat it with some syrups, which is a traditional German thing to do. We’ll offier some syrups with it to sweeten it up and take away the tartness. We have a blueberry and a rhubarb. The kitchen makes those syrups. Then, once a month we do a small batch – or our pilot batch – and we pair that with a food pairing. Our customers come in on a Wednesday night and try out a sample. They have a chance to win a T-shirt or a glass as well, and have a chance to give us some feedback on that. The kitchen and the brewer definitely collaborate in some regard but it’s not necessarily dictated if that makes sense.
Definitely. It sounds like more of a partnership but that each one can stand on its own as well. So, as the beers often change with the season does the menu change too?
Hahn: We have weekly specials so we’ll do a seasonal pizza, a seasonal market salad or have a chef’s offering every now and then. Usually we change the menu about four times a year – seasonally – with some significant changes, but we keep the most popular items on the menu year round.
Speaking of, what is the most popular menu item?
Hahn: The Banh Mizza is a hands down favorite. I have people stop me on the street and tell me that they crave that pizza. It’s a really unique pizza. Ask Joe about it and he’ll tell you it was sort of just a whim. He was afraid everyone would hate it, and it’s just turned out be extremely popular. Our Carolina BBQ is extremely popular as well. You’re going to be able to buy the Carolina BBQ sauce now, so people can take it home and use it on dishes. That will be coming out this fall.
I bet people are really excited for that! So, there are several options on your menu – salads, sandwiches and pizza – but it seems that pizza is what you’re known for. How did you decide to offer pizza?
Hahn: A brewpub sort of gets grouped in to the idea that you’re a restaurant. There wasn’t really a good pizza place within a few blocks of here. We have neighbors who are selling fast casual American cuisine, there’s a few Asian restaurants, a couple of fancy restaurants down the street and a sushi restaurant; there really wasn’t a pizza place. So, we thought, “Well, that’s a nice model.” It also seemed like a “simple model” as far as food preparation. Then we went and hired Joe Williams, who is our head chef, and he came up with all these great recipes for these crazy pizzas, and they have just taken off. We started off with the intention to be just a regular old good pizza place and then Williams really elevated what we ended up doing with bacon flights and pizzas and our sandwiches.
The pizzas really are quite unique and very delicious. And you’re right, there’s nothing like your offerings near you. Right now, what would you recommend for the best pairing on the menu?
Hahn: Right now, I would say a nice light summer [pairing would include our] Argentinian pizza. It’s a vegetarian pizza, [and it’s] got 3 – 4 different kinds of mushrooms on it, and a little balsamic vinegar. If you want to try something interesting, try that with a Berliner Weisse.
Sounds like a very summer-y meal! Being a brewpub, I imagine you get people who aren’t beer drinkers that come in for the food. Tell me, what would you suggest to someone who isn’t much of a beer drinker?
Hahn: The lighter beers that we have right now, lighter in the sense that they’re not really hoppy, would be Frank’s Red or the American RevivAle right now. But, if you’re interested in a really light [colored] drink, the Berliner Weisse has a light brown color. Its tart so it’s got a bit of a pucker to it, but it’s just a very nice refreshing summer drink.
How about a bit of a beer snob? Which brew would you offer them?
Hahn: I would say the Citra Pale Ale is probably the most interesting beer as far as the hop character profile. The Citra hop is very unique, that is why it’s so popular. The neat thing about our Citra Pale Ale is that it’s got a very hoppy nose to it. So you put your nose up to it and you think, ‘Wow, this is going to be very hoppy!’ But the beer itself has a very low bittering flavor to it. So, as opposed to an IPA that has hop on the nose and the palate, the Citra – not so much. It’s got a nice big nose but the bittering in the beer itself is not nearly so pronounced.
Sounds very intriguing! Definitely a good beer for those that enjoy hops but don’t enjoy the bitterness factor. So, while Day Block has several different parts to it – a brewery, restaurant, event center and performance space – how would you describe it in just one word?
Hahn: Interesting. We have interesting food, we have interesting cocktails and we have interesting beer.