Bang Brewing – Exploring St Paul’s Food and Craft Beer Scene with an Organic and Sustainable Lens
There’s a lot that can be said about Bang Brewing. They’re organic, minimalist, and housed in a grain silo. They’re the exact opposite of the over the top beers that seem to be catching headlines today. Yet, Bang Brewing is capturing all the attention they want in their hometown of St Paul, Minnesota.
I stopped into Bang Brewing back in May after a whirlwind brewery tour of St Paul. I’d say it was by happenstance that owners Sandy and Jay Boss Febbo were there, but when you’re running a three-person shop, there’s a good chance the owners will be there.
While Jay was busy tending to a taproom that was already starting to fill up mid-afternoon on a Friday, Sandy sat down for an interview in The Wandering Gourmand’s latest edition of Taproom Talk – a series dedicated to highlighting the best local craft beer and food through the eyes of a brewer or brewery owner. I especially enjoy this interview as it focuses on the organic side of the Twin Cities’ food scene.
What’s behind the name – Bang Brewing?
It fell out of Jay’s former vocation. He was a software engineer and was small batch brewing at home. He took copious documentations of each batch that we brewed. And for every one, instead of a hashtag he would use an explanation point, which is referred to as a bang.
What got you started brewing?
A long while ago I was caretaking a house and they had a commercial stove. Jay came over to take a tour. He looked at the stove and said “Oh my god, I can brew beer on that.” I thought, “Who makes their own beer? What are you talking about?” That was in 1993, so we went to Northern Brewer, which had just opened and was an awesome homebrew shop, bought a kit, and demoed it. I was kind of curious. We did a couple of kit brews but it wasn’t until we flipped over to all grain brewing that interest clicked in for me.
Why all organic?
My answer to anyone who asks that question is it’s just the way that we’re wired. We cook organic. Like to support local, sustainable, organic restaurants. We feed our dog organic. We plant and tend our garden the same way. For us, it’s more a manner of the way we do things than to advocate for a way to do things.
Stylistically, how would you describe Bang Brewing beer?
We try to make the most out of the ingredients that we’re working with. It’s deceptively simple. Like Neat, with one malt, one hop, water, and yeast. While it may seem that it doesn’t get any more elementary, I think it’s the most challenging thing to brew. To do a very simple recipe and brew it very cleanly. We don’t use any refinings. We don’t use mechanical filtering. To get a beer to come through in that manner is pretty magnificent. So very minimalist.
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What’s your most popular beer?
They’re all pretty even. We did see a spike in interest in Minn when we released it, and apparently, we’re very contrary because we took it off the menu for about a year after that happened because we really want to brew whatever it is that we want to brew. We don’t want to produce one beer and get behind it and make that only – we don’t have the scale for that, nor do we really want that scale.
What beer do you produce that your wish more people would try?
Most people are pretty awesome about coming in here and being curious about our list. We don’t do flights; we sample whatever people are curious about trying. So far, no. We went almost two years without doing a hoppy beer. We both really like them, but we’ve had many people come in and just ask, “What’s your IPA?” And we thought, “We’re not going to have one for a while because we want to have an array – something else.”
What sets Bang Brewing apart from other breweries in St Paul?
Probably our scale. We’re a super small, two-person operation that is changing. We made a hire in November to manage our packaging. Our intent is to stay this scale and that is by design. We love the process start to finish. We brew together. Jay manages the cellar. We like touching all aspects of it to design and marketing. On a larger scale, you can’t do that. That’s not practical. You can oversee, but you can’t do it all. So that and probably organic. We were shocked. We started planning this in 2009, and we didn’t break ground until 2012. During that time, no other organic brewery opened. The closest one to us was Grand Rapids Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And they just dropped their certification this last year.
What’s on tap for the future of Bang Brewing?
More beer, a beer garden. We have a really small footprint, which was part of our intent for minimalism. It ebbs-and-flows with the seasons, which is a cool Minnesota thing in my eyes. Wintertime, smaller, cozy. I love it. It’s like a reverse snow globe in here because we have windows all around. On a day like today, when we’re rolling into summer, the garage doors open, we have a patio space. To have a beer garden with additional seating and to have events. It’s something that we’re really excited about.
Check out the rest of my posts on the Twin Cities’ food and craft beer scene!
What excites you about St Paul’s beer scene?
A lot’s happening. I’m hugely grateful to breweries like Summit that took a flying leap and a big risk 30-years ago. They went up against the bigs. For us now, craft beer is happening all over the place. There’s 30-some breweries in the Twin Cities. It’s happening really fast now and it’s exciting. There are other markets in other cities that have had a really dynamic beer scene, but to have it happen here, it’s pretty awesome.
What’s an awesome local beer festival that is worth traveling to St Paul for?
I love the Twin Cities Pride Festival that’s at the end of June in Loring Park. It’s a smaller festival so it’s a run for the finish line as soon as they say registration is open. The fifty brewery slots fill up pretty quickly. The other one is Winter Jam. It’s tied to St Paul’s Winter Carnival so only Minnesota can do it. There are years that it’s so cold the beer lines are freezing, and everyone’s trying to figure out how to keep the flowing. Then there are years where there’s a January thaw and we’re all standing in the mud.
What restaurant would you recommend to out of town visitors that only the locals know about?
Ngom Bistro, which is a really phenomenal chef drive place on University and Avon. It has a Vietnamese bend but does cool things with locally inspired ingredients and fusion cooking. Foxy Falafel is another really great place – one that’s focused on organic, sustainable foods. Heirloom Kitchen, which is very farm-to-table. The service is probably some of the best in town, and they know their stuff there.
Each city seems to have a unique food, what is St Paul’s?
Everyone always refers to the unique Minnesota food as the Juicy Lucy – a double pattied burger stuffed with cheese. I don’t eat meat so I don’t even think about it. It is very much a Minnesota thing though.
What beer bar would you recommend for exploring the regional beer scene?
Ngom has a Minnesota only tap list, which I think is the first and only in the Twin Cities to focus on Minnesota only beers. They started when it was tough to find enough beers for a complete tap line-up. Then there’s a few other really great beer bars like Muddy Pig and Happy Gnome and the Republic in Seven Corners.
Where can craft beer fans buy your beer both locally and beyond?
Primarily in the taproom but at a few select retail locations, restaurants, and bars in the Twin Cities. Check out their web site for the latest details.
Plan a Twin Cities Beercation!
Start planning your Twin Cities Beercation by checking out the latest hotel reviews on TripAdvisor. I stayed out at the Radisson Blu Mall of America. While I would recommend the hotel, its location isn’t the most convenient, unless your travels surround the Mall of America. There are plenty of other great hotels in Minneapolis and St Paul though.
For non-food and drink travel related suggestions, I recommend Moon’s Minneapolis and St Paul as the most thorough guidebook on the region.
YOUR TURN!!! What food and craft beer travel tip for St Paul, Minnesota would you add to this list?