Credit: Photo by Rick Peters of Insideout Studios

Credit: Photo by Rick Peters of Insideout Studios

Highlight Center brings new brewhouse to Northeast

Updated: October 4, 2015 - 11:14 am

A local developer recently celebrated the grand opening of the renovated office building.

On one level, Able Seedhouse and Brewery is yet another brewery opening in the growing Northeast Minneapolis brew district. But it’s also more than a typical taproom: it’s a new supply chain, a unique malting facility and a different story from other brewers.

Co-founder Casey Holley plans to open the grain-to-glass brewery in late October in a 10,000-square-foot, stand-alone building on the recently opened Highlight Center site. Inspired from his work in the wine country of Northern California, Holley wants to utilize the region’s agricultural specialty in small grains to brew beer that uses the farm-to-table concept to tell the stories of farmers in Minnesota and neighboring states.

His first task was creating his own supply chain, one that didn’t lose these individual stories in massive grain elevators. Through three years of meeting farmers and a collaboration with University of Minnesota barley researchers, Able will do its own malting on site, something that no other brewery in the area is doing, Holley said. These crops have been grown for their flavor, not yield, a break from traditional farming practices.

“Sonoma is great at pinot. Napa is great at cabernet. What are we great at?” Holley said. “We’re great at growing small grains and there’s amazing small grain farmers in this state and the Midwest.”

Holley has brought on Bobby Blasey, most recently the head brewer at Mankato Brewery, to take on Able’s unique production, which recently launched. They’re hoping to add local wheat malt and barley malt as a fraction of the brewing process.

“If we can get to 5 percent, we’ve done something pretty remarkable,” he said.

Beer fans can expect a wide variety of American-style craft beers, which will be served at the approximately 200-seat taproom and self-distributed to local bars and restaurants. Holley said he hopes to add cans in the future. 

The production facility, all packed into the sizable one-room building, has been designed to further the customer’s connection to farmers. A screen wall will be the only barrier between patrons and the malting and brewing processes. Able is putting its energy into beer and forming connections with farmers, and will rely on food trucks and catering for dining.  

“If we do it right, we’re promoting what they’re doing,” he said of Able’s grain sources. 

Holley said he plans to have four beers ready for patrons when Able opens in late October at 1121 Quincy St. 

Highlight Center celebrates grand opening

On the same site as Able, Hillcrest Development has turned a former Minneapolis Public School headquarters into the new Highlight Center, which celebrated a grand opening on Sept.15.

The Minneapolis-based developer was one of six groups vying for the aging building, originally built in 1913 as a light bulb factory. In 2013, a Logan Park neighborhood group chose Hillcrest to bring the 170,000 square feet of space located at 807 Broadway St. NE to modern times for new businesses.

Since then the developer has removed a couple auxiliary buildings to make way for new green space, a pet area and on-site parking in order to attract tenants. Due to the history of manufacturing, asbestos, lead-based paint and soil contamination plagued the site, but Hillcrest has since removed pollution. The developer has also restored the building’s wooden floors, kept its tall ceilings and exposed brick walls, and will be installing solar power set to run next spring.

“We wanted to name the building something simple that would reflect its history, both as a light bulb factory and also in education,” said Beth Baber, Hillcrest marketing manager, in an email.

She said about half of the office space is leased one year after the developer began the renovation. Among the list of tenants there’s an emphasis on tech and creative office users.

Sport Ngin, a youth sports league software company, was the Highlight Center’s first signed tenant and now occupies more than 30,000 square feet on the third floor. The company moved in at the top of the summer from a vastly outgrown space in the Van Buren Building just a couple blocks away.

When the company first opened in 2008 they had just eight employees. Sport Ngin now has nearly 250 employees in their new office, so the building’s new parking, bike storage and shower facilities are a huge plus, co-founder Carson Kipfer said.  

Kipfer said that staying in the neighborhood was a big part of Sport Ngin’s culture with its growing number of technology businesses, such as a new Buzzfeed office just a block away. It’s also a big recruiting tool for the company. 

“We love nothing more than to see this startup tech hotbed in Northeast nestled between the artists and the brew district,” he said. “The juxtaposition with the tech company that we are in midst of a very old building is really cool.”

They won’t be alone in the Highlight Center. San Francisco-based steaming music startup Rdio moved its experimental wing, Rdio Labs, from a shared co-working office space in Uptown to the office building over the summer. MyMeds, a cloud-based web and mobile application that helps users track their medications, also has an office in the building. 

Hillcrest has purchased and renovated a number of historic Northeast Minneapolis warehouse buildings, including the Crown Iron Works site (home to Bauhaus Brew Labs and Blu Dot), 1500 Fillmore St. NE (home to Sociable Cider Werks) and the Frost Building (home to Dogwood Coffee Co. and Modern Survey).


Photos by Rick Peters of Insideout Studios