This sense of practicality and calm is paired with another key element that defines how Jay and Sandy approach their day-to-day reality: minimalism. Where most new breweries aim to open with a laundry list of beer styles and an impressive array of shiny tap handles, all in an oversized, room-to-grow, large-capacity space, Bang Brewing opened with just one beer: Neat, a single malt, single hop pale American ale.
In fact, Neat had been Jay and Sandy’s control recipe over their years of homebrewing. Instead of brewing a lot of different types of beer, they brewed just one, over and over, changing one thing each time. “There’s a window into Jay’s DNA for you,” Sandy says. “To process and chase things down to make it the most efficient method possible. That’s this guy. All the time.”
The plan was to keep Bang’s taproom a one-beer joint for quite a while, to demonstrate their dedication to focusing on “a few great ingredients and trying to get the most out of them,” Sandy explains. “We didn’t have a menu. We had beer.”
“It was funny,” Jay adds, finishing Sandy’s thought. “Customers would literally say, ‘I want a beer!’ It was great.”
Their plan only lasted about a month, however, as they added Minn, an American mild, in October 2013, and Nice, a “St. Paul Dark Ale,” in December 2013. Today, Bang’s taproom hosts seven rotating taps. It’s their max for now, as they focus on adding 750 milliliter bottles to their production schedule and staying on top of the 10 or so taps they support at restaurants around town. They’d also like to add additional taproom hours and taproom hires. But that’s in the future. There are plenty other, more pressing goals currently occupying their collective mind.
Tops on that list is finding more local, organic ingredient options. Bang Brewing is built on environmental stewardship, from the shape of their pre-fab, grain silo-shaped brewery (“The most efficient small space is a circle!”) to the ingredients used in their beer (organic hops from Michigan and the West Coast, organic malts from Briess Malt & Ingredients Company, in Chilton, Wisconsin, and overseas). “Organic is how we cook, how we garden, how we feed our dog: it’s how we’re wired,” Sandy says. “But to ship ingredients from overseas and use that carbon—we don’t take that lightly. […] Yet we’ve said that we don’t want to brew with conventional ingredients. If we don’t make a commitment to organic, we’re never going to see a change for increased opportunity or production. So we choose to support those who are producing organic ingredients and really hope that at some point there will be an option to get them closer to home.”
Looking back on the last few years, neither Jay nor Sandy can quite wrap their heads around where they are and how they got here. “I didn’t really think of it beyond Jay and I brewing beer,” Sandy says. “It’s more than I could have ever imagined. And it keeps getting better, too.”
“For sure,” Jay adds. “I’m still kind of amazed it all came together, with so many moving parts. And just us. It’s incredible.” He laughs his contagious chuckle-slash-giggle, a wink at an impending joke. “I know how to keep books now. Not very well, but I know!”
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Photos by Aaron Davidson
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