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Number 12 Cider House opens Saturday

November 6, 2018

Cider-making was just a basement hobby for Steve Hance and Colin Post back in 2012. For years, the childhood friends from New Brighton would tinker with home-brewing for parties and other social gatherings. Then came the Minnesota State Fair.

Hance entered a batch from his basement cider laboratory. The 12th batch, in fact. He chose well. Hance took home a blue ribbon in the State Fair’s home-brewing competition, and he and Post decided to get serious.

Six years later, the attorney and elementary schoolteacher have pretty much left their jobs to turn cider-making into full-time careers. Their Number 12 Cider, which they served out of a barn on an orchard in Buffalo, Minn., the past few years, is now based out of a 7,000-square-foot space in Minneapolis’ North Loop.

Number 12 Cider House officially opens on Saturday at 614 N. 5th St. (651-246-9995, number12ciderhouse.com)

They’ve brought some of the orchard with them. Wood floors and wide white planks on the walls give the soaring space a cozy vibe.

“We didn’t want to be the same as other taprooms — warehousey, cold,” Hance said. “We’re a winery, and we wanted to bring the farm feel without going overboard.”

Number 12 Cider is the first tenant of a 56,000-square-foot building that used to be the site of the Weather-Rite company, which manufactures HVAC equipment. It was redeveloped by Schafer Richardson from industrial use to a creative office and warehouse space.

The site at 700 N. 5th St. still has an industrial feel with 17.5-foot-high exposed ceilings and concrete floors. One of the largest changes to the building is that more light has been brought in with smaller front windows enlarged, glass blocks replaced with windows in different areas and loading dock doors replaced with glass garage doors. Schafer Richardson also tore down a two-story building to the side to allow for outdoor space. “I think it’s a different feel than a brick-and-timber building, but it is still warehousey,” said Mike Olson, who is responsible for leasing at the building. Schafer Richardson is negotiating a lease with a large unnamed office tenant for most of the remaining space.

But in Number 12 Cider’s corner of the building, a barn-wood door and midcentury furniture in a mezzanine lounge give the soaring space a warmth to contrast to the more industrial look of many local taprooms.

On tap (16 of them, by December) are dry, sparkling ciders from small batches of specialty apples grown largely in Minnesota and surrounding states (with some of the apples coming from Oregon, where the cider business is booming and orchards are keeping pace).

“It’s in between wine and beer,” said Post. (Most ciders fall between 5 and 7 percent alcohol by volume.) Their product differs from the beer-like apple graff, a beverage made with juice, grain and hops, like that brewed at Minneapolis’ Sociable Cider Werks. Number 12 Cider is only juice and yeast.

Hance describes one cider as “like a sauvignon blanc.” Others are barrel-aged, and still others are fermented along with other fresh or dried fruits. All are naturally gluten-free. (Eventually, a wood-fired pizza truck, Little Tomato, will be serving food, and some options will be gluten-free as well.)

The back of the taproom, where the apples are pressed on wooden racks, doubles as a laboratory where Hance and Post experiment with different apples, yeasts and blends. Through trial and error, they’ve learned that the best tannins come from beat-up little crabapples; some of their least successful attempts came from Minnesota-grown Honeycrisp, which loses its signature sweetness during fermentation.

Their process harks back to the 1800s, when cider was something of a national drink in the United States. Though it faded for some time, it’s now the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. beverage market, according to some studies.

For those who have only tried bottled hard cider à la syrupy-sweet Angry Orchard, the delicate taste of Hance and Post’s ciders may come as a surprise. “There’s confusion in the marketplace,” Hance said. “We could fool wine drinkers.”

New 1970s-style piano bar is where ‘Elvis meets Liberace’

The closure of Nye’s original piano bar a few years ago has left a gaping hole in the hearts of many of Twin Citian who loves a singalong from another era.

Trying to fill that hole is the new Barrel House, in the lower level of Birch’s Lowertown in St. Paul (289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-432-4677, birchslowertown.com). The 1970s-style cocktail lounge and cabaret opened last weekend.

If a complicated entrance is the requirement for being a speakeasy, then that’s what the Barrel House is. At least, that’s what owner Burt Joseph (in partnership with Tim McKee and Shane Oporto of Market House Collaborative co-tenants Octo Fishbar) was going for. Go through the brewery, down the stairs and through the doors. “You walk in and have that wow factor,” Joseph said.

But that’s where the 1920s end and the 1970s begin. “I didn’t want to do what other places had done with speakeasies,” Joseph explained. “I wanted to try a time that was more fitting for myself and a style of music I enjoy.”

Though he wouldn’t give his age, Joseph said he was “riding my tricycle” in the 1970s. “I’ve got memories of the paneling in our lower level and some of the furniture my parents had back then.”

The Barrel House is styled after a subterranean crooner’s lounge from that era, complete with crushed velour swivel chairs and acrylic tables. “Where Elvis meets Liberace,” Joseph described it. “With a little Studio 54.”

For music, think “early Billy Joel.” Duetters Erin Schwab and Jay Fuchs, and Jenny and Donnie La Marca, currently headline around the piano, but on opening weekend, guests were doing a lot of the singing. And that’s alright with Joseph. “If you ever went to Nye’s and sang along, that’s what I’m looking for,” he said.

Guests can order off the Birch’s menu till 10 p.m. Otherwise, the focus is on drinks, with more than 90 scotches, bourbons and ryes, more than 21 tequilas, and a Tattersall cocktail menu, plus a few throwbacks like the Harvey Wallbanger.

For now, the lounge is open Thurs-Sat, starting at 8 p.m., with some same-day reservations available if you can procure a secret number (hint: check social media). Sunday drag brunches are coming soon. The Barrel House can also be rented out for private events.

Just be ready to sing your heart out.

“There’s not a lot going on in Lowertown St. Paul, so we are trying to help uplift that area,” Joseph said. “It’s a destination.”

What else?

Gluten-free eaters don’t have to miss out on classic Thanksgiving dishes, thanks to two Minneapolis eateries serving up takeout for the holiday. Brim (2919 Knox Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-261-0506, brimrestaurant.com) is cooking up gluten-free and organic sides and pies, and Sift Gluten Free bakery (4557 Bloomington Av., Minneapolis, 612-503-5300, siftglutenfree.com/thanksgiving) is baking desserts and breads,and many of the options are also dary-free, egg-free or vegan. Place orders in person, by phone or online.

Lift Bridge Brewing Co. is releasing this year’s 500-bottle batch of the Commander at a release party Sat. , noon-10 p.m. Those who have pre-ordered the English-style barleywine ale, which is aged in bourbon barrels, through Lift Bridge’s website (liftbridgebrewery.com) or in person (1900 Tower Dr., Stillwater) can pick up their bottles while enjoying a tipsy pie-eating contest, hairy chest contest, minnow racing and live goats.

The Minneapolis Pasport Winter Edition is now out. Through April 15, those who purchase a $20 “passport” get 2-for-1 drink deals at bars and coffee shops throughout the city. Some of the 52 participating venues include 4 Bells, Grand Catch, Hai Hai, Parlour and St. Genevieve. Passports can be purchased at thepassportprogram.com.

Seven Steakhouse Sushi Rooftop in downtown Minneapolis has a new club on its second floor: Lux (700 Hennepin Av., 7mpls.com). The newly remodeled, 7,000-square-foot space will have DJs and bottle service Friday and Saturday nights. “I’m excited to bring a fun, funky and fresh new venue to Seven, to complement the already reenergized spaces that are bringing this downtown destination back to life,” said Matt Parrington, a Seven owner who was behind the Living Room at the W, the Marquee Nightclub at Union and the Maxim and Rolling Stone parties for the Super Bowl. Lux’s grand opening is this weekend.

Come Pho Soup in the Medical Arts Building in downtown Minneapolis (825 Nicollet Mall) has closed. Owner Alain Lenne says his two-year lease was an experiment to “study if the concept works.” It did, so much so that it was hurting his other business in the same building, La Belle Crêpe. Now, he’s looking for a skyway location to reopen the pho shop. In the meantime, the tiny crêperie is serving pho and bánh mì.

Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report.

Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4853

@SharynJackson

Read full reviews and other restaurant news at startribune.com/dining.

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