“Brewing is magic” at Sidhe Brewing Company in St. Paul

Cara Schulz —  May 26, 2015 — 11 Comments

Three years ago Kathleen Culhane was heading home after attending a taproom opening in Minneapolis, and she was thinking about how she’d like to work in a brewery. Then it hit her. She didn’t want to work in a brewery; she wanted to own one. Three years and many hundreds of hours of work later her dream has become reality as Sidhe Brewing Company opens it doors in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Founder Kathleen Culhane at Sidhe Brewery [photo Cara Schulz]

Founder Kathleen Culhane at Sidhe Brewery [Photo: C. Schulz]


What makes Sidhe Brewery different from other craft beer breweries across the country is hinted at in its logo, the artwork hanging in the taproom, the names of the beers, and the pentacle hanging around Ms. Culhane’s neck. This brewery is owned by four very out of the broom closet Pagans.

Culhane is the founder and head brew mistress. Rosemary Kosmatka keeps the books; Robin Kinney is the secretary; and Erica Rogers handles operations. Culhane owns 52% of the brewery, while the other three partners each have a 16% interest. Not only are all four women business partners, but they also share a house and are all practicing witches.

Culhane said that it was never a consideration to hide their faith, “We’re just going to be who we are and be obvious about who we are and if people figure it out, great. And then of course City Pages called us a “Wiccan brewery” – yeah, we’re out of the broom closet now, not that we were ever really in it.”

And, that is very apparent to anyone entering the taproom. Goddess art and a large painting of a full moon by artist Aneesa Erinn Adams adorn the walls of the brightly lit, 68 seat taproom. Culhane said that the painting will change as other artists display and sell their artwork through the brewery. There’s also a stage area where musicians can perform and where open mic poetry nights can be held.

Full Moon painting hangs above the stage in the taproom [photo Cara Schulz]

Full Moon painting hangs above the stage in the taproom [photo Cara Schulz]

The owners’ openness has already attracted a few protesters, leading up to their Grand Opening weekend. Culhane said that the group was small, and she’d be pleased to talk with them if they return.

Brewing as a Ritual
The brewery was originally called Four Elements, but was changed to Sidhe after a problem trademarking the name. The logo design, which reflects the original name and features a pentacle in the center, also shows Culhane’s theory that brewing beer is a type of ritual, “It occurred to me when I first started to think about this that there was a perfect one-to-one correspondence between a standard Wiccan ritual and brewing because you combine air with water and fire and it creates spirit. When you brew, you combine hops, yeast, and water and you make beer.”

Culhane said that, once she made that realization, the ritual she now uses to make each batch of beer practically wrote itself. Each brewing also ends with a Great Rite.

Logo

Magic isn’t just in the beer, it was built right into the brewery, “Once we got the space, we purged it and gave it a good blessing and then when I built the walls I put stones in all the corners and I welded stones into the brewery itself so they are embedded in the posts.” Her working altar, nestled in a toolbox, is visible from the taproom.

A working altar visible from the taproom. [photo Cara Schulz]

A working altar visible from the taproom. [Photo C. Schulz]

Wicca also influences Culhane’s work ethic. She said that one Wiccan concept guiding her is that while doing magic to manifest Will, you must also do work in the mundane world. This work supports the magic and makes it happen.

Culhane has done the work. Not only is she the head brewer, but she has also remodeled the facility and built the brewing equipment herself. She said that she has needed to be very self-reliant because she didn’t have many monetary resources. This is also why the Sidhe brewery is the smallest in the Twin Cities. Culhane could only build what she could afford out of her own pocket, or what her partners contributed by cashing out their retirement savings.

The Beers
For such a small brewery, they have a wide selection of beers on tap.  Bast Kissed is a cream ale named after one of Culhane’s cats, who enjoys malted barley. Sol Victorious is a bright Mexican style lager. Hopped Up McGonigal, an IPA created at the request of a friend, is not overly bitter like many craft IPAs. Barking Cat is Belgian ale with a strong flavor and a similarly strong alcoholic kick. Greenman’s Harvest, an American nut brown ale first made for a friend’s wedding back in 1998, has a slightly caramel flavor. Dark Moon Rising, a Stout, is the darkest of all the beers offered.

Beer

[Photo: C.Schulz]

As of now, the beer is offered only in the Twin Cities. You can order glasses in the taproom or buy a growler to take home. It’s also offered on tap at Tongue in Cheek, Ward 6, and the Historic Mounds Theatre.

The craft beer industry is highly competitive with a 24% failure rate among microbreweries, according to the Brewers Association. Therefore, it remains to be seen if Sidhe Brewing Company will be successful. They appear to have all the right ingredients for a successful brewery; owners with business experience and a willingness to put in long hours, solid beers, and an attractive taproom. Could magic be the edge needed in such a crowded market? Perhaps so.

“Brewing is magic,” said Culhane, “and I think that it makes the beer taste better.”

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • Reverend Wardzinski

    I actually know the four wonderful ladies who run Sidhe Brewing, and even helped them with a bit of the remodeling. They are fantastic people. I shared this post with him on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sidhebrewingcompany). Best of luck to them.

  • Kathleen Culhane

    Minor quibble: I may have done a lot of the work, but I could never have finished without the help and support of the other owners, as well as all of our friends and volunteers. I can’t in good conscience take full credit. This dream had many, many mothers and fathers to help it to be born.

  • StephanieAndDavid

    Great article! I hope this business is hugely successful.

  • Macha NightMare

    So great to see this endeavor profiled. Congratulations to Kathleen and all! (waving and blowing kisses from California)

  • MadGastronomer

    Hey, what’s happened to Community Notes and Release the Hounds? I expected Notes to be today since yesterday was Memorial Day, and we haven’t had a Hounds post since the 6th.

    • Due to Memorial Day, Community Notes was rescheduled to Wednesday. The Hounds lists are only published once a month and will be back in a few weeks.

      • MadGastronomer

        Thank you!

  • Joseph F

    Boy, I wish I lived in St. Paul and I wish I drank beer, because this sounds like a really nice business to visit. Hope all goes well.

    • I can’t stand hops, but malted barley in other forms (I’m very fond of Islay malts!) is just fine by me. If hops didn’t make me spit the brew out, I’d try more beer.

      I would certainly visit, where I to be in St. Paul, if only to say hello.

  • Ursyl Kukura-Straw

    Not a beer drinker, but based on the descriptions, I’d try a couple of those at least once.

    All success to your collective efforts!