When we walked into Sisyphus Brewing the other night, we had no idea we were crashing a mini Match.comevent. We noticed a small pod of people hanging out by the shuffle boards, a group of dudes hovering anxiously over their beers, two women, side-by-side in loose, draped sweaters and jeans. The two hosts of the event, Sam Harriman and Catherine Cuddy, busied themselves behind the bar, pouring Oatmeal Stouts, and Imperial Brown Ales—further liquefying nerves.
We stole a couple of stools on the outskirts of the action, and got to work on our own stouts. With the ebb and flow of traffic, Sam and Catherine took turns sliding over to chat with us about their unique approach to business, and their hopes for the brewery's continued success.
While learning about their local collaborations and their future comedy club, it became pretty clear to us—Sam and Catherine are game for anything.
You started out brewing recreationally. What would you identify as the milestones that led you from crafting home brews to opening a full-time brewery?
Sam: So, I met Catherine during my last month of college at Saint John's University / Saint Ben's.
Catherine: I was the one that liked beer. Sam only drank hard alcohol, so I converted him. He definitely took beer and ran with it—in a good way.
Sam: Yeah, so after college, I worked as a bank teller and did stand-up comedy. While touring around the country, a visit to Sam Adams' brewery in Boston got me really interested in beer. . . I've been brewing at home ever since. Early on, I didn't screw up any batches. They all tasted good, so I never did kits or messed around with other peoples’ recipes. I just tried to formulate my own, and after about a year of brewing, I was like, ‘I don’t need to buy beer ever again. I like my own stuff better.’ The feedback from my friends, who are huge into beer, gave me a pretty big boost in confidence, too. I was making something that wasn't really out there yet, taste-wise.
So, uh, I went from bank telling to here. . .
With your two-barrel brewing system, you’re frequently rotating taps to provide patrons with new beers. Do you anticipate keeping certain beers on tap year-round?
Sam: Rather than having flagship beers, we want to stick to our concept of rotating beers—offering small batches—limited quantities with high turnover. We’re trying to change out the taps once a week, and we are making no effort to ensure that some beers stay on tap.
You've found a cool niche in the Minneapolis craft brew scene by celebrating local talent through improv and open mic nights. How do you see the space evolving, and what inspired you to take this community-based approach?
Sam: How will it evolve? Probably pretty slowly. We’re making small steps first—like adding another TV, tap lines, starting a bottle cap mosaic for the back wall. . .
The other side of the space, that’s what we’re super excited for—we want to build a 100 seat theater. I used to do comedy around the Twin Cities a bit. We also did a road trip around California where I did stand up in the cities we visited, and we traded Surly beer along the way.
Minneapolis is supposedly known for having a really good comedy scene, but in terms of places to go to see comedy, it's, like, Acme, and that’s it. Minneapolis is a big city. We have room for more than one comedy club, but we don’t have it yet. I thought this would be a really interesting way to combine two things that are just awesome.
We know beer. We know comedy. You can come and have fun if you want to.
You have a unique assortment of activities and events at Sisyphus. For those who have never visited, how would you guys describe the taproom’s atmosphere?
Catherine: Sam probably said, 'Quiet house party.' That's exactly it. You can come here, hang out, play a game. We want it to feel spread out—not super crowded. We like when it's crowded, too, but. . . so I used to go out in Uptown, Downtown. . . I feel like there's no way I can go out there anymore. . . because I don't fit. This tap room is where we fit. It's better. You don't have to worry about wearing make-up. You don't have to be totally dolled up to the nines. You can wear a sweatshirt and it's fine. You're here to have fun and not worry about it.
Catherine told us that you built the shuffleboard tables, Sam. They’re beautiful! She also mentioned your cribbage boards were made just for the brewery. Could either of you tell us more about those?
Catherine: We got them from a small, local workshop—Wood From the Hood. Basically, one of their guys comes here to drink. You know, it's like any kind of bar—people come in and you get to know them. They come back, and you get to know them better. We think what they do is really cool, so they offered to make us boards with our logo on them. The boards are all different, depending on what kind of wood is used. . . Also, cribbage is something that Sam grew up with. It was a natural collaboration for us. We love what they do.
You also teamed with local artists, Jawsh and Adam Turman, for the mural on the eastern exterior of the brewery. We love it! Could you tell us how you landed on the name “Sisyphus?” Did you always envision him as a handsome Beer Bunyan?
Sam: I was a philosophy major in college. The Myth of Sisyphus is one of those ideas that just stuck with me. When we hired Jawsh and Adam to do the mural, we asked them to come up with whatever they wanted. It definitely turned out as a happier version than what most people would imagine when they hear,"Sisyphus."
The actual myth is only, like, two pages, but if you really read it, and reflect on what Camus is saying, that’s what always stuck with me. If you don’t believe in something greater than human existence, all that’s left is what you spend your time doing—that moment that's right in front of your face. That’s the moment that matters—not the fact that you're in this endless cycle of doing meaningless stuff, day-in and day-out. "What do you want to put your all into?" For me, it's beer. Being around the science and art of it is what makes me forget that there even is that cycle.
Any cool events coming up at Sisyphus?
Catherine: We're having a pumpkin carving night! It's the last Wednesday of the month. I love that kind of stuff. Halloween is really big at my parents' house, so every year I still go home and carve pumpkins with my dad. We watch, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. In honor of that, Sisyphus is gonna do a pumpkin carving night for Halloween.
For $15, you get the carving tools, a pumpkin and a beer. We'll have a contest for best in show, scariest pumpkin, and most classic pumpkin. We’ll have old school Disney Halloween cartoons on the TV. It’ll be a fun date night or friends’ night. Get the Bennies together!