The company I work for does an event every quarter. After we’re done there are a handful of regulars that like to keep things going. We were in Eagan and someone mentioned that there was a new place that had opened recently. Before long I was closing my vehicle door and searching for the entrance to Union 32 Craft House.
The pour your own beer concept isn’t exactly new. The Community Keg House tried and failed, but Union 32 changes the model a bit for the better. At the Keg House you had to pay for each individual beer, then you’d go to an area that was partitioned off and fill your glass. It was a clunky system and the novelty wore off immediately. At Union 32 you begin by handing your credit card to the bartender. You get your own special card in return, which is what you’ll use to fill your beers. The next thing you’ll do is walk over to their wall of, you guessed it, 32 taps. After grabbing the glassware that matches your thirst level, you place your card in the slot of the beer you’d like and pull the tap to fill your glass. It’s a pay by the ounce system that works pretty slick, except for when you panic and pour 160z of beer into a 4oz taster!
If you don’t want to fill your own glass you’ve still got the option to get it filled for you. They’ve got a large bar dead center in the room which is surrounded by high tops. The ambiance is more of a suburban sports bar than a brewery taproom. This is understandable since their target market is a bit different from your normal brewery-goer. It also wouldn’t be a brewpub without a full service bar and restaurant. On your way to the bathroom there is one detail that may be overlooked. Glance in the window behind the taps to get a look behind the curtain.
They’ve got their own beers that they brew onsite. I wouldn’t be writing about them if they didn’t. During my visit they had three different beers: a Kölsch, Cream Ale, and SMaSH Pale Ale. I asked a young man near the tap wall what the malt and hops were in the Pale Ale. He didn’t know. I’ll chalk this one up to having recently opened, but I’d recommend that the workers understand at least the Union 32 beers. I could forgive not knowing all the information on the other 29 taps, but not that! The beers I had were all brewed well but nothing particularly outstanding. Though I did have a good time tasting other beers from the state and beyond.
There is an interesting side effect to Union 32’s business model. Since the customers are paying for everything that they pour that means the business is getting more money per keg. I’ve seen figures that say this can be an increase of up to 20 percent! If you end up pouring a glass full of foam be sure to call someone over and they’ll fix it for you and ensure you get your money’s worth. In most cases I saw them approach people without any prompt to help them out. This was one of my main worries, and I’m glad to see that they’ve taken a proactive approach.
Union 32 Craft House has a great concept for beginners to craft beer that aren’t sure of their tastes and want to try a bit of everything. A lot of people, myself included, don’t like to ask for more than one taste at the bar so it’s nice to be able to freely try whatever you’d like without guilt. If you’re a craft beer veteran I think you’d be better served by sticking to the dedicated breweries, but I think they’re still worth a visit to check it out or to introduce someone to the hobby without a lot of pretentiousness.