In chess, a gambit is a daring opening move, one in which a player sacrifices a piece to gain an advantage. (We all watched that Netflix show, right?) But it also means taking a calculated risk more broadly—and what is opening a brewery and taproom in 2022 if not that?
"We're pretty sure this is going to work, but a brewery is always kind of a risk," says Gambit Brewing Company owner and head brewer Josh Secaur. (Plus: "You'd be amazed how hard it is to name a brewery these days.")
Gambit has been in the works since about March, but Secaur started homebrewng more than two decades ago. He was most recently the head brewer at Bobtown Brewery in Roberts, Wisconsin, where he met Gambit's GM, Mike Christianson. "He's sort of the front of the house guy, and I'm sort of the brewery guy," Secaur says.
12welve Eyes closed back in June of 2019, and since then the turnkey taproom and brewery space (141 E. Fourth St., Suite LL2, St. Paul) has sat empty, waiting for the right tenants to take it over. When a friend told Secaur that there was an essentially ready-to-go brewery waiting in the Historic Pioneer Endicott building, he knew he wanted to try opening a spot of his own.
"The space is super cool, and we were like... well, we can't really not give it a shot," he says.
The taproom is situated in the basement of the Pioneer Endicott, which was originally built in the 1890s; the Pioneer building was the tallest in St. Paul at the time of its completion. These days, the former office buildings are now apartments, but you can see the history in Gambit's space, which has a real mishmash of flooring styles that point to the old bones. (Growler has some neat photos of the taproom from the time of 12welve Eyes.)
"The cool thing about this space is there's two floors of retail, but then the rest of the building is residential," Secaur says. They've got 225-ish apartments above their taproom, which should make for a nice built-in clientele: "We want to be kind of like their Cheers." Their plan is to start with a pretty wide variety of beers: some hazy IPAs, some fruited sours, and a Kentucky Common, which bridges the craft-macro divide with its dark body and light taste.
Gambit is already brewing in the space, and they're thinking mid-January for their opening.
"The idea is really to let the community drive where we want to go," Secaur says. "There's enough breweries around the city that only do IPAs or only do Belgians."
"If people like something, it's not hard to get 'em to tell you they like it," he chuckles. "And if they don't like it, they'll let you know that too."
Gambit Brewing Company
141 E. Fourth St., Suite LL2, St. Paul