Interview of Sam Harriman of Sisyphus brewing by Joel Schafer

I have been to many breweries and have tasted many beers. I came across Sisyphus by happenstance. I was stuck in downtown traffic and saw a sign for a brewery I never heard of. The brewery was in its infancy of being open. They didn’t have growlers for sale. They have come a long way since then. I have written about this brewery in the past as being a brewery that you need to visit that you haven’t heard of.  I still support this statement. Call me biased, call me what you will. Sisyphus is by far my favorite brewery in the state of Minnesota.

Over the past year and a half I have been able to get to know Sam Harriman a little better. I finally got enough courage to ask him to do an interview for BBB via email.  I did the proper amount of digging and some of the questions have a little insider knowledge to them. I won’t say anymore than that.  Without any further ado my Interview with the Man, the Myth, the Brewing Legend, Sam Harriman.

Sam and Catherine Harriman Owners of Sisyphus Brewing.
Sam and Catherine Harriman Owners of Sisyphus Brewing.
I did some digging and know there was a reason Sam was cool. This picture proves it.
I did some digging and know there was a reason Sam was cool. This picture proves it.
Thank you Sam
Thank you Sam
maple stout and a sample
maple stout and a sample
sam 2
Kentucky Common with some Few rye whiskey (Irish Car bomb)
sam 4
Crowler of Kentucky Common.
sam 11
taproom wall

sam 3

Buy the Merchandise of Sisyphus go to the tap room and have a beer 712 Ontario Avenue W. #100 Minneapolis, MN 55403
Buy the Merchandise of Sisyphus go to the tap-room and have a beer 712 Ontario Avenue W. #100
Minneapolis, MN 55403 Growler fills
they do flights
they do flights
  When did you become interested in Brewing?
Sam: I went on a Sam Adam’s tour about 6 years ago, and that was the first moment that opened my eyes to craft beer. When we got home from that trip, I went to the Four Firkins to learn more about beer. I then quickly realized I could make beer at home, so I did!
When did you realize that you were good at crafting beer?
Sam: After about batch #5 I realized I could make beer that I preferred drinking to stuff I could buy at the store.
A lot of breweries make large batches of the same beer over and over again, how did you decide that making short/ small batches was the way to go for you?
Sam: I like the variety in craft beer that is out there. All the different styles are interesting and when I go to a taproom I prefer to try the new thing on tap, versus drinking something I had the last time I was there. Old favorites are fun, but new things are fun too.
What has been the toughest style of beer for you to make? What was the most rewarding beer that you made, the this is what beer is supposed to taste like moment?
Sam: The toughest and most rewarding beer has been the cake beer made with 24 chocolate birthday cakes. It had chilis, vanilla, and cocoa nibs.
As a business owner what has been one of the biggest challenges for you?
Sam: The biggest challenge has been the fact that it is a 24/7 commitment. It’s never ending.
What is so interesting about the broom closet at Sisyphus?
Sam: Why don’t I show you sometime?
What has been the craziest day you have had in business?
Sam: This past summer during the Chipotle Cultivate festival, only Catherine and I could work that day. And it was BUSY. So we were there from noon-midnight pouring beers non-stop.
You have done stand up comedy and have shows at the taproom from time to time, do you still do shows?
Sam: We do shows every week on Thursday. And we’ll be doing more as time goes on (Fridays/Saturdays). I used to do stand-up myself, and hope to do more again in the near future.
Many of the brewers I know kept a day job for a while after they created their breweries is this true with you? What was you previous profession?
Sam: I did not keep my day job. I went full-time from the start as it was just me to do the brewing/bartending. Previously, I was a trainer for a health insurance company. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as owning a taproom.
Minnesota had no growler sales on Sunday’s up until recently, has the rule change helped bring in more business?
Sam: It has definitely helped us. We weren’t open on Sundays before the growler sales were allowed. We also sell the crowlers, and people really like being able to get those on Sundays.
People who know you better than I tell me that you are very good with identifying mushrooms, is there a truffle or morel beer in the future?
Sam: I have an idea for a mushroom beer, but it won’t involve truffles or morels, those are too expensive. I’m thinking more like oysters or shitakes, something that can be grown easily. Some people are able to grow mushrooms in spent grain from brewing, so it’d be really cool if we could get someone to grow us some mushrooms from our own grain.
You have a unique location, if you had to guess how many people, without having any prior knowledge of your brewery, came in because they were stuck in traffic, what would the number be?
Sam: We hear the “stuck in traffic” thing pretty often. It’s such an easy stop to swing in and have a beer while you wait for it to die down.
You are somewhat of a pinball efficienoto, what is your favorite pinball machine? If there was a pro pinball league would you be rated in the top 10?
Sam: Pinball is a recent love of mine. My favorite machine is Medieval Madness, but it’s really expensive so I probably won’t own it anytime soon. And my skills are nowhere near the top 10… maybe someday with enough practice.
Does you wife still have a room in your house that makes a statement?
Sam: Every room in our house makes a statement.
When will you be a guest on Baseball Beer BBQ podcast? The Humble Beer cast?
Sam: Let me know a date! I’ll be there.
How tight-knit is brewing community? How competitive is it? What breweries are in you circle?
Sam: The brewing community is very tight-knit, and not competitive at all. I think we all want each other to succeed.
If I could drink any beer of yours at any given time, it is Kentucky Common, what beer would you want in your hand if you had to pick one?
Sam: Bottlecap Mosaic, I think it’s our best beer yet.

I will make only one quick closing comment,  Bottlecap Mosaic

Medieval Madness
Medieval Madness

was not made before I sent this interview. Bottlecap Mosaic is absolutely a show stopper.  Sam commented humbly  that “It’s only 2 ingredients”. To which I responded “What? Hops and Magic.”

There was only one question I did not ask do to the nature of how the Interview was conducted. The question would have been. Will you name the beer “The Truffle Shuffle” ?   I may at sometime add an answer in the comments if and when this beer is created.

Thank you Sam  for taking the time, it was a pleasure. I look forward to visiting you soon.

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