When Steel Toe Brewing owner Jason Schoneman opened his St. Louis Park taproom just two years ago he never imagined he’d already be doubling its size. But, since the adjoining space became available last August, he has been making plans to do just that. If all goes according to plan, he will be churning out his award winning beers in a new, more open space by June.
Steel Toe has had no problem selling its beer, but Jason has absolutely no plans to expand his distribution beyond the current 15-mile radius around the Twin Cities. “I’ve held the reins back on the brewery. I don’t want to grow, just to grow” he says. The brewery did 2,100 barrels last year, which is only half of their current total capacity of 4,000.
Jason himself hails from Iowa and after a detour out west in Oregon at the award winning Pelican Brew Pub, he ended up in Minnesota where his wife is from. “When I went out to Oregon I lived in a tent. I had my first Pelican Ale and I loved it. I thought it was the best beer in the world.” He would go on to brew under Darrin Welch and help to capture multiple GABF awards. “I grew up in Iowa and to go from Pacific City, Oregon—which has 900 people—to Minnesota was a big change” he explained. “I chose St. Louis Park because I didn’t want to drive [in rush hour].”
The new space will include a bar right when you walk in (think of the current space just flipped around) with a walk-in cooler located directly behind it for the tap lines and growler storage. As you walk through the main bar area there will be a doorway leading into a space that is much larger, which includes a second serving station for busier nights. The room is complete with two new restrooms and a garage door that will lead you out to the new outdoor patio, a part of phase 3.
With all the new space, they will also need to hire some new employees to help out Taproom Manager Chelsea Carlson. There will be 10 tap handles, giving taproom goers two more options on a regular basis.
The current and soon-to-be former space will be home to barrel storage. This climate-controlled room will help to keep proper temperature throughout the process. Expect some expansion of that program in the future. Some different packaging may also be in the works, as they have been talking about this for some time.
One thing that won’t change around the brewery is the family-like atmosphere. “Everyone here is phenomenal,” says Jason. Randin King was hired on because every time he came in to fill a growler he noticed that Jason and his father-in-law were always busy washing and filling growlers. He offered to help and now he is the head brewer. Chelsea came on to run the taproom after the Steel Toe crew met her at the 2012 Autumn Brew Review. Michael Wagner was brought on this year as the assistant brewer after years of working at The Four Firkins right down the street. While the “family” may be growing, one thing is certain — the quality will remain the same.
St. Paul’s newest brewery released Migration into the market last week, at DeGidio’s Restaurant & Bar, just in time for patio season. This rose hip-infused brew is a more sessionable offering than we’re used to seeing from this particular brewery; and that was evident as even light beer drinkers were requesting it at the bar. The guys behind Bad Weather (Joe Giambruno and Zac Carpenter) are still hoping to open their new taproom this summer — pending the arrival of their equipment. They plan to have 5-6 brews available on tap by the time they open. One of which, will be an IPA that they are currently piloting.
The Bad Weather crew also went out and got themselves a head brewer, but they didn’t have to look very far. The duo hired Andy Ruhland, who had previously worked on their recipes at Lucid where the breweries shared a space. Andy gushed about his experience working with Lucid, but is excited to start at the new St. Paul brewery. “It’s been a natural transition. I’ve known them for over 3 years. The transition has been seamless,” says Ruhland. The hiring process had been in the works for a while prior to the announcement back in March. “When I was first approached the timeline was supposed to be much shorter. We talked about it last summer and wanted to give Lucid plenty of time [to find a replacement].”
The brewery itself is coming along nicely with a fresh coat of black paint on the exterior and a mega, walk-in cooler, which was just delivered last week. Food menus from local restaurants will be available at the taproom so guests can order in food. They also hope to have a shuttle to take people to and from Wild games during hockey season. For those looking for jobs in the industry, Bad Weather plans on hiring 20 or so employees by the end of 2015 to assist in their taproom. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
Four years ago, if you were heading out to discover a great tap list, you were most likely going to St. Paul. Then, high school pals Matty O’Reilly and Rick Guntzel decided to bring a food-centric craft beer experience across the river in Minneapolis. It took about eight months after coming up with the name Republic for the duo to open their doors to the public. “He [Rick] took a leap of faith and quit his job before we even got the space” says Matty.
Town Hall Brewery was already brewing great beer across the street, but the two entrepreneurs took note of the neighborhood and its proximity to the savvy faculty members from the University of Minnesota. This was the place to be. “There was already a great craft beer culture on the corner with Town Hall Brewery. We thought what we were doing was really complementary” Matty explains.
What Republic brought to Seven Corners, four years ago, was a wide selection of those national, craft brews that couldn’t easily be found around town. Selections such as Founders, Deschutes, and Lagunitas. As time has passed, the focus has come to center on quality, local beers. “At that time I would say that the credible list wasn’t near as big as it is right now. We were on more of a national level at first with our beers. Belgian beers were the other angle we took. There’s a lot more competition [on the local scene], which makes everyone put out their best beer” says O’Reilly. Minnesota brews now make up 40% of the beer menu, a statistic that Matty is proud of. “If it’s local its great, but quality comes first. Quality and local is even better.”
The real focal point of Republic is the food, which has an approachable price point and healthier options than most pubs. O’Reilly takes pride in the fact that the portion sizes are reasonable, and that not everything on the menu is from the deep fryer—a welcomed approach in one of the healthier metro areas across the nation. The menu features everything from a kale salad to a duck burger with soy ginger slaw. Throw in mock duck tacos, a beer brat, poutine, and you have a pretty diverse offering.
The business has been so successful that they opened a second location in Calhoun Square a couple years ago. Last year, they even added a food truck called Red River Kitchen, which runs all summer long and features select items from the Republic menu. Nowadays Republic has been focused on expanding their beer and cider selections. With over 100 taps and numerous local and national awards, the pub that took a chance opening on the West Bank corner is celebrating four years in business and they aren’t looking back.
O’Reilly now has a total of four brick-and-mortar restaurants (both Republic locations, Dan Kelly’s, 318 Café) and a food truck (Red River Kitchen) to keep him busy. “It’s been a fun ten years and I’m excited about the future.” Well said, Matty. Well said.
If you go:
Monday, May 18th 2015
Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Pre-sale tickets $10
The 2015 baseball season is here and the six-year-old Target Field went deep — adding some new, local options:
The most notable addition is Barrio, which is located by left field in a space formerly occupied by one of the Majestic Twins Clubhouse shops. The sight lines are great and the fresh, Mexican food is sure to be a draw on those hot, summer days.
Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen has moved into a more permanent spot next to Hrbek’s (by Gate 14); ditching their mobile spot, which was previously located along the third base line.
The Red Cow is now serving their fantastic burgers out by left field. Their lineup includes the Blues Burger, the Ultimate Red Cow Burger, and the 60/40 Bacon Burger. This is likely to be a regular stop for fans of the local burger chain.
Hot Indian Foods is now serving their tasty Chicken Tikka dish, over coconut toasted rice with slaw, near section 120. This was my personal favorite. They also have a Vegan Aloo Gobi for those who don’t eat meat.
DuNord Spirits and Panther Distillery are crafting cocktails at a stand near section 111. Skip the gimmicky “College Daze Bloody Mary” at Hrbek’s (complete with a cold pizza slice) and opt for a locally-made cocktail instead.
After sampling the new fare I put together some food and beer pairings to try out. (Most of these brews can be found at the Minnesota Brews stands in sections 126 and 320):
Order the slaw-topped Smoked Meat Sandwich at Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen and pair it with a Summit Saga IPA. The salt and the spice from the crust of the meat will work well with this hop-heavy brew from St. Paul.
Grab the 60/40 burger from Red Cow and pair it with Dandy Lager from Indeed Brewing, which can be found at Barrio. This crisp, hoppy lager will play nicely with the cheddar cheese and mustard on this beefy treat.
Steer clear of the typical ballpark fare by picking up the yogurt marinated Tikka Chicken at Hot Indian Foods and team it up with a Farm Girl Saison from Lift Bridge. Saisons work well with poultry and deeply spiced dishes. I can’t think of a better combo for a hot day in July.
Long before refrigeration existed, breweries used to store their beer in caves and cool them with ice harvested from local lakes and rivers. This was especially true when brewing lagers, which require colder temperatures in order to reach fermentation. Schell’s Stag Series # 9 Cave-Aged Barrel-Aged Lager takes advantage of this method and the result is quite impressive.
Cave-Aged Barrel-Aged Lager has an inviting aroma made up of roasted coffee, vanilla, and chocolate. This brew was aged in wooden whiskey barrels giving it a subtle charred oak and vanilla flavors which compliment the roasted coffee and chocolate. It comes in strong at 7.7% ABV but it drinks much lighter than that.
What I like most about the beer itself is that it’s not syrupy like many barrel-aged brews. I also appreciate the fact that I could enjoy a full pint without becoming intoxicated. I tend to like a little more whiskey flavor than this beer provides but I don’t find myself missing it all that much given the complexity of flavor in this fine Stag Series entry.