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.