I promised when I wrote this post on some local breweries, that I’d create a series going forward about Minnesota breweries. So, here I am making good on that promise with four new tap rooms to which I recently paid a visit. It is extra fitting that I’m writing it this week as it is Minnesota Craft Beer Week (that was dumb luck, I didn’t know such a thing existed until after I had decided to write the post for this month). One caveat I’m going to throw out there – my brewery visits are going to pay very little attention to the beer itself. Which I guess might seem silly – but if you have been reading my posts you probably understand that I really like buildings and history. So my focus is on the spaces that the tap rooms occupy, the history of the buildings and the history of the brewery. I do like beer – and drink quite a bit of it – but I’m in no way qualified to judge or recommend beer flavors to you, so I’ll just stick to what I’m good at – rambling random facts about buildings and history.
I’ll start with my neighborhood brewery, Steel Toe, located just a hop-skip and a jump from my house in St. Louis Park. I really, really, like Steel Toe’s beer. I know a lot of you beer aficionados love the hoppy IPA’s, and I definitely enjoy one now and then, but for the most part my beer tastes tend to land on the lighter side and Steel Toe’s Provider strikes that perfect balance for me.
The owner and head brewery, Jason Schoneman, has an impressive resume of professional and educational experience in brewing beer. Although he’s lived in a variety of places around the country, he opted to locate his brewery in the Minneapolis suburb partially because of the entrepreneurial support that the community offers. Schoneman opened the brewery in 2011 (tap room opened in 2013) and the name, Steel Toe, is meant to be an iconic representation of the hard work and perseverance needed to achieve success.
Although the building is relatively nondescript, the tap room is inviting and reminds of the feel of a small-town neighborhood bar. The building itself is a 1960’s warehouse in parking lot surrounded by other 1960’s warehouses. Probably not something you’d look at and think – this could be a brewery! But, it seems to fit well with the tap room filling the front space and larger brewery equipment taking up residence in the back.
Jason Sowards started brewing beer in the garage of his Lake Harriet neighborhood home as a hobby. It wasn’t until he was laid off from his job as a Chemical Engineer that he decided to seriously pursue brewing as a career, deciding to name the endeavor after its humble beginnings – Harriet Brewery. Located in a 1980’s era warehouse near East Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue the layout is the reverse of Steel Toe’s with the tap room located in the back-end of the building.
This is actually the brewery I’ve probably been to the most – so it’s kind of funny that I didn’t write about it until now. Harriet Brewing does an excellent job of appealing to me by throwing parties in their parking lot. I love me some parking lot parties, particularly when they involve beer, food trucks and music. The arrangement of Harriet’s tap room lends itself well to these events – with a band stage and seating area that can be expanded by opening large garage doors to the back parking lot. If you like the sounds of this (and you should because it’s awesome) check out their upcoming event this Saturday. I won’t be able to make it to this one – but I promise Harriet Brewing, I will be back. Last time I visited I sampled (ha) Sooner or Later, Belgian Blonde Ale and their Sol Bock, German-Style Maibock. Both were very tasty.
Representing as the first St. Paul brewery that I have included in my blog, Tin Whiskers is located directly across the street from the parking ramp I use for work. Driving by it every day for four months, I finally decided to check it out a couple weeks ago.
The brewery is located on the southeast corner of the Rossmor Building in Lowertown, St. Paul and is probably one of my favorite brewery spaces that I’ve visited so far. I always gawk at the huge windows of this building as I’m driving home, imagining how cool it would be to live there – turns out they are condos and, actually, pretty affordable – but I’m comfortable in St. Louis Park for now. The building was constructed in 1916 for a shoe manufacturer, subsequently going through a few different manufacturing-type uses over its lifetime. More recently it had become an artist-haven, being used for art studio spaces and pseudo (read that as illegal) loft apartments. It was purchased by a developer and renovated into (ehhem, legal) living spaces in 2003, with the first level remaining commercial.
Tin Whiskers is the brainchild of three electrical engineers, who met studying at the U of M. They opened their brewery and tap room last summer, opting for the St. Paul location (verses the ever-popular Northeast Minneapolis brewery epicenter) because they saw opportunity in the burgeoning Lowertown neighborhood and could also maintain consistent water supply as their home brewery location. The brewery’s name is derived from the phenomenon of the growth of tiny metal hairs, aka “whiskers”, over time on metal surfaces, if you want to see this in real life they have an example that the staff will show you. I drank their “Wheatstone” beer infused with watermelon and it was delicious.
The newest brewery on my list today is Eastlake, which opened in December of last year and is located in the southeast corner of the Midtown Exchange building. Former MetroTransit bus driver, Ryan Pitman, zeroed in on this location for his brewery as he often passed by it on his route. And seriously, I’m not sure if a more ingenious location for a brewery exists. He doesn’t have to worry about what his patrons will eat – there are incredible culinary options of all different cultures just steps away.
The Midtown Exchange building is pretty great – if you haven’t been to check out the year-around Global Market (or this new brewery) I implore you to go immediately. Built in 1926 as a warehouse for Sears, Roebuck & Co. the building went through a major renovation in 2004 and reopened as office space, condominiums and marketplace in 2006. The space that Eastlake now occupies faces Lake Street with huge windows and a separate entrance for when the Global Market closes. When I was there I only tried one beer, the Blueliner Pale Ale, and it was pretty good – I’ll have to go back to sample more, though!
Let me know if you have any recommendations! I have a list – but I’m always ready to add to it!
Until next time…