Steel Toe Brewing has always been one of the quieter craft breweries. They opened in 2011, setting up shop in an industrial mall in St. Louis Park, just off Highways 7 and 100 and not too far from Lake Calhoun and the Greenway, yet despite the traffic nearby, they keep an air of solitude. At Steel Toe, it’s always been about the beer first and that was reflected in the taproom, a modest one-room space with capacity near 40 and an outdoor patio open in the summer months.
In August the brewery turned four and opened a new taproom in the same building. Overall they upped the elbow room without reshaping the brand’s image. Steel Toe Brewing is barely older than the Taproom Bill, and its philosophy adheres to the first taprooms the state saw: nondescript and industrial. It’s a place to sit comfortably and sample some fresh pints, but there are no amenities or extra comforts. In fact, entering the new room, just to the left of the old taproom, the first impression is that nothing has changed. The layout is a mirror image of the old space, the tap handles decorating the longest wall and an ordering station first thing inside, to refill a growler, grab a 750ml bottle to go, or to get a pint and grab a seat. There is now the potential of up to 10 taps at a time, and several barrels are aging in back, a sign of high-ABV and unique offerings to come.
The difference at Steel Toe 2 is that there’s a second room. The entrance is similar to the first taproom, with a few tables, a nice bar, and a front window that faces the industrial parking lot. The windows add much needed light but not much in terms of scenery, especially on a rainy September afternoon. The decor is stainless steel and brick, silver and black, neat and simple. Toward the far end of the room, just past a second order station and wall of T-shirts for sale, there is a standard-looking doorway, and that’s where the newness comes through.
From the building entrance it looks like a hallway, but it opens into the new taproom’s true expansion piece. It doubles as an event center for private parties but it’s more than taproom overflow it, in essence, is the taproom on any crowded evening. The ceilings are high and exposed and the walls are multicolored, switching tones from a bright green to gray and black. Those paints are the only flair at this point in time. Owner Jason Schoneman promises artwork is coming but right now it’s bare-bones and simple. The seating is communal in nature, but broken up into a nice mix of simple tables and chairs, two-seaters, four-seaters, and a long community table along the back wall. During this visit, the community table included a new mother’s club with at least a half dozen newborns feeding, napping, and socializing as the mothers got out for some adult time.
There are a few pews lining the corners and a couple of decorative repurposed barrels, but it’s mostly a big empty room to be filled with people and pints, where the action will come through the clientele and product instead of being supplied by the host.
The patio remains outside near the loading dock, tucked slightly away from the parking lot traffic and with a view of the inside of the brewhouse, and food trucks are still regularly parked outside.
Right now the Steel Toe taproom is still predominantly industrial and simple, pointing attention to the bar and taps in the entry where the heart of the company foams, spills, and raises voices among beer enthusiasts. The new space alleviates overcrowding. There are no murals, arcade games, shuffleboard, or stages for live music. Steel Toe Brewing speaks through its beer, and that will continue to be the reason why people come to this nondescript brewery near the Minneapolis-St. Louis Park border. Seeing the working-class steel toe boot as logo, would you expect anything else?