I first met the guys from 612Brew in the early spring of 2010 while working on a piece about soon-to-be breweries for Heavy Table (there were only five at the time…crazy!). They were working in a South Minneapolis garage, tweaking recipes on a cobbled-together homebrew system and dreaming of bigger things. Two years later their “garage” is a 5000 square-foot warehouse space in a multi-million dollar commercial re-development in Northeast Minneapolis. The five-gallon, glass carboys have been replaced by 30-barrel tanks of mirror-polished stainless steel. The steps in-between included three business plan revisions, two cancelled leases, and a change of personnel, including hiring brewer Adam Schil.
Almost three years after than initial meeting, the crew is ready to launch. 612Brew already has beer in metro-area bars. The taproom at the corner of Central and Broadway will open tomorrow night, February 13th at 4:00pm.
The taproom retains the retro-industrial ambiance of the 1924 factory building that it occupies. Thick, maple timbers rise up two stories from the polished concrete floor. The bar top is made of re-purposed bowling alley lanes, while the bottom is faced with boards salvaged from an 1850s-vintage home. The gleaming brewery is separated from the public space by wooden standup bars. A tall, glass overhead door looks out onto a patio and rain garden, which is anchored by a stone amphitheater where live music is planned for the warmer months.
612Brew’s focus is on hop-centered session beers. They aim to satisfy that craving for bitterness with lower-alcohol brews that allow for more than one pint after work. They are launching with four beers. Six is a sessionable American Pale Ale with biscuit malt and bright citrus hops. This is the same beer – with some recipe tweaks – that I sampled three years ago in the garage. Zero Hour is an American black ale brewed with roasted wheat for a smoother, less-bitter roastiness that lets the hops shine through. Bitter Cold Winter Ale is a single-malt, single-hop IPA brewed with Maris Otter malt from England and Willamette hops from the Pacific Northwest. My favorite brew is Rated R, a balanced rye IPA. The focus here is on flavor and aroma hops. The bitterness bites, but not too hard. Spicy rye notes come in late and linger into the finish.
It’s hard to believe that I would call a one-and-a-half-year-old brewery old, but in today’s crazy world, with breweries popping up like popcorn, it’s the truth. Steel Toe Brewing Company is old. But that doesn’t make them any less wonderful. In my view Steel Toe is one of the top-five breweries in Minnesota. Size 7 might just be the best IPA made in the state. A recent blind tasting re-confirmed for me the brilliance of the light and lovely Provider Ale.
The opening this Friday, February 15th, of Steel Toe’s long-awaited taproom makes this a busy week for Twin Cities beer fans. The fun begins at 3:00pm and I’m guessing it will be crowded. Steel Toe is located at 4848 W. 35th St. in St. Louis Park. Be there!