Anytime Tim Pelton visited the Minnesota State Fair, he would always feel disappointed when looking at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild map. “On the big Minnesota brewers map, there was a big hole right where US 14 and I-35 intersect,” he says. “There wasn’t a brewery [in Owatonna].”
After several years of fun, planning, and hard work, Mineral Springs Brewery is ready to change that. On November 8, the five owners—Bill Cronin, Mark Sebring, Rod Baker, Mark Knutson, and Pelton—will open Steele County’s first brewery since the craft beer boom began.
While brewing great beer is the main goal, the Mineral Springs team has emphasized creating a space for the community that’s focused on the area’s history, palate, and people. They want local nonprofits or businesses to be able to use the space for fundraisers or educational events.
“We’ve all been super involved in a lot of things in the community, so this place is going to end up being an extension of that involvement,” Cronin says, listing the owners’ various positions with area school boards and charities.
This emphasis extends to the brewery’s name—which refers to Owatonna’s well-known Mineral Springs Park and the spring water that was found to be very similar to those of the famed Vichy Springs in the Ardennes of France—and the beer names. There’s the Sullivan Stout, named after architect Louis Sullivan, a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed Owatonna’s National Farmers Bank in the impressive prairie style. There’s the Thunderbolt IPA, which honors All-American fullback Herb Joesting, who was dubbed the “Owatonna Thunderbolt” when he played football for the University of Minnesota in the 1920s. Then there’s the Cinder Hill Cream Ale, a light, refreshing brew named after a steep, 60-foot hill overlooking downtown Owatonna where local athletes train.
Mineral Springs will offer 14 taps and most of these will cater to popular or highly quaffable styles. Head brewers Pelton and Sebring hope this will welcome in new visitors from Steele County and the surrounding area who aren’t necessarily hopheads or dark beer aficionados.
“We’re clearly acknowledging the overwhelming majority of people that will come check us out are probably lighter beer drinkers,” Sebring says. “We feel strongly that there need to be three or four beers that would match up to their palate. But there’ll be a couple of IPAs. There’ll be a stout. It’ll run the gamut, but at least initially, we need to have beers that people like to drink.”
The brewhouse’s five-barrel system with one 10-barrel and three five-barrel fermentors allows some flexibility to meet this demand. Starting as homebrewers, Sebring and Pelton have enjoyed the transition to the larger setup.
The seed of Mineral Springs Brewery was planted when Pelton’s daughter began brewing with several friends while in graduate school for chemistry. After he showed excitement at their hobby, she decided to take him to Vine Park Brewing for Father’s Day. Then he began brewing small batches on the weekends with his friends Matt Kottke and Jon Hilstad, and the group decided to call their hobby Mineral Springs Brewery. Over the years, they gave out T-shirts and shared beer, becoming well known in Owatonna.
Then in early 2018, the four other owners of Mineral Springs became serious about opening a taproom, and they joined forces with Pelton. At that time, the group began having regular meetings at 5:30am, the only time all of them were always free, and learned a lot in the process of opening the brewery with help from City Hall and partners based in Steele County.
“The city of Owatonna has been phenomenal with us,” Cronin says. “We do feel that for us to talk about community, we need to use community partners. So we have a local attorney, a local account, a local bank, and we’re working with local contractors.”
While planning the brewery, the owners, their spouses, and friends took group trips to dozens of other breweries to see what worked and what didn’t. These observations influenced not only the beer lineup but also the taproom design, from where people order at the bar to a row of outlets spaced specifically for crockpots. The group built the tables from a large Norway pine that came down in Baker’s yard, and Knutson gathered several different seating options based on comfort.
“We want people to come in and sit down and feel as though they’re comfortable staying for a while. And they’ll call and order a pizza or have something delivered,” Sebring says. “Because of the table configuration, they might end up talking to some folks that they didn’t come with, but they find they had a nice conversation.”
Head brewers: Tim Pelton and Mark Sebring
Beers: 14 taps, with an initial lineup that includes a cream ale, Irish stout, Scotch ale, amber lager, Kölsch, and multiple IPAs
Address: 111 N Walnut Avenue, Owatonna, MN 55060
Hours: Fri: 3pm–10pm; Sat: 12pm–10pm; Hours to be added after Thanksgiving: Thu: 3pm–10pm; Sun: 12pm–5pm
Grand opening: November 8, 2019