When the first seeds of Wandering Leaf Brewing Co. started to sprout, Matt Holton and Rob Reisdorf tried to ignore them. Holton was a trained horticulturist with experience in the wine industry and accounting. Reisdorf was an IT professional with a master’s degree. Both were comfortable in their careers.
And when the idea continued to take root, they tried to quash it. The two put together a business plan—mainly to prove the numbers wouldn’t work. Holton’s wife, Jennifer, and Reisdorf’s wife, Amy, reviewed the math. Justin Walsh of Maple Grove’s OMNI Brewing Co. looked it over, too. Everything checked out.
So despite their attempts to the contrary, Holton and Reisdorf decided to cultivate the idea, growing it into the best brewery they could. Wandering Leaf Brewing Co. opened on April 27, with a diverse tap list, green design touches, and an abundance of live plants providing a verdant oasis on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street.
The core team includes co-owners Matt and Jennifer Holton and Rob and Amy Reisdorf, as well as director of hospitality Jen Hall. Holton is the founding brewer, but recently Erica Sorenson, previously a brewer at Unmapped Brewing Co. in Minnetonka, joined Wandering Leaf.
Inside the taproom metal planters on the floor and hanging from the ceiling allow plants to grow up and down to meet each other. And a plant wall provides additional pops of color (not to mention a great backdrop for Instagram).
The plant theme comes from the owners’ desire to put themselves fully into the space. It draws on their love of hiking and exploring natural spaces as well as Holton’s training in horticulture. Holton grew a flat of variegated coleus plants for his senior project at the University of Minnesota, and several cuttings from one plant his mother has kept alive for a decade will join the taproom’s mixed foliage.
“I've been joking that I've been trying to justify my horticulture degree for a long time, but I do genuinely enjoy plants,” he says. “There's just something about greenhouses and conservatories that makes me feel happy.”
Reisdorf also sees it as an opportunity to provide an inviting space year round, one where people can see something green in the dead of Minnesota winter.
The brewing program aims to be similarly inviting. With 16 tap lines to fill, Wandering Leaf plans to consistently offer two hoppy beers, two lighter beers, two dark beers, and two sour or funky beers.
“That core eight will hit 80% of the market. Then we'll mix and match—and throw some weird beers out there—for the other eight taps,” Reisdorf says, adding that non-alcoholic THC beverages would likely be part of that mix in the future.
The brewhouse is a 10-barrel, steam system with six 10-barrel and two 20-barrel fermenters. Wandering Leaf worked with general contractor James Lee, owner of the construction firm Modify, who has led build-outs at more than 30 Twin Cities breweries, cideries and distilleries. Working together, Lee and the brewery team optimized the design of the brewhouse, minimizing boiler piping runs and setting it up for future expansion with additional tanks. They plan to buy a canning line in the near future.
They also received guidance from the local brewing community. Folks from Insight Brewing, OMNI, Venn Brewing Co., and Wooden Ship Brewing Co. all gave advice about opening a brewery, as well as beer making in general. Wooden Ship also collaborated on Parlay, a peppery saison with rosemary, which is on Wandering Leaf’s opening lineup.
Holton has brewed for about 14 years. During the early days of the pandemic, he and Reisdorf started brewing together each Sunday. While both enjoy crushable lagers and ales, they still want to offer something for everyone.
“What I'm more interested in doing is making beer that our community really wants to drink, not from a hyper-capitalist perspective, but I want people to enjoy coming here,” says Holton. “And if I want to impose my standard of like, ‘I am a lager brewer, I only make lager, you are going to like lager,’ then I'm not going to be in business for very long. Also, I'm not making beer for me—I'm making beer for people who live near me.”
The brewery sits in Sibley Plaza at the far southwest end of West Seventh, and is part of a larger plan to revitalize the shopping center. Food truck Soul Lao is opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant next door, and the property owners are working to attract more dining options. A brewery was a cornerstone of that plan.
Having restaurants nearby attracts customers, and it creates opportunities for collaboration. Wandering Leaf and Soul Lao are already brewing a rice lager with coconut and pandan leaf, working with the flavors of sticky rice desserts.
The brewery will break ground on a large patio this month, and while it’s not yet dog-friendly indoors, it will be sometime this summer. Overall, Holton and Reisdorf want to create a space that feels more full of life than the industrial warehouses beer drinkers are accustomed to.
“We're aiming for not just a neighborhood bar feel, but kind of a coffeehouse feel,” says Holton. “This is a place where people come to meet friends, hang out, chat, and focus on each other.”
Wandering Leaf Brewing Co. 2463 Seventh St. W., St. Paul 2-10 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.