Minnesota is well known for producing foods like wild rice, sweet corn and Honeycrisp apples, but lately, it’s the state’s drinkable crops that are making headlines. Home to only a handful of breweries a decade ago, the state now has more than 100, and they continue to up the ante with new facilities, recipes and events — with five taking home medals from the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (check out our recap).
Thanks to this surge in craft brewing, Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism agency, is seeing a new trend to take hold: the “brewcation.” While the largest concentrations of breweries can be found in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth, nearly 80 percent of the breweries that opened in 2015 were outside those cities. It’s not uncommon for Minnesota brewcations to include destination breweries across Minnesota, from big cities to scenic rural locales.
St. Paul’s Summit Brewing Co. was ahead of the game when it was founded in 1986. Today, there is a growing list of Twin Cities breweries that offer tours, taprooms, live music and regular visits from food trucks. Flat Earth Brewing Co., Fulton, Harriet Brewing, Lift Bridge Brewing Co., 612 Brew and Surly Brewing Co. are some of the other popular breweries in this bustling metropolitan area. At Vine Park Brewery in St. Paul, you can even make your own beer. Taking advantage of another Minnesota crop, Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis sources its main ingredient — fresh-pressed apples — for beers and ciders from Pepin Heights orchard in Lake City, Minn.
The granddaddy of them all is August Schell Brewing Co. in New Ulm, family-owned since its founding in 1860. Its beautiful grounds and gardens (they even have peacocks!), as well as tours and tastings, are part of the experience. Stop at another Minnesota River town to check out the taproom at the Mankato Brewery or Montgomery Brewing along the way. Further east, Mississippi River views are a highlight at Reads Landing Brewing Co. Southwest Minnesota also boasts several new craft breweries, including Brau Brothers in Marshall and Talking Waters Brewing Co. in Montevideo.
Duluth is another hub of craft beer activity. Fitger’s Brewhouse was the first, with Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and Canal Park Brewing Co. as more recent additions. Don’t miss the All Pints North Beer Fest, held along the Duluth harbor in July. Up the North Shore of Lake Superior, enjoy the stunning lake scenery at Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors and Voyageur Brewing Co. in Grand Marais. In Ely, at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, relax after a day of paddling at the Boathouse Brewpub.
A Great American Beer Festival winner, Bemidji Brewing Co. offers four or more beers as well as craft soda in its new taproom. Other newcomers in this corner of the state include Disgruntled Brewing in Perham and Junkyard Brewing Co. in Moorhead, on the North Dakota border.
The Brainerd Lakes area, a popular resort vacation destination, is home to two Great American Beer Festival winners: Jack Pine Brewery in Baxter and Roundhouse Brewery in Brainerd, which won bronze for its Runaround Rye Ale. Near St. Cloud, you can tour Third Street Brewhouse and sample what Paste Magazine deemed the best Oktoberfest beer this side of Germany.
For more craft beer itinerary ideas and inspiration, visit exploreminnesota.com/drink-eat and follow Explore Minnesota on social media with the hashtag #OnlyinMN.
Erica Wacker is Explore Minnesota’s communications manager. She lives in St. Paul and enjoys discovering new places to eat, drink and play around the state.