Thanks to our seemingly endless thirst for beer -- and, shockingly, our state legislature -- Minnesota's craft breweries have been expanding at an incredible rate (and, incidentally, are one of the reasons Minnesotans have been expanding at an incredible rate), but which one of 'em is the best?
There's no way just one person can answer that question, so we put together a panel of beer lovers to pick the 10 best breweries in Minnesota. Each panelist (see below for bios and beer cred) submitted a ranked list of breweries from 1 to 10, with first place votes receiving 10 points, second place votes receiving 9 points, and so forth. Individual votes were kept anonymous to ensure the kind of brute honesty that often also accompanies drinking lots of beer. Check out the rankings...
10. Bent Paddle, 10pts
On the scintillating shores of Lake Superior, this brewery is using the pristine drinking water of Duluth to turn out increasingly quaffable beers. Each brew they release seems to be better than that last, proving that this is one young brewery to watch.
Key Beer: Black Ale
9. Fulton Brewery, 11pts
One of the first taprooms on the scene, Fulton created demand so high for their beers that the crew soon had to move operations to a warehouse in the Northeast to keep up with the demand, which hasn't really flagged, meaning that while other craft brewers may come and go, the original little brewery that could... um, doesn't.
Key Beer: Lonely Blonde
7. August Schell Brewing Company, Tie 12pts
There are a few rules that all men can live by: 1) never start a land war in Asia, and 2) don’t question the Germans when beer is involved, especially when said German beer is Schell’s, one of the few older, established breweries that can compete with the younger, more new-fangled suds-makers.
Key Beer: Dark
7. Steel Toe Brewery, Tie 12pts
St. Louis Park
Better than a boot to the face, these outstanding beers are being churned out by hard-working brewers in St. Louis Park. Their small-batch brews, exclusive to the brewery, keep their stools filled... with people who keep their bellies filled with STB brews by picking up a bottle or six to go.
Key Beer: Rainmaker Red Ale
6. Harriet Brewing, 13pts
Started by people... um, not named Harriet, this European-style brewery slings more than a dozen creative brews and boasts a taprooms that hosts a killer line-up of music, food trucks, and sweet events.
Key Beer: East Side Belgian-style IPA
5. Surly Brewery, 17pts
Started by Omar Ansari, Surly led the charge to make it legal for Minnesota production breweries to sell pints of their own beer on their own premises, and when they open their epic spot inside Prospect Park next year, expect to have your mind blown... something you can also expect to happen when you realize how little you actually know about this sweet suds producer.
Key Beer: Bender
4. Indeed Brewing Company, 20pts
It's not an accident that Indeed's logo has a hint of a smile in it, or that you'll be doing just that when you try one of their typically canned brews, which include things like the L.S.D. Honey -- the former of which is what Jessica Alba must have been on when she agreed to do the later.
Key Beer: Midnight Ryder
3. 612 Brew, 21pts
Bros before hoes, but brews before dudes -- we’ve got priorities, man. This group of friends banded together inside a revitalized warehouse space, put up an Adam Turman mural, set the stage for live music, and started producing some incredible suds.
Key Beer: Rated R
2. Dangerous Man Brewing Co., 26pts
Dangerous Man may or may not be named after Steven Seagal's 2009 direct-to-DVD classic about a man imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, but one thing's for sure: it's a good thing their taproom's in an old bank, or else fans of their robust beers would have 'em Under Siege.
Key Beer: Chocolate Milk Stout
1. Summit Brewing Company, 30pts
Before the brew rooms were a mandatory neighborhood check-in point, Summit was quietly tucked away in St. Paul, putting out the only beers able to compete with the big boys. Years later, they continue to put out new brews that set the standard all other breweries are required to follow.
Key Beer: Extra Pale Ale
Stephanie March -- Senior Editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. When she’s not running down a restaurant news story, she’s sipping brews poolside or practicing her Mia Hamm impression.
Jess Flemming -- Editor of the Eat Section in the Pioneer Press. Jess studied up for this story by raiding her neighbor’s fridge and watching episodes of Drunk History.
Loren Green -- A local freelance writer who covers all the best beer news for City Pages.
Sean La Bonty -- Head beer geek at Solo Vino who would like you to know that despite the clever name, they actually sell more than one.
Jeremy Zoss -- A freelance writer and public relations expert at Zoss Media specializing in all beer and brewery news all the time.
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1. Bent Paddle Brewing1912 W Michigan St, Duluth
2. Fulton Brewery414 6th Ave N, Minneapolis
3. August Schell Brewing Company1860 Schell Road, New Ulm
4. Steel Toe Brewing4848 W 35th St, St. Louis Park
5. Harriet Brewing's Taproom3036 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis
6. Surly Brewing Company520 Malcom Ave SE, Minneapolis
7. Indeed Brewing Company711 15th Avenue NE, Minneapolis
8. 612Brew945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis
9. Dangerous Man Brewing Company1300 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis
10. Summit Brewing Company910 Montreal Circle, St Paul
This Duluth brewery is reletively young, but it's turning out great beer and getting even better with each batch. It's a 30-barrel production craft brewery and taproom that uses the amazing water of Lake Superior to brew the freshest and most dependable craft beer possible.
What began as a homebrewing operation in a one car garage has expanded into a full-blown enterprise. The taproom at Fulton is open every weekend, which is perfect for everyone who doesn't work on the weekend. And if you do work on the weekend, growler sales are also available. It looks like they've thought of everything, because they have!
No. Don't you dare question whether this is too much polka: Schell's version has a "Bavarian tent", performances by the Hobo Band, and, of course, ridiculous amounts of their Fall-season suds.
Steel Toe Brewing's St. Louis Park tap room offers visitors a taste of its current lineup of beers, as well as growler sales and refills for those who don't want to leave empty-handed. The four brews available year-round, combined with the rotating seasonal selection, ensure that there's always something special for you to sample. By sample, we of course mean guzzle.
Harriet Brewing takes its inspiration from the legacy of Belgian and German ales and lagers, creating authentic European beers in the heart of the Twin Cities. If you've got a growler, bring it along so you can fill up after taking a tour of the facilities. If you don't have one, pick one up!
Based in Brooklyn Center, Surly offers a range of house-made microbrews, plus a solid food menu to soak them all up. Forget about pretzels and wings -- this sleek beer hall is serving elevated plates like pepita crusted catfish, charcuterie boards, ricotta gnocchi, and skillet cornbread. You'll even find a full restaurant upstairs, the Brewer's Table, which has a beer pairing menu to complement dishes that range from burgers to fish tacos to smoked pork shoulder.
Indeed is all about community from the fun-loving feel of its warehouse taproom and charming patio to its dedication to community outreach. There are frequently events going on like festivals with food and music to simple flight nights where you can sample some of the beers ranging from the hoppy flagship Midnight Ryder black IPA, to the highly drinkable Session Sour #3, to the formidable specialty Rum King imperial stout. Indeed hosts a rotating list of food trucks so that you can soak up those higher ABV beers with the likes of O’Cheeze’s gourmet grilled cheeses. Pro tip: it has a handy beer calendar on its website so you can easily tell when seasonal beers will be on tap.
Located in The Broadway, a historic building with exposed brick interiors and a polished concrete floor, 612Brew has exactly the kind of atmosphere you'd want in a brewery and taproom. Enjoy the year-round staples and seasonal offerings inside, or take your brews out to the patio and bask in the glory of fresh-air drinking.
Dangerous Man is our favorite type of gathering spot: great beer and a comfortable, warm atmosphere for groups or chatting up someone new. There are 12 rotating beers on tap behind the reclaimed wood bar that endeavor to cover the four major bases … hoppy, light, dark, and strong. For strong we vote for the malty, 10.4% Belgian Golden Strong and for hoppy the citrusy House IPA is smooth and bitter. There’s no kitchen, so feel free to bring your own food or order from one of the takeout places nearby. If you’re looking to take something home, stop by the growler shop next door for your beer mongering pleasures.
The tap room at Summit Brewing Company is actually a giant beer hall with communal tables that features food trucks, live music, movie screenings, and 12 beers on tap ranging from seasonal and specialty to flagship. Sip on a limited release barleywine or the Coffee Milk Stout in the winter, or take the malty, toasty Maibock or the hoppy True Brit IPA for a spin on the patio. Bring your kids (and your loose pants) with you to enjoy flights, pints, and food truck fare.