Living in the Twin Cities can spoil any beer drinker. With dozens of beer bars and breweries spanning down the street, it can seem like the beer world starts in Northeast and ends in West 7th. But there are plenty of worthy and underrated destinations outside the reach of the light rail. It's time to shake that city-slickin' superiority complex and venture to these outstate breweries.
21 miles from St. Paul
Lift Bridge's neighborhood isn't the most charming part of historic Stillwater, but the brewery's five co-owners did a great job transforming their chunky industrial eyesore into a welcoming space. The taproom has a distinct Irish pub feel, and there's always a decent craic going down when new beers are released. Parties often extend onto the brew floor, with live bands and hammerschlagen adding to the utilitarian beer on tap. Try to be on hand for the now-annual Irish Coffee Stout release, which usually comes with a heft of St. Paddy's festivities.
22 miles from Minneapolis
Located in the shadow of Valleyfair amusement park and its nostalgic wooden roller coasters, Badger Hill Brewing Co. cuts a distinct silhouette against the Shakopee sky. Inside is a sleek, ultra-modern taproom with floor-to-ceiling glass walls inspired by California destination brewery Stone Brewing. Badger Hill was the only brewery in the South Metro for two years, but even with neighbors like Bald Man Brewing (Eagan), Angry Inch Brewing (Lakeville), and Nutmeg Brewhouse (Burnsville) moving in nearby, the husband-and-wife-owned brewery stands above the competition for its perfectly crafted standbys like Minnesota Special Bitter and Traitor IPA.
Approximately 23 miles from Minneapolis
The Nordic makeup of Minnesota isn't always reflected in its brewing tradition (which is heavily Germanic), but Lino Lakes' HammerHeart takes it back to Valhalla with its smoked beers. Co-owner Austin Lunn was trained in Norway, where he developed his love for black metal and dark Viking beers. HammerHeart's secluded lodge taproom feels like the kind of place where Beowulf would suck down ale after vanquishing a giant, and a quick trip north can transform a barren Minnesota winter into a visit to mystic Scandinavia once you step through the brewery's heavy Norse door.
34 miles from Minneapolis
As the only combination winery/brewery in Minnesota, Schram offers a unique drinking experience. The family-owned farm started brewing in 2014, and it's maintained a constant inventive streak that's made its beer well worth the two-mile dirt road you have to take to get to the estate. The sprawling lakefront grounds include bocce courts, shady oaks, and a warm HGTV vibe that permeates every drop of beer. It's also the only beer maker in Minnesota that has an IPA fermented in a square concrete vessel -- an oddity that justifies the trip in and of itself. Schram's beer menu changes frequently, with at least eight drafts of varying styles, but try not to visit on Sunday. While the business is open, Schram's license doesn't allow for pint and flight sales on Sundays.
Approximately 46 miles from the Twin Cities
Strip malls are never particularly attractive locations for breweries, but what they lack in charm they make up for in convenience. Located at the junction of two major roads in Big Lake, just south of St. Cloud, Lupulin makes itself an attraction. Thick planks of barn wood make the taproom feel like a cozy lake house, despite the Formica floor and high ceilings that used to house a furniture store. The crown jewel of the family-owned beer maker is its limited run of big-body double and triple IPAs, like the Blissful Ignorance series, which is now in its fourth iteration.
Approximately 150 miles from the Twin Cities
One of the biggest beer destinations north of the Twin Cities, Bent Paddle is also one of the most nuanced beer makers Minnesota has to offer. The New England quaintness of North Shore capital Duluth is not lost on Bent Paddle founders Bryon Tonnis, Colin Mullen, Karen Tonnis, and Laura Mullen, who built the taproom into a community gathering space for the residents of their port town. With gorgeous brick and stainless-steel accents and poured cement floors, the taproom opens right up onto the brew floor, reflecting the city's post-industrial reclamation. Sure, cans of Venture Pils and Cold Press Black Ale are distributed all throughout Hennepin County, but enjoying a fresh pint in the humble city that inspired it is an experience that can't be duplicated in the Twin Cities.
Approximately 180 miles from the Twin Cities
Castle Danger was born in a cabin, and the brewery has maintained that homey, "up north" aesthetic throughout its massive popularity boom. The well-wooded taproom overlooking Lake Superior in Downtown Two Harbors opened in 2014, officially making the five-year-old ale brewery a destination for anyone road-tripping the North Shore. Last year, it added a pine deck and pergola, meaning you can take in the fresh lake air while sipping its best-in-class cream ale.
Approximately 237 miles from the Twin Cities
Thanks to the Coen brothers, the cultural consensus is that Fargo is part of Minnesota (actual geography be damned). But Junkyard Brewing, located in Minnesota border town Moorhead, offers Dakota-nodding beers like Prairie Shaman English IPA and Ugly Ted's Buffalo Brown Ale on our side of the Red River. As a nanobrewery, Junkyard is constantly juggling new lines and brews. It often runs out of beer and doesn't fill growlers because of a lack of supply, but Junkyard's grit and DIY aesthetic make it one of the most adventurous places to drink in-state, even if you nearly have to leave to get there.
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1. Lift Bridge Brewery1900 Tower Dr, Stillwater
2. Badger Hill Brewing Company6020 Culligan Way, Minnetonka
3. HammerHeart Brewing Company7785 Lake Drive, Lino Lakes
4. Schram Vineyards8785 Airport Rd, Waconia
5. Lupulin Brewing, Big Lake
6. Bent Paddle Brewing1912 W Michigan St, Duluth
7. Castle Danger Brewery17 7th St, Two Harbors
8. Junkyard Brewing Company1416 1st Ave. N., Moorhead
Lift Bridge's a tap room and brewery serving up fresh suds outta their Stillwater digs.
Badger Hill and Lucid Brewing share the same space, shattering the myth that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Although they've joined forces, the two breweries still maintain their own distinct identities. Drop by Badger Hill for a tour of the facilities, and while you're there you can try out one of its five signature brews.
Nordic inspired brews are what's on tap at this log cabin brewpub and taproom. Only a 30 minute drive from Minneapolis, HammerHeart Brewing Company in Lino Lakes feels miles away from the city hustle. It's a chill spot to spend the day tasting a variety of pale ales and lagers in an idyllic country setting. The Laurentian porter brewed with mesquite-smoked spruce tips is complex and woodsy, and the Barrel Aged Dublin Raid red ale is endlessly quaffable.
If you decide to venture out of Minneapolis, make a stop at Schram Vineyards, a family-run winery and brewery in Waconia. Open year-round, Schram offers tastings of quality and serious wines, like the well-balanced estate rose, alongside distinctive craft brews, all of which are made on-site. Beers on tap include the citrusy Schram Weisse and the Reitz Lake IPA, and while you’re sipping on adult beverages, the kids can enjoy root beer. The events calendar is stacked with visits from local food vendors, making Schram a great destination for a local lazy Sunday, especially from June to August when the winery’s bocce ball league is in full swing.
Anyone who’s been to Big Lake’s Lupulin can tell you that the brewery’s unofficial motto is, “Work sucks, drink beer!” At the junction of two major roads, Lupulin puts beer front and center in Big Lake’s small town psyche, deeming the brewery’s bright open space often a meeting place for groups of all sizes. Brews on tap are constantly changing, but favorites include the Belgian Blonde and the Strictly Illegal. Although Lupulin does not yet have its own food program, the friendly staff provides menus for local restaurants that will deliver to the joint free of charge. And if you want to bring the kids along, board games and locally sourced sodas make Lupulin a must-visit both for you and mini you(s).
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.
Castle Danger Brewing, located on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Two Harbors uses traditional brewing methods to produce unique beers like deep gold and malty Castle Cream Ale and lower alcohol single hop IPA Azacca-to-me! If you didn’t already have an incentive to come for a post-workweek drink, Castle Danger offers Food Truck Friday every Friday night and sells chips and salsa for crunchy snacking purposes. With a waterfront view and prices more affordable than most nearby breweries, make Castle Danger Brewing the next destination for your trip outside the city.
You practically have to leave the state to get here, but this Moorhead nano brewery is well worth the trip for carefully crafted beers like Prairie Shaman English IPA and live music every night. Inside its red, bare-bones garage space, friendly locals sip on brews like the Ugly Ted’s Buffalo Brown Ale at picnic tables while listening to the sounds of a local folk band. Junkyard doesn't offer food, but you're more than welcome to bring in your own (pro tip: Burger Time is right down the street).