Food & Drink

The Best Breweries Outside the Twin Cities

Published On 10/04/2016 Published On 10/04/2016
lupulin brewery
Lupulin Brewing | Brian Kaufenberg/The Growler Magazine
Lift Bridge Beer Company

Lift Bridge Brewing Co.

Stillwater

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.

Badger Hill Brewing Company

Shakopee

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.

HammerHeart Brewing Company

HammerHeart Brewing Company

Lino Lakes

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.

Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery

Waconia

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.

Courtesy of Lupulin Brewery

Lupulin Brewing Company

Big Lake

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.

Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

Duluth

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.

Castle Danger Brewery

Two Harbors

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.

Junkyard Brewing Company

Junkyard Brewing Co.

Moorhead

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.