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There are so many breweries in the Twin Cities but which ones are the best? (Believe me, I’ve tried nearly ALL of them!) Minnesota is known for our lakes (land of 10k!) & of course our “Minnesota nice” attitude as well as the long goodbyes (if you know, you know!) But, don’t overlook how amazing our craft beer scene is. We have so many delicious craft beer taprooms. But seriously, what’s better when the weather in Minnesota is gorgeous than enjoying a pint (or flight) of some tasty brews in a taproom, on a patio or near a lake? (Hint: Nothing!) So, grab your beer loving friends and set out on a craft beer adventure. (“Beer ventures” are some of my favorites!) I actually went on a road trip last year where the route and locations were determined by breweries I wanted to visit. (Read more about that here!)
What is Craft Beer?
Liquid nectar of the gods. Just kidding, but for real it’s sooooo good! Craft beer is produced at a microbrewery which essentially is a brewery that produces a smaller amount of beer and is independently owned. (Yay for small businesses!) Most breweries are a part of what’s known as a craft brewers guild. My absolute favorite thing about craft beer is the varying styles & flavors. Truly, to me the more weird a beer sounds the more I want to try it. There are fads or more popular beer styles that come and go. Right now, smoothie sours are all the rage and I’m totally here for it! All of the top breweries in the twin cities do a great job at so many different styles of beer.
Craft Beer in the Twin Cities
The Twin cities is a metropolitan region in Minnesota built around the Mississippi River. The “twin cities” are Minneapolis and St. Paul which consist of 7 counties and inhabit 55% of the population of the entire state. The Minneapolis/St. Paul area has nearly half of the breweries in the entire state of Minnesota. (Which has almost reached 200 total establishments!) But because there are so many, I’m here to tell you the best breweries that you should visit while in the twin cities.
Grain Belt beer, although not necessarily a “craft brewery” has been a staple for over 125 years. (In July 1890, four breweries, including the Orth Brewing Company, the oldest in Hennepin County, came together to form the Minneapolis Brewing Company. Once prohibition was repealed in 1933, the company decided to change its name to Grain Belt after its most popular product.) Currently Grain Belt’s brewery is August Schell Brewing Company and is located in New Ulm, Minnesota. You will still see the historic Grain Belt sign by the Hennepin bridge in Minneapolis.
In 2005 one of Minnesota’s most well known breweries in the twin cities opened. They were instrumental in further pursuing a bill that passed in 2011. The bill passed in 2011 that made it possible to sell their beer on site. Hence, the taprooms that I know so well and love were born. The first one to open was later in 2011 and it caused many more to open over the years. Ten years later, I frequently like to go to both new breweries as well as my favorites that I will list below.
The Craft Beer Community
The best thing about the craft beer community is just that, the community. Those who seek out craft beer are generally welcoming, open to trying new unique flavors of beer and like to bond over a common interest.
A few years ago I stumbled upon an amazing group of women who enjoy craft beer. One of the best things, is the local meet ups that we coordinate. Whether it’s an admin coordinated event for everyone in the group or you just post where in the twin cities you are when you’re at different breweries. Being a part of Craft Beer Girls has definitely intensified my hobby of craft beer, educated me on different breweries across the country (and the world!) and given me a place to connect with those that have a similar interest. There are state specific groups, interest driven groups (health & wellness, food/cooking, pets) where it’s a positive and fun place to connect over mutual interests.
TOP CRAFT BEER BREWERIES IN THE TWIN CITIES
It’s clear I’m obsessed with craft beer. So, at what breweries should you seek out the BEST beer in the twin cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) area?
Located in St. Paul, MN
Beers: They have some really well known IPA’s (which isn’t my favorite type of beer) but they’re really popular. For example “Rain Drops”. But, I love their fruited sours such as ” After School Snacks”, “Feeling Cute Might Delete Later” and their imperial stouts. My two all time favorite beers of Barrel Theory’s are “Key Sublime” & “Slime Green Paint Peanut Butter Inside”. Key Sublime is a delicious sour that tastes like key lime pie. Slime Green Paint Peanut Butter Inside is an imperial stout that literally tastes like a peanut butter cup (insert drool emoji here). YUMMM! But, what I like the most about Barrel Theory is no matter what beer style or flavor it is they absolutely kill it. I’ve never had a mediocre beer from them ever.
Taproom: It’s a little on the small side and usually is so busy on the weekends so it can be difficult to snag a spot to sit. No onsite food offered at all but there are plenty of places nearby that you can order food from to enjoy with your brews. In the summer, they do have a patio available as well.
Located in Spring Park, MN literally on the “Back Channel” of Lake Minnetonka in the western metro suburbs.
Beers: One of the things Back Channel is most well known for is their beer bowls. Only certain beers are available in the bowls depending on what’s on tap at that time. If the owners Josh & Melissa Leddy are there they will tell you the story of how the beer bowls were born. Their IPA’s are always solid here-but again, that’s just not really my jam! A few of my favorite brews at Back Channel are “N Nah N Nah” (and if you instantly thought make em say uhhhhh when you read that, you’re my people!) It’s a Double Pastry Imperial Stout packing a punch at 11.75% w delicious notes of peanut butter, banana & cacao. I also really enjoyed a series of beers they did last summer dubbed the name “Five Trick Pony”. These were fruited sours that had different fruit variants. My favorite was the Cherry Boyz.
Taproom: Both indoor & outdoor spaces (even in winter they utilize their patio!) They have an area for games, a few garage style doors that open up when it’s nice and plenty of patio space. They always have a solid line up of amazing food trucks onsite as well. My favorites are Parlour food truck & Brick Oven Bus Pizza. They always have fun events such as trivia and Vikings Ultimate Gameday Experience during the football season. The kicker is they also have boat slips so you can arrive by boat if you’re out on Lake Minnetonka. You could even start or end a paddle tap on the lake here!
Located in St. Paul, Minnesota
Beers: I’m not a huge fan of IPA’s (unless they’re milkshake because I hope they bring all the boys to the yard?) Sorry, I had to! Anyway, moving on BlackStack does IPA’s so well. Their double and triple IPA’s are so smooth! It’s amazing. They’re my husband’s favorite (style of beer and becoming his favorite brewery too I think.)
Because they’re more heavily into IPA’s they haven’t always been my favorite but the ultimate game changer was “Parent Trap” (pictured below). An imperial stout with peanut butter & oreos! So. dang. good! The second beer or rather series of beers that really changed my mind on BlackStack is “The Great Blackstack Bakeoff”. The one that sealed the deal for me was the cherry pie variant. They have other ones such as blueberry waffles & blackberry french toast. These type of beers are like heaven, sweet but resembling a sweet and savory dessert. Yum!
Taproom: Their taproom is rather large so space isn’t usually an issue but it’s always been very busy every time I’ve been. My only qualm is how much it echoes in there, but, a lot of the industrial type buildings with high ceilings and hard floors I feel have that problem. They’re also located near a fun date night spot with indoor mini-golf and other activities called Can-Can Wonderland.
Located in NorthEast, Minneapolis
Beers: They do a lot of different styles of beers and I’ve tried many of them but, I will always recommend their peanut butter porter & chocolate milk stout. Those are flagship beers of theirs and in my opinion the best! A pint of a 50/50 of the two is also delightful! The only other beer they’ve ever made that came close to as delicious as those two was a Hazelnut Mocha Stout.
Taproom: The taproom is very small and very often becomes cramped with a really long line to get beer. The cool thing is, the building actually used to be a bank so it’s somewhat historic. One of the best things they did was move the merch & crowler shop next door to take some of the congestion from the taproom away and separate those that were having brews onsite vs. buying beer to take or browsing merch.
Located in the North Loop of Minneapolis (closer to the downtown area).
Beers: My absolute first favorite from Modist was their “First Call”. (a lightly coffee flavored lager.) It’s actually pictured below. I really also love their “Shook” series which are pastry flavored milkshake IPA’s. I’m not huge on IPA’s but the combination of the sweet pastry flavors they do is so yummy! I really liked their key lime shook.
Taproom: They’re located decently close to Target Field and always open 2 hours prior to any MN Twins baseball game. Frequently we will grab a beer or two before or after catching a game. The North Loop also has a lot of great restaurants and a few of my favorite so grabbing a beer before or after dinner here is something my husband and I will frequently do as well. This taproom also holds a special place in my heart due to the fact that we took some pictures prior to our MN wedding reception in the taproom to highlight our love of craft beer.
More Craft Beer Fun: Festivals!
A great way to try out new beer styles and be outdoors usually on a nice day. (But hey in the Twin Cities/Minnesota, we even have beer festivals in the winter which isn’t for the faint of heart!)
A few of my favorite beer fests that typically occur every year:
- Beer Dabbler There’s usually a summer dabbler at CHS Field in St. Paul, a Pride Beer dabbler (in different locations across the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro) & a winter beer dabbler in February at the MN State Fairgrounds
- Beer & Bacon Fest at CHS Field in St. Paul. (At one point there was one I went to years ago that was put on by Stanley’s Bar which has awesome food and is one of my go to places in NE Minneapolis.)
- All Pints North (in Duluth, MN at Bayfront Park)
- Minnesota Craft Beer Festival
Continue with Beer Ventures: more brewery focused posts coming to the blog soon!
- Best Breweries in Duluth, MN
- Breweries visited on “The Consolation Corona-cation” 2020 Road Trip
- MN State Fair Craft Beer for 2021
- A brewery guide: North Shore of Minnesota
- Best Breweries in Fargo/Moorhead
- My Domestic Brewery Wish List
- A brewery crawl guide in Minneapolis/St. Paul using public transportation
- Beer Ventures in Europe
- Guide to Craft Beer in Italy
- A full weekend guide on Asheville, NC
- Guide on Nashville, TN, including breweries!
- MN Travel Guide
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