Annually battered by Minnesota’s persistent and unforgiving winter, residents of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul have developed a unique drinking culture that can be enjoyed by visiting beer tourists. This has historically been true, though the Twin Cities have particularly embraced the relatively recent surge of the American craft beer revolution. The area now features dozens of Minneapolis breweries and Saint Paul breweries serving individual neighborhoods across the metro.
Even before craft beer took off in the Twin Cities, Minnesotans had developed a taste for great beer. While the rest of the nation saw its regional beer producers disappear throughout the mid-20th Century due to Prohibition or consolidation, Minnesota’s brewing spirit persisted. Two breweries that have been in operation since the 19th Century—August Schell Brewing Company and Cold Spring Brewing Company (now Third Street Brewhouse)—are still producing beer today.
Naturally, Twin Cities denizens took to craft beer when local brewers started producing in the late 20th Century. Summit Brewing Company, the oldest operating craft brewery in the Twin Cities, first opened its doors in 1986. Minneapolis breweries continued to open through the new millennium, and now visitors to the Twin Cities can drink at more than 50 breweries of their choice.
We’ve put together a helpful guide of must-stop breweries, eateries and landmarks to help any adventurous beer tourist make their way through the Twin Cities. Here is a breakdown of the best breweries, bites and sights in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
BEST BREWERIES IN MINNEAPOLIS
Minneapolis has dozens of breweries spread across the city to check out.
Where to Get Your Hands on a Hazy IPA
Open since 2019, the team over at Falling Knife Brewing Co. has been hard at work over the past several years getting the brewery known as a premier destination for hazy IPA lovers in Minneapolis. Falling Knife describes itself as a “hop-forward American brewery” and that ethos is reflected in its lineup of available beers.
The brewery loves to put out bright and hazy IPAs absolutely jam packed with American hop selections. Visitors to the Falling Knife taproom can expect plenty of double dry-hopped beers with El Dorado, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Citra hops, to name only a few. Falling Knife has also been known to experiment with new hop varieties that pack a punch into their IPAs.
Where to Find Old World Biers
Named after the term “utepils,” meaning the sensation one gets while enjoying their first beer outside after a long winter, Utepils Brewing is focused on brewing crisp traditional beers. The Minneapolis brewery makes the occasional IPA, but Utepils has really honed in on classic European beers.
Sharp pilsners and wheat beers are traditionally associated with warmer months, sure, but Utepils churns out great Old World beers no matter the time of year. Look for Utepils to serve up variations on classic styles like hefeweizen, helles lagers and Czech and German pilsners. Try Utepils’ takes on lesser-known European beers like a Keller Pils or altbier.
Where to Drink Something Different
Fair State Brewing Cooperative isn’t just built differently, it brews differently. When the brewery opened in 2014, Fair State was the first cooperatively-owned brewery in Minnesota, meaning funding is provided by co-op members of the public. Fair State now boasts a co-op list of more than 2,000 members who sometimes help in the production process.
The brewery puts out truly unique brews on a consistent basis, possible because of Fair State’s brewing philosophy. Fair State continues to focus on small-batch brews, which make it possible to take chances on innovative beer recipes. In the past, Fair State has released interesting beers like a mixed-culture porter made with wine grapes, oak-aged lagers, uniquely fruited seltzers and much, much more.
Head to the original Fair State location in Northeast Minneapolis to try out one of the brewery’s innovative drinks in its expansive taproom and beer garden.
AN AFTERNOON IN MINNEAPOLIS
The broad appeal of visiting Minneapolis and Saint Paul is that the Twin Cities have a staggering amount of beautiful public parks and urban nature trails to explore. Minneapolis alone features 180 parks with 55 miles of biking and hiking trails, 7 public golf courses, 22 lakes and 12 gardens.
The Trust for Public Land, a nationwide conservation nonprofit, in 2022 ranked Saint Paul’s and Minneapolis’ public park systems the second- and third-best in the entire nation, respectively. All across the Twin Cities, visitors can explore waterfalls, lakes teeming with wildlife and exciting urban trails.
This is all to say that any beer tourist visiting the Twin Cities should carve out time to get around the entire metro to enjoy the outdoors. However, that doesn’t mean Minneapolis is lacking in satisfying urban exploration.
To the contrary, Minneapolis has several colorful neighborhoods worth a stop. The North Loop neighborhood, in particular, is a vibrant and centrally located spot filled with fun amenities. Also known as the Warehouse District, this trendy neighborhood offers unforgettable breweries, restaurants, bars and nightlife that caters to Minneapolis’ LGBTQ residents.
North Loop is also home to Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, making it an ideal stop for any traveling baseball fan. There are endless options to start and end your day within the neighborhood after catching 9 innings of Minnesota baseball.
The walkable neighborhood features plenty of coffeeshops and breakfast spots to start your day, including Hark! Cafe, Rise Bagel Co. and Hen House Eatery. Everyone knows that a full day of visiting breweries and watering holes requires a big plate of carbs in the morning.
What really makes North Loop appealing to beer tourists is the density of the neighborhood’s breweries in one central location. There are a half-dozen breweries within a 5-minute walk of one another in North Loop, with each brewery offering something a little different to traveling taste buds.
One standout is Modist Brewing Co., a chill neighborhood brewery with a sunny and expansive taproom. Modist doesn’t focus on any one style of beer, instead choosing to push its boundaries with a few different styles. But the brewery still consistently releases crowd pleasers out of its taproom, including several New England-style IPAs, some rich stouts and light lagers that offer plenty of opportunity for day drinking.
For an option other than craft beer, look no further than Number 12 Cider. Found just down the road from Modist, Number 12 Cider has been making cider for several decades. The cider house’s taproom now features more than a dozen taps of Number 12’s house-made drinks, which have won national awards. Try Barrel 44, a dry cider aged in bourbon barrels, or one of Number 12’s sweet ciders like Janiken, which is blended with maple syrup.
AxeBridge Wine Co. also provides an alternative drinking spot for beer-weary visitors to North Loop. AxeBridge is an urban winery that makes limited quantities of wine using both imported grapes and locally-grown Minnesota grapes. Expect to find commercially recognizable wines from AxeBridge, including bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. But the urban winery also produces some interesting bottles that highlight the fruits of the local countryside.
The appeal of the North Loop neighborhood lies beyond just watering holes, though. The neighborhood houses a lot of great dining and shopping options, as well as gateways to Minneapolis’ urban parks system.
Running along the west bank of the Mississippi River through Minneapolis, the West River Parkway trail connects multiple large public parks over miles of paved pathway.
The route is a perfect arterial to traverse on bike, and there are several nearby bike rental vendors for visitors. Both Wheel Fun Rentals and Nice Ride provide bike rental opportunities to hit the trail and explore the nearby urban wilderness.
After a long day of hiking and biking, you will likely have worked up an appetite. Luckily, North Loop has plenty of great dining options for all budgets and occasions.
Graze Provisions + Libations is a collective of restaurants and drinkeries in one communal dining hall. Because of the variety of options available inside the food hall, Graze Provisions + Libations is a great option for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. There are multiple bars inside the dining hall, as well, making it a great spot to stop for a cool down.
For a dinner option that offers refined plates of local cuisine, guests should try and get a reservation at Spoon and Stable. Housed in a historic former horse stable in North Loop, Spoon and Stable showcases traditional Midwestern dishes from the brain of James Beard award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen.
Japanese sushi eatery Kado no Mise further offers a unique dining experience in the North Loop neighborhood for visiting beer tourists. The restaurant offers set omakase menus, where your dining experience is curated by one of Kado no Mise’s experienced chefs. Connected to Kado no Mise is Gori Gori Peku, a Japanese whiskey bar with quiet and low-key vibes perfect to close out your evening.
Before leaving the North Loop neighborhood, you have to check out one of Minnesota’s local shopping gems—James and Mary Laurie Booksellers. Over the past two decades, the independent bookshop has built up an impressive collection of more than 120,000 books, as well as thousands of classical and jazz vinyl records. James and Mary Laurie Booksellers is a cathartic shopping experience for any book lover and offers a chance to get your hands on hard-to-find volumes.
Swing by these sites to document your trip to Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
More than 40 sculptures are found inside the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is free to visit. The public sculpture garden include works from Robert Indiana, Alexander Calder and Katharina Fritsch.
This at-times frozen waterfall is one of Minneapolis’ most endearing attractions for locals and visitors alike. The 53-foot waterfall Minnehaha Falls is found inside Minnehaha Park, which sprawls across 193 acres.
Boom Island Park
Found just across the Mississippi River from North Loop, Boom Island Park is home to picturesque views of the Minneapolis skyline, as well as a lighthouse!
WORTH THE DRIVE – SAINT PAUL
Across the Mississippi River from the more-populated Minneapolis, Saint Paul should not be overlooked during any visit to the Twin Cities area. Saint Paul, the state capital of Minnesota, has myriad breweries, restaurants and landmarks that reflect the city’s own unique culture.
Beer tourists will be drawn to Saint Paul’s best breweries. Fortunately, many of Saint Paul’s breweries are found nearby in close clusters and run along the banks of the Mississippi River.
Lake Monster Brewing Company is found on the western boundaries of Saint Paul, just across the river from Minneapolis. The brewery keeps a wall of diverse IPAs on tap for guests, with equal affinity for the West Coast IPA as the New England IPA. Lake Monster also brews a special rotating series of uniquely-hopped beers featuring hops from across the globe.
Nearby, beer tourists will also be rewarded to visit The Lab. This experimental brewery is the product of Janet Johanson and Matt Hall, who offer pilot brewing services for breweries and beverage makers. The Lab brews test batches with experimental ingredients, new recipes or new brewing technology, meaning that visitors get the opportunity to taste never-before-made beers for the very first time.
Beer tourists would be rewarded to also check out a few breweries in and around downtown Saint Paul. Yoerg Brewing Company is a craft revival of a 19th Century Saint Paul-based brewing company and today serves traditional Bavarian brews. Located only a few blocks from one another, Tin Whiskers Brewing and Barrel Theory Beer Company are two highly rated breweries with inviting taprooms.
Saint Paul is further home to several historic landmarks, including remnants of brewing history. The old Hamm’s Brewery site in Saint Paul, now up for redevelopment, is found just outside of downtown.
Visitors may also want to stop by the Wabasha Street Caves, a restored Prohibition-era gangster nightclub. The Wabasha Street Caves are now home to historic tours and swing dancing lessons.
In fact, the Twin Cities are rich with Prohibition gangster history. Minneapolis and Saint Paul at times served as base of operations for up to 32 active gangs and thousands of individuals who contributed to crime—and violence—during Prohibition. Some notable gangsters who called the Twin Cities home include the Barker-Karpis Gang and John Dillinger.
Visitors to Saint Paul can even enjoy a unique dining experience tied to the city’s Gangster Era history. DeGidio’s Restaurant and Bar was first opened in 1933 by Joe DeGidio, a famous local bootlegger. Today, the fine Italian restaurant is still owned and operated by DeGidio’s grandchildren.
Interact with the map below to navigate to every stop mentioned in this article, and have fun exploring Minneapolis and Saint Paul!