8 Central MN Breweries You Should Definitely Hit This Spring
If you like craft beer, you're in the right state.
With 150 craft breweries, microbreweries and taprooms (give or take) -- and more opening monthly, it seems -- Minnesota definitely has a thriving craft beer scene. Thanks to brewing giants like Surly, Summit and Bent Paddle and even smaller local ones like Lupulin and Beaver Island, Minnesota has caught the craft beer enthusiast's attention as a place to be.
Now, 150 breweries is a lot to visit, and -- fortunately -- you don't have to. My wife and I are on a mission to do that ourselves, and you're welcome to follow along at our beer adventure blog Ale Adventures.
But, with the Spring season and warmer weather on the way, maybe you're up for a little ale adventure of your own. Here's an easy tour of eight Central Minnesota breweries you should definitely visit. Grab a couple friends or family members, rotate drivers, and make a day out of some of Minnesota's top-rate craft breweries!
First, here's your map:
I'm assuming you're starting in St. Cloud, but really, you can start at whatever brewery's closest to you. As you can see, this tour is literally round-trip!
Second, here are your stops, with special features and/or drinks noted:
1. Beaver Island Brewing, St. Cloud
Beaver Island's motto is "Dam. Fine. Beer." and I'd say they nailed it. Whether you like light beer, dark, somewhere in-between or just plain funky, they do it all well. Personally, I'm a fan of anything barrel-aged, and they've had some spectacular ones in the past. Their taproom is spacious and friendly, very North-woodsy. It's like camping somewhere up North with friends or family, minus the whole camping, mosquitos, lack of toilets or showers and general discomfort.
2. Bad Habit Brewing, St. Joseph
I've only been to Bad Habit once, and it was packed. That's a good problem, I suppose. I loved the space; the whole look of the building with its ramp, railing and huge windows overlooking the street were very charming and like something out of the past. Bad Habit usually has a good rotation of pretty funky flavors, so feel free to get a flight and try samples of several different ones.
3. Milk & Honey Ciders, St. Joseph
If you're not into craft beer, you may enjoy the ciders at Milk & Honey Ciders, and even if you are into craft beer, a stop at Milk & Honey Ciders would be a great exposure to another aspect of Minnesota's fine craft beverages. Located just on the other side of I-94, Milk & Honey sits quietly in St. Joe's country hills. It's picturesque, actually. The inside is very rustic barnhouse, and outdoor patio will be very relaxing in the warmer months.
4. Third Street Brewing, Cold Spring
Third Street Brewing is the craft beer department of the much larger Cold Spring Brewing Company. Cold Spring Brewing is the largest beverage producer in the nation -- "producing, packaging and distributing top names in soft drinks, beer, malt beverages, energy drinks and more." It's an impressive credit, but I've heard another craft beer enthusiast complain that they're not actually "craft" (ie. small, independent, traditional). Personally, I didn't find their tiny taproom a place I'd want to stay long, drowned out by the larger operation going on elsewhere in the building. That said, their beers are pretty dang good, and might be worth a quick stop on your ale adventure.
5. Spilled Grain Brewhouse, Annandale
Spilled Grain Brewhouse is probably one of my favorite breweries in Central Minnesota. Like Milk & Honey Ciders, their taproom and brewing space are housed in a very inviting farmhouse-style building. Inside, they offer games to play, a giant projection screen to watch sports events on, plenty of merchandise to take with you and a really neat wall decorated with tributes to the history and local pride of Annandale. With 14 (or so) beers on tap, ranging from dark stouts and black IPA's to fruity beers, cream ales and lagers, they have an impressive selection to choose from and something for nearly everyone.
6. Hayes' Public House, Buffalo
One of my other favorite breweries in Central Minnesota is Hayes' Public House in Buffalo, MN. Inspired after the pubs of Ireland, the owner Pugs has authentically replicated the pub scene he found there when he visited with his wife. An absence of both TVs and barstools forces you into conversation with the people around you, whether friends or strangers, and my wife and I have have struck up some very unlikely relationships and even friendships with people there. Flags of various Irish sports teams hang from the ceiling, and instruments along the walls are taken down on Wednesday nights for spontaneous jam sessions. Pugs keeps a pretty good rotation of beers on tap, including some fantastic experimentals.
7. Rustech Brewing, Monticello
Rustech Brewing is set to be the first microbrewery and taproom in Monticello, MN. At the time of writing, it has not opened yet, thought construction is progressing and an estimated open date is sometime in April or May 2018. They expect to have at least eight beers on tap at all times; flights will be encouraged, and kegs and growlers available to go. The theme will be steampunk inspired, featuring various gears and pulleys. Even their motto Gather Enjoy and Relax is an acronym (GEAR)!
8. Lupulin Brewing, Big Lake
Lupulin is the gold-medal award-winning brewery on this tour. For a small-town brewery in Big Lake, MN (pop. 10,638 at the 2016 census), they're doing some pretty big things in Minnesota's craft beer scene. A fairly small, intimate taproom, their bar space, tables/chairs, sitting lounge and patio still offer plenty of room for everyone. A small stage also hosts live music throughout the week. They tend to feature IPA's and ales, though there's usually a darker beer for those who prefer a maltier option.
Eight breweries is a lot to fit into one day, I know (though not impossible!). Feel free to split the tour in half, quarters or however you want to. It's just a fun way to take an easy day trip, spend some quality time with people, and drink some of Minnesota's finest craft beer.
Let me know how it goes! Cheers! 🍻