Get a Taste of the Craft Beverage Boom

By Erica Wacker

 

 

While Minnesota is known for producing foods like wild rice, sweet corn and blueberries, it’s the state’s drinkable crops that are making headlines. Wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries continue to up the ante with new facilities, recipes and events, and they’re inviting visitors to come taste the results.

Find all Minnesota breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries on the Land of 10,000 Drinks map.

Craft Breweries Continue to Grow

Grand_Rounds_Brewpub_beer_fligh-x350.jpgIf you’re drinking a beer that was made in a Minnesota, you can be sure it’s of the craft variety. Thanks to a loosening in legislation a few years back, the state has seen a surge in brewery openings, with more than 100 in operation today. The largest concentrations are found in Minneapolis and Duluth, but the craft beer scene is expanding into every corner of the state.

“Minnesota is in the midst of a beer revolution,” says Clint Roberts, former executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. “More people are realizing what our state has to offer as far as local goods, and beer is absolutely a part of that group.”

Jack Pine Brewery in Baxter has a taproom open Wednesday-Saturday, and also offers tours on select Saturdays (call ahead to reserve). Four beers are on tap year-round, with at least one seasonal offering and other special recipes. Their beers are also on tap at restaurants and resorts in the area.

Bemidji Brewing Co. offers four or more beers as well as craft soda in its taproom, where visitors can order 5-ounce tasters, pints, or “sample paddles” to try them all. In Winona, Island City Brewing Co. welcomes visitors to its taproom six days a week and offers a full calendar of special events, from live bands to trivia nights to sunset brewery cruises on the Mississippi River.

Distilleries Open for Tours & Tastings

Panther Distillery OsakisThe same law that prompted Minnesota’s surge in craft breweries also opened the door for distillers to set up shop. Many offer tours that include samples, and some have added on-site cocktail rooms.

Just east of Alexandria, Panther Distillery in Osakis gives tours six days a week. Learn about the local ingredients that go into the gin, bourbon and whiskeys, then sample the products in the tasting room.

As the name suggests, Far North Spirits in Hallock earns the title of the northernmost distillery in the lower 48. Tours are offered on Saturday afternoons, and reservations are required. Visitors can taste the spiced rum, rye whiskey, vodka and gins, crafted from grain grown on the property in a process they dub “field to glass.”

Vikre Distillery in Duluth makes three varieties of boreal gin and an aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit infused with caraway and cardamom. Taste them straight up or as part of a handcrafted mixed drink in the cocktail room.

One of the state's newest distilleries, Flying Dutchman Spirits in Eden Prairie sports an industrial-chic cocktail room conveniently situated next to a paved trail.

Cider Stakes Its Claim

Taking advantage of another Minnesota crop, cideries are the newest addition to Minnesota's craft beverage scene. Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis sources its main ingredient—fresh-pressed apples—from Pepin Heights orchard in Lake City. The taproom serves its ciders and beers by the pint, swifty (10-ounce glass) and flight. In the summer months, the windows open onto an outdoor patio complete with bocce ball and a food truck.

A handful of other cideries around the state offer tours and tastings, including Sawtooth Mountain Cider House in Lutsen, Number 12 Cider House in Buffalo and Sweetland Orchard in Webster. Most are only open seasonally with limited hours, so be sure to call or check their websites before visiting.

Minnesota Wines Even Better with Age

Wine grapes_squareSince Minnesota's first winery opened in 1978, the state's wines continue to win fans as consumers become more knowledgeable about the state’s unique varietals, many of which use cold-hardy grapes developed by the University of Minnesota to thrive in this climate.

The state boasts more than 40 wineries that are open for tours, tastings and special events including concerts and harvest festivals. Some of the most well-known include Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings, Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria and Morgan Creek Vineyards in New Ulm, but there are plenty of hidden gems worth discovering, too.

“More wineries are focused on drier and more table-friendly wines,” says Terri Savaryn of Sovereign Estate in Waconia. “When people understand what a great Minnesota wine is supposed to taste like, they develop a palate for it.”

Developing that palate may be a little easier with the Passport to Minnesota Wine. The $25 passport grants the holder tastings at any 10 of the 45 participating wineries.

Can't decide which beverage to try first? Some locations, like Bent Brewstillery in Roseville and Schram Vineyards in Waconia, make spirits and beer or beer and wine in the same facility. Or check out one of Minnesota's craft beverage trails, including the new Skal Crawl in Alexandria and Osakis, and Libation Destination West in the Waconia area.

Find more vineyards, distilleries and breweries throughout Minnesota on our Winery & Brewery Tours page.