Minnesota Breweries Serve up Local Brews & Tunes

By Loren Green

Castle Danger beer flight and musician, Two Harbors
Castle Danger Brewery, Two Harbors / Brian Jeremiason

When Stillwater’s Lift Bridge opened one of the state’s first taprooms in 2012, it also set the tone that music and beer go hand in hand. It’s a model many have followed. The state’s elder taprooms host their own regular tunes, but finding live music to pair with a house-made beer today is an easy task all the way across the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“Initially, we started with a goal of one or two artists in a month,” says Jeff Zierdt of Lupulin Brewing in Big Lake. “But, we've been ramping toward having an artist at least one night each weekend, especially during the summer,” he says. It’s a sentiment that’s repeated elsewhere, whether in Moorhead, Mankato or Minneapolis.

Junkyard Brewing, Moorhead

This miniscule taproom (capacity 63) hosts live music every night of the week. While small, it opens to a sidewalk patio that increases the numbers with an open air vibe. The live music selection fits the scale of operations: acoustic musicians, most often solo artists and duos.

“We often have lead singers or ‘key members’ from bigger groups that are fairly popular locally,” says Aaron Juhnke, and Sundays include the unique Beer&Hymns series where artists perform old-fashioned gospel and bluegrass, both religious and secular in tone. “Singalongs are highly encouraged,” says Juhnke. Junkyard does not charge a cover.

Fitger’s Brewhouse, Duluth

Fitger's sign
Photo by Anthony Auston

The Barrel Room is a newer addition to staple brewpub Fitger’s in Duluth. Formerly called Red Star, Fitger’s turned the room over to the beer, serving their own pints and decorating along a traditional wood and rugged theme. The Barrel Room frequently books Duluth-area hip-hop like Crimson and Kay Fox, and bigger and diverse artists have played the room including Charlie Parr, Teague Alexy and Jack Campbell.

The Barrel Room hosts music two to three times per week, with cover rarely exceeding $5. Per Music and Entertainment Coordinator Kal Howg, “The Barrel Room takes on the vibe of whatever music is being played there, kind of like a chameleon.”

10K Brewing, Anoka

Voted “The Best Place for Live Music” by Anoka County Shopper, 10K Brewing features free live music every other weekend in a historic downtown setting. With limited seating and classic brick wall tones, 10K presents acoustic to lightly amplified acts while bringing a variety of styles to downtown Anoka, with rock and blues leading the way. Alex Crankshaft Larson is one of many popular local favorites.

Gull Dam Brewing, Nisswa

Gull Dam Brewery,

Inside its distinct water wheel building, Gull Dam has made live entertainment part of its weekend programming. Every Friday and Saturday from 6-9 p.m., there’s a range of tunes from rock to blues, country, and everything in between, and never a cover charge. Gull Dam features amplified music including local bluesman Lamont Cranston at this year’s upcoming Oktoberfest.

Lupulin, Big Lake

The music at Lupulin is as different as the beer styles. From hits of the 1950s to acoustic cover bands to contemporary rock, music has become a growing component of this strip mall brewery. For special beer release parties and the annual Spud Fest, the brewery schedules bigger acts, but hosts music once each weekend in the summer, and regularly throughout the year.

Depending on the week, there’s typically a 7-10 p.m. set on either Friday or Saturday, no cover, as musicians ranging from Dan Rodriguez, Joe Firstman and Enemy Planes grace the brewery along with locals like Joel Hagberg.

Mankato Brewing, Mankato

Few breweries have as obvious a dedication to live music as Mankato, with a large stage facing the taproom, set up inside the production area. The brewery uses that stage both for smaller local acts and ticketed touring groups. “For smaller events we have it closer to the taproom area, and for larger ones we push it back to make more of a concert hall feel,” explains taproom manager Curt Van Asten.

Tuesday Tunes is a free weekly series of mostly Minnesota artists ranging from folk and acoustic to rock and country, and some notable large draws have included The Last Revel, Charlie Parr, Cold Kingdom Small Change and Church of Cash. Large events are ticketed, but Tuesday Tunes is always free of charge.

612Brew, Minneapolis

612Brew Mural

From residencies to big events like Art-A-Whirl, 612Brew is involved in the Minnesota music scene. The brewery’s amphitheater is a perfect setting for outdoor music in the shadow of Central Avenue, and indoor sets are more intimate and immediate. Nathan Miller and the Unstoppable Company recently played a long residency inside, the Summer Concert Series regularly brings bigger acts outdoors, and Art-A-Whirl annually features a who’s who of local acts that have included Mally, Chris Koza, Black Market Brass and Communist Daughter.

Inbound BrewCo, Minneapolis

There’s no shortage of stages across Twin Cities taprooms, but Inbound (an offshoot of North Loop Brewing) opened a few blocks from Target Field with a stage built into the blueprints to make sure that live music and fresh beer go hand in hand. The brewery is a converted electronics recycling facility that’s now modern and breezy, a large taproom with the feel of a welcoming community room along North 5th Street.

Every Wednesday through Saturday, the brewery includes live acts that cover the spectrum from Americana to rap, folk and blues. Carnage the Executioner, Alex Rossi and many more have graced the stage since Inbound’s spring 2016 opening.

Find more Minnesota breweries, and search the live music calendar to find upcoming performances.