A Weekend on the Southern Minnesota Beer Trail

By Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild

Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild logoWhile the Twin Cities and Duluth are well-known regions for craft beer, cities across southern Minnesota are fueling the revival of the state’s brewing traditions. From small, upstart brewpubs to the second-oldest family-operated brewery in America, southern Minnesota has a delicious list of must-drink local brews.

To visit them all, we suggest a weekend trip from east to west.

Brewery couple
Reads Landing Brewing Company

Your brewery tour starts in Rochester. Grab breakfast at Zumbro River Cafe. The ham quiche and black coffee at this local hangout will prepare you for an action-packed weekend on the Southern Minnesota Beer Trail. After breakfast, visit the nearby Indian Heights Park for a scenic walk on historic lands. This park is believed to have been a burial ground for local American Indian tribes 12,000 years ago.

After the leisurely walk, you’ll be thirsty for some local suds, which you can find at Kinney Creek Brewery. Just a five-minute drive from the park, Kinney Creek is the first brewery in Rochester since Prohibition. They serve 10 beers in the taproom in addition to a rotating list of various limited, seasonal styles. Though you may want to stay for live music later in the evening, you’ll have to hit the road by early afternoon to see the rest of the beer trail.

Next, grab your bike and head for Mankato. This city has great opportunities for road cycling and mountain biking. When you arrive, try the Sakatah/Madison Lake loop. At just under 15 miles, you’ll see a variety of lake views and the town. Best of all, you’ll work up an appetite for beer at the Mankato Brewery.

Mankato Brewery routinely hosts caterers and local food trucks, like Doc E’s BBQ. The Duly Noted Pale Ale pairs perfectly with savory barbeque sauce. Mankato Brewery also features live music from local acts.

When you’re through at the brewery, retreat to one of the many local hotels. The next day, wake up and have breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Cafe. This diner has a wonderfully simple breakfast menu at a nice price. After your meal, hop in the car and drive a half-hour northwest to the historic city of New Ulm.

Rich with German heritage, this city has ample shopping opportunities. Browse one of the many antique shops or bookstores for a souvenir. Or, if you prefer scenery, visit Hermann the German, a massive statue overlooking the city. It’s a tribute to New Ulm’s immigrant history.

Schells brewery tourOf course, the beer highlight in New Ulm is August Schell Brewery. It’s the second-oldest family-owned brewery in America. There are daily summer tours through Labor Day, and weekend tours during the off-season (see schedule for details). Tours cost $3 and are first come, first served.

When your tour is complete, head for your final destination on the Southern Minnesota Beer Trail: Marshall. You’ll arrive just in time for a stop at Brau Bros. Brewing Co. Its unique taproom houses an old-fashioned fire truck retrofitted with multiple tap lines. From this “beer engine” flow numerous styles of small batch beer, brewed with hops and barley from Brau Bros. farm fields. In nearby Hendricks, Bank Brewing Company's taproom is open Fridays and Saturdays, with games including bags and giant Jenga in the beer garden.

You can stay the night at one of the many hotels or area bed-and-breakfasts. On your way home the next day, start planning your next Minnesota beer trip. The scene is flourishing throughout the state and well worth exploring.