Beer and bikes often go hand in hand. In Minnesota, the capital city of St. Paul is home to some of the state's newest—and oldest—craft breweries.
In fact, long before it was the capital, St. Paul was a settlement with a tavern at its center on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was known as “Pig’s Eye” for the area’s first inhabitant, Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, and his tavern.
Though the name was changed years later, the city’s legacy as a destination for thirsty explorers lived on. This 4.5-mile craft beer bike (or bus!) tour is just the latest chapter.
Downtown & Lowertown
Your journey begins in Lowertown, a once-sleepy downtown corridor that's now home to some of the city's hottest restaurants (including the "Top Chef"-helmed Handsome Hog), the St. Paul Saints baseball stadium, and several craft breweries. The first stop on this tour, Barrel Theory was named one of the "32 Hottest Breweries in America" by Thrillist, due in part to its founders' backgrounds at one of Minnesota's most well-known breweries, Surly. The taproom is open seven days a week, and 4-ounce portions make this an ideal starting point.
Before leaving downtown, take time to visit some of St. Paul's coolest sites. The free Minnesota Museum of American Art features more than 5,000 works by American artists from the 19th century to the present. Stop in the Landmark Center to see historic artifacts, pick up a map, and take a stroll through the free Schubert Club, which houses an impressive collection of pianos and other instruments, some of which visitors are welcome to play!
If you're hungry, grab some authentic Vietnamese fare at Pho #1 or pull up a stool at Mickey's Diner, the most-filmed location in the state. And be sure to get a selfie with the Hamm's bear statue on Seventh Place, the iconic mascot for Hamm's Beer, which started in St. Paul in 1865.
Continue west on West Seventh Street, past the Xcel Energy Center, and visit the mom-and-pop shops along this charming stretch that connects downtown to one of St. Paul's fastest-growing neighborhoods, West Seventh. The first brewery you'll hit is Bad Weather, popular for its outdoor patio complete with yard games and food trucks.
Right around the corner, Waldmann Brewery sits in the oldest surviving commercial building in the Twin Cities. Originally a German lager saloon, Waldmann revives that tradition with German-style brews, bratwursts and period furnishings.
From here, you're just over a mile from the city's hottest new addition. Housed in the former Schmidt Brewery, Keg and Case Market combines dozens of local vendors under one roof, including Clutch Brewing Co., so you can have your beer with a side of artisan cotton candy, small-batch ice cream or a gourmet grilled cheese from one of the many food stalls.
If you've planned ahead, you can brew your own beer at this tour's next stop, Vine Park Brewing Co., which offers brewing classes by reservation three times a day, Tuesday-Saturday. Pick your beer, add the ingredients, then come back in two weeks to bottle and sample your creation. Growlers are also available for purchase to-go.
This tour ends where Minnesota's craft beer renaissance began. Now one of the state's biggest brewers, Summit Brewing Co. features a Rathskellar and patio and offers $5 brewery tours Thursday-Sunday (reservations recommended). Finish your day here, or hop on the Mississippi River Trail along Shepard Road for a leisurely ride back to where you started.
With the river flowing on your right and the city rising overhead on your left, it's one of the most unique rides in the state. Keep your eyes open for giant concrete silos on your left, which are near the site of the original Pig’s Eye tavern.
Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is a statewide association for craft breweries and brewpubs, with more than 75 members across the state, and growing fast. Visit the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild website for more information.
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