A Weekend on the Southern Minnesota Beer Trail

By Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild

Beer flight at Grand Rounds Brewpub, Rochester
Grand Rounds Brewing Company & Restaurant in Rochester

This article was provided courtesy of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild.

While 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.

 
 

Rochester

Cheersing glasses at Little Thistle Brewing Co.
Steve and Dawn Finnie, co-owners of Little Thistle Brewing Co. / Courtesy of Experience Rochester, by AB-Photography.US

Your brewery tour starts in Rochester. Grab breakfast at Fiddlhead Coffee Co. The artisan pastries and specialty coffees at this local cafe 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.

Mankato

Mankato Brewery Photo Credit: Pat Branstad
Mankato Brewery / Pat Branstad

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 and live music from local acts.

Looking for more brews in the area? Check out downtown Waseca for its quintessential Main Street lined with antique shops, a coffee house and the Ward House Brewery, offering a variety of beers and homemade root beer. Be sure to visit Half Pint Brewing Company just outside of town for small scale farm brews and order in a farm-made pizza from Pleasant Grove Farm.

Retreat to one of the many local hotels for the evening then wake up for breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Cafe in downtown Mankato. 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.

New Ulm

Starkellar Brewery New Ulm couple
Starkeller Brewery in 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.

Of 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.

While you're in town be sure to stop by the ​Starkeller. Owned by the Schell family, the Starkeller specializes in sour beers, which are aged in massive wood tanks that serve as the focal point of the taproom.

Marshall

Brau Brothers Brewery beer tap truck, Marshall
Brau Brothers Brewery in Marshall

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.