Heading back over to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the breweries we will visit this week range in the extreme when it comes to location. From downtown Minneapolis, to a small town located along the Mississippi, these breweries prove that you can drink local pretty much anywhere you go. Besides the two with the severe discrepancy in location, we also will stop over in Stillwater. This suburb is often called the birthplace of Minnesota. Fun fact: Stillwater could have been the capital, but chose to become the site of the first prison back before Minnesota became an official state. But I digress, let’s get to the beer!
- Day Block Brewing, Minneapolis
- Lift Bridge Brewery, Stillwater
- Maple Island Brewing, Stillwater
- Reads Landing Brewing, Reads Landing
Location, location, location. Day Block certainly has followed this saying. Downtown Minneapolis is a happening place, and this brewery is right smack in the middle of it. Located between Gold Medal Park along the river, and the new U.S. Bank Stadium, the walkability of this area is astonishing. The brewery is set up with the bar meeting you as you walk in, with some table and bar seating to the right. A cool touch is the patterned tin that serves as an expansive backsplash, as well as the exposed brick wall on the opposing side. You can see into the back where the kitchen sits as well. The building was built back in 1883, and is actually the namesake for the brewery.
There are generally six house beers on tap, and while some seem to be mainstays, there is a considerable amount of rotation. My favorite was RT’s Maple Rybock, which is brewed with maple syrup, but is actually well-balanced, and drinks lighter than its 7.1% ABV. Tropical notes are the feature for the Citra Pale Ale, thanks to a plethora of Cascade and Citra hops. Leonard Day IPA is a West Coast IPA which will please the hopheads. With its copious amounts of Columbus and Centennial hops, this was the hoppiest beer here. I was disappointed that their Berliner Weisse was tapped out when I visited, but that may persuade me to drop by again sometime.
There are few (if any) breweries in the Twin Cities area that have a better location than Day Block. If you are downtown, it is a convenient stop, and while I was not able to enjoy an actual meal, the food sounded and looked delicious!
Named for the bridge that crosses the St. Croix River from Stillwater into Wisconsin, Lift Bridge has been a part of the Stillwater community since 2008. I enjoyed this taproom, as it had a cabin-like feel, but with some modern touches. Natural wood was prevalent, with the bar, stools, and beautiful picnic tables laying center stage. There were also large saws and other relic tools mounted on the walls to add to the ‘up north’ vibes. A small gift shop takes up one corner adjacent to the bar, and on the other side is a window that allows patrons to look into the brewery itself.
Farm Girl Saison is the big name beer at Lift Bridge. It drinks smoothly, with subtle hints of spice that give way to a sweeter finish. My personal favorite was the Mango Blonde, which has plenty of (SURPRISE!) mango flavor. However, the nose was more complex with tropical notes, and had a little tang to it as well. Two beers stuck out for being unique. First, the Cucumber Cooler, which they described as a ‘Getaway Pilsner with Cucumber, Watermelon, & Lemon’. This beer was served at 52 degrees in a firkin, and was certainly interesting, as I found it to reflect cucumber water in many ways. The other was a collaboration with Odell Brewery from Fort Collins, CO. Peaks & Prairies takes a signature ingredient from each state (blue corn from MN, and huckleberries from CO) to create a tasty pale ale. This was a close second in my book.
Lift Bridge had a wide array of offerings when I visited, and of course I was unable to sample them all. The taproom is a neat place to grab a drink, and is also surprisingly spacious. Overall, a really solid brewery!
Downtown Stillwater has become somewhat of a tourist destination, and Maple Island is down in the thick of things. With views of the St. Croix River from their wrap-around patio in the back, this is a great summer destination for those looking to escape the hectic Twin Cities. The taproom used to be a hardware store, and has a strong industrial feel. A long bar takes up most of one wall, with views of the brewing equipment to the right of it. Two garage doors to the left of the bar open to the patio as well. Some locally significant additions to the decor are the old seed corn bags hanging from the ceiling.
There are some fun beers at Maple Island, and one in particular stuck with me and represents the brewery quite well. Maple Island Bock may not have a catchy name, but the second the maple aroma reaches your nose, followed by the beer hitting your lips, it’s like you are drinking a pancake. Brewed with plenty of maple syrup, this beer is not for everyone, but it certainly is for me! ‘I Scream’ is brewed with not just ice cream, but 60 pounds of local ice cream! While chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter flavors were present, the star of the show was the caramel. Similar to the Bock, this thick brew is another one that will be hit or miss. There were other delicious options as well, such as the creamy Cup of Joe Freakshow stout, and the Peel Me Wit. The Wit packs plenty of banana and cloves, but starts out with a nice tartness.
I loved visiting Maple Island, and it is a place I would go back to. While it’s still a fairly new brewery, from what I can tell, they are off to a fast start.
Although it was not always this way, Reads Landing is about as small as a town can get. With about 160ish residents, this municipality located right on the Mississippi about an hour and a half from the Twin Cities is a picturesque spot for a brewery. Located in a historic, old storefront building, they not only offers several brews, but also has an extensive food menu. Besides the bar area, there is amble seating outside which provides unobstructed views of the river, which lies across the railroad tracks. There’s also an old phone booth inside, which is a fun, quirky feature.
Ordering a flight allows you to sample all five of the beers brewed here, although it may vary based on when you visit. Now, it is a rare occurrence when an IPA is my favorite selection, but Reads Landing forced my hand. Nightcrawler Black IPA is a deliciously roasty version of a classic IPA, and is surprisingly sessionable. If you are into cream ales, Cremona is a to-style offering that is light and perfect for warm weather. They also had a Chocolate Milk Stout, Irish Red, and Kentucky Common on tap when I visited. One I’m intrigued by that they are currently serving is Cap’n Amber, which uses actual Cap’n Crunch cereal in the mash!
While it was once home to over 20 hotels and 30 saloons, Reads Landing is no longer the mecca history remembers it by. However, this brewery makes it a place to stop by if you’re driving up the river.
We have still barely scratched the surface of what the Twin Cities area offers in terms of craft breweries. From a plethora of options in Minneapolis and St. Paul, to the suburbs and small communities along the outskirts, drinking local is always an option!
We will cross into Illinois for the first time! We’ll visit a pair of breweries in downtown Chicago, as well as a couple in the northern suburbs.
Current Brewery Count
78 breweries across 38 cities in 7 states. For an up-to-date count, follow me on Twitter: @brewerytravels