Brewery Travels #5: Twin Cities

We’ve spent some quality time in Milwaukee, but before continuing in Wisconsin, let’s take a journey across the Mississippi. My parents recently moved to a suburb outside the Twin Cities, and therefore I will have a plethora of opportunities in the future to visit the expanding craft beer scene there. In this article, I will review four of the breweries I visited; 1 in Minneapolis, and 3 in St. Paul. Let’s get to it!

  1. Surly Brewing: Minneapolis, MN
  2. Lake Monster Brewing: St. Paul, MN
  3. Burning Brothers Brewing: St. Paul, MN
  4. Summit Brewing Co.: St. Paul, MN

Surly Brewing

If you are a craft beer fan, more than likely you have heard of Surly Brewing. Many lists have Surly as one of the best craft breweries not only in the country, but in the world. After selling their first beer in early 2006, they have skyrocketed to the top, and now their impressive destination brewery is a must-stop for every craft lover. The tap room has massive floor-to-ceiling windows looking into the brewery, as well as easy access to the outside area, which adds even more seating and plenty of space for games.

They do not serve typical flights, but you can order individual ‘tasters’, although they are larger than what you would typically get. As a fan of sours, I of course enjoyed both the Gose, and Pentagram, Surly’s dark sour ale. Pentagram is aged in red wine barrels, which is obvious in both the nose and taste. Bender, an oatmeal brown ale, was Surly’s first beer. It is a delicious drink, and for those who enjoy a coffee ale, Coffee Bender is the same, but infused with Guatemalan coffee! My father’s favorite was the Stout, which has a great roasty flavor without being overly bitter. And of course, Furious is the beer the made Surly famous. For IPA lovers, this is the beer to get.

Surly may be the definition of a destination brewery. While visiting any time of the year is great, try going when the weather is warm, as the outdoor area gives the place an awesome open feel. Great beer, incredible atmosphere.

Lake Monster Brewing

I truly enjoyed visiting Lake Monster. One of the newer breweries in the Twin Cities, the tap room has a unique feel. From the water tower that stands on the patio, to the old exposed brick walls, it is a place that sticks with you. The shiny brewing kettles sit in the back of the tap room, providing a nice backdrop. On top of that, the Lake Monster branding is creative and prevalent. In the pictures below you can see that the mural and menu both showcase that.

    

The beer is varied and appetizing! As you could expect, the Sour Brown Ale was my personal favorite. Besides that, the other three my father and I sampled were Murmur Milk Stout, Last Fathom Dark Larger, and Serpent Saison. The picture below doesn’t lie, the stout was dark and creamy, with a slight bitterness following through. Last Fathom is brewed with Minnesota wild rice, and this Dunkel goes down nicely. Finally, the saison is a fairly straight forward representation of the style, with a refreshing fruity and spicy character. Overall, an exceptional menu.

A marvelous place to stop in St. Paul, I would highly recommend Lake Monster. As I’ve said before, I enjoy breweries that put together a strong theme.

Burning Brothers Brewing

What makes Burning Brothers special? One hyphenated word: Gluten-free. When one of the founders found out he had Celiac, he started exploring gluten-free beers. I honestly had not gone to a gluten-free brewery before, and although I have had some gluten-free beers in the past, I did not know what to expect. But I am incredibly glad we made a stop here! The tap room is straight forward and basic. A small bar in the corner takes up little space, with bar and table style seating taking up the remainder of the limited space. There’s a small window in one wall that looks into the actual brewery. Quotes about beer are written all over the wall opposite the bar, which is a unique feature.

There are some fun and interesting beers at Burning Brothers. My father and I agreed that Roasted, their coffee ale, was not only our favorite offering here, but one of the best coffee beers we have ever had. A fun fact from the website, Roasted took third place in a brewing competition, and they did not even tell them it was gluten-free! Besides Roasted, I also had Fused, Parched, and Raspberry. Fused, an Orange Blossom Honey Infused Pale Ale, is light and refreshing, and I got light hits of the honey. A lovely tart Lime Shandy, Parched was another tasty option. And I’m certain you can guess what Raspberry entailed.

Burning Brothers proves that you don’t need any gluten to make incredible beer. While the taproom is nothing out-of-this world, the beer is worth stopping by for. My only wish is that I could buy this beer here in Wisconsin!

Summit Brewing Co.

Summit is an original when it comes to Minnesota craft beer. Founded in 1986, Summit has been a mainstay in the Twin Cities, and has been at their current location since the late 90’s. A large facility located just off the Mississippi River, the taproom itself is an expansive room with high ceilings and many windows. With the long wood tables, it has a beer hall, or even cafeteria feel. There is also some outdoor seating along the side of the building, and a food truck was present when I visited.

Great Northern Porter is one of the staples at Summit, and has brought home multiple awards. A fairly easy drinker as porters go, this was probably my pick of the beers I sampled. Overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of Summit. There wasn’t anything that jumped out at me. The Maibock was straight forward, with a nice little spicy finish. I was expecting a slightly sweeter flavor from the Oatmeal Stout served on Nitro. For those who enjoy some bitterness, I have heard some good things about the True Brit IPA. As the name suggests, this is an English-style IPA brewed with a nice variety of hops, but a slight malt backbone is present. Of note: the taproom had FREE DONUTS!!

Even though it was personally not my favorite, I would still suggest stopping at Summit, as the history of the brewery is entwined in Minnesota craft beer lore. And as I always say, your palate is different than mine! That’s what makes craft beer so much fun!

Conclusion

These first four breweries we visited in the Twin Cities are diverse in size, atmosphere, and in the beers they brew. I really enjoyed my first run through of Minnesota breweries, and since the Twin Cities has a fairly expansive craft beer scene, there will be plenty of material to write about after future visits!

Next Article

We are going to hop back into Wisconsin, but let’s head north to Green Bay! As a die hard Packer fan, this city is hallowed ground to me, and it was a joy to visit several of its breweries. However, because I’ve only made it to 3 of the 6 Green Bay breweries, I’m going to throw in Sheboygan’s 3 Sheeps Brewing Company as well!

Current Brewery Count

59 breweries, 27 cities, 6 states

These numbers are current as of May 25th, 2017. For a live update on the count, follow my brewery adventures on Twitter: @brewerytravels.

Joel Geier

Joel Geier

Hi all! My name is Joel, and I LOVE traveling to craft breweries. My goal is to visit as many as possible as I tag along with my travel nurse wife. Follow @brewerytravels on Twitter for updates! I'll be posting articles discussing my adventures here!
Joel Geier

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