My husband and I spent the first five years of our marriage living in Madison, Wisconsin before moving back to the Twin Cities. We loved it there. Wisconsin is known for many things: cheese, Packers football, and, my favorite, beer.
We were immersed in the craft beer world. Not only did we live near fabulous breweries, but each restaurant we frequented had beer lists that read more like chapter books, with double-digit amounts of local, craft beers on tap. I quickly moved on from the Bud Light of my college days and picked up on the difference between ales and lagers, appreciated the hoppiness of IPAs, and learned the correct way to pronounce “hefeweizen.”
While the craft beer movement has exploded throughout the country, we’re especially lucky in the Twin Cities. There are over 130 breweries in the state and most of them are located in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding suburbs. Local taprooms have even become a favorite hang-out for my husband, though he prefers not to drink himself. We love to check out new ones on date nights, bounce around a few with a group of friends, and sometimes we even bring our three kids along. Here are some of our Twin Cities favorites.
Able Seedhouse + Brewery
1121 Quincy St. NE, Minneapolis
Beer to try: Cosmic Fruit Pale Ale (light, easy to drink, goes with everything)
Able has a large taproom and a beautiful outdoor seating area. The Animales BBQ Company swings by Thursdays – Sundays (check website for times). Able also shares its outdoor area with Minnesota Nice Cream. Grab one of the most fabulous cones around for the kids and a pint for yourself (or a cone and a pint for yourself…YOLO) and enjoy.
Surly Brewing Co.
520 Malcolm Avenue SE, Minneapolis
Beer to try: Furious IPA (the beer that put them on the map)
Surly’s cavernous beer hall is great for families – or really groups of any size. Their amazing (and equally enormous) outdoor beer garden is the perfect spot for the kids to let off some steam – especially if you have to wait for a table, which is often the case. It’s worth the wait: the food is fantastic, the beer list is long, and they recently opened a pizza restaurant upstairs (known as Surly Pizza Upstairs so there is absolutely no confusion). Also, check out their events – they often host concerts, outdoor movies, and even screen many of the US Women’s soccer team games.
Dual Citizen Brewing Co.
725 Raymond Ave, St Paul
Beer to try: True North Pre-Prohibition Ale (a throwback recipe that’s smooth and sweet – it’s brewed without hops)
The Dual Citizen taproom is a fun spot that takes family-friendly a step further by hosting Tot Time every Sunday from noon – 2pm. The taproom basically converts to a large play space – feel free to play with their toys or bring your own! Meet up with other parents while you enjoy a pint and the kids take over the taproom. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Good for Groups
3055 Columbia Avenue NE Suite #102, Minneapolis
Beer to try: NE Nectar (a drinkable, full-bodied wheat beer)
56 has a spacious taproom with a large main floor and an upstairs loft-type area. They have lots of board games and old-school pinball machines upstairs so you can make a night of it. There’s also a nice patio area with a few lawn games – it’s not huge so get there early if you want a spot on these beautiful summer evenings! They often have food trucks and live music, and are constantly brewing new things.
Barrel Theory Brewing Co.
248 7th Street E, St Paul
Beer to try: Feelin’ Like a Saber-Tooth Tiger (a gose-style beer, which means it’s slightly sour and perfect for a hot summer day)
Barrel Theory is a place that just plain old brews great beer. They have a large taproom and a good variety of beers on tap. Located in the Lowertown neighborhood in St. Paul, they’re near several parks and the Saints’ CHS field. Bring in your own food or make a stop at Dark Horse Bar & Eatery right next door.
861 E Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis
Beer to try: Passion Champagne (champagne ale, fun and bubbly, created specifically for Pride this year)
Headflyer could just as easily be in the family-friendly section of this post. They have an area dedicated to kids with Lincoln Logs, LEGOs, coloring books, and more. The taproom is large and the outdoor space is inviting. Even when it’s busy, it doesn’t feel overwhelming, which makes it perfect for large groups. Monday they also have an all-day Happy Hour: $1 off all beers and 15% off pizza from their favorite local pizza places who will deliver right to the taproom – just ask the bartender who’s participating each week.
Don’t Forget Suburbia
Lakeville Brewing Co.
8790 Upper 208th Street W, Lakeville
Beer to try: Hashtag Grapefruit IPA (summery, slightly tart)
Lakeville Brewing Co. is another brewery that prides itself on being a family-friendly brewpub. They have a kid’s menu and also an outdoor space with lawn games and a playset. They even have a free Family Fun Day coming up on September 7th (food and drinks available for purchase)!
Alloy Brewing Co.
2700 Coon Rapids Boulevard NW, Coon Rapids
Beer to try: Erik’s Red Runner (their award-winning Irish Red Ale)
Alloy is a fun, hidden gem in Coon Rapids. They have a large taproom and host weekly events such as trivia on Thursday nights. Food trucks make an appearance most Thursday-Saturday nights. The owners saw the lack of breweries in the northern suburbs and decided to make Coon Rapids their home base instead of opening a taproom in St. Paul or Minneapolis – something this suburbanite especially appreciates!
Big Wood Brewery
2222 4th Street, White Bear Lake
Beer to try: Jack Savage (one of their original brews, smooth and light)
Big Wood is located right downtown in White Bear Lake. Big Wood’s taproom itself is a rustic, cozy space that kind of feels like your cabin up north, and they also have a small outdoor patio. Downtown White Bear Lake itself is a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon. Get a scoop at Cup and Cone and wander across Highway 61 to browse through the stores, check out the restaurants, and take a walk along the lake.
Fair State Brewing Cooperative
2506A Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis
Beer to try: Roselle (brewed with Hibiscus which gives it both its fruity flavor and its gorgeous red hue)
Fair State is one of my favorite breweries in the Twin Cities, so watch out for some bias here. Then again I’ve lost track of how many friends have told me, “I don’t like sour beers but I like their sour beers!” Fair State does specialize in sour beers and they manage to balance the sour without being tart or drowning out other flavors. While they don’t have a huge taproom, they do have a nice patio out back. There are also several fantastic restaurants in the neighborhood to order take-out from.
Sociable Cider Werks
1500 Fillmore Street NE, Minneapolis
Cider to try: Training Wheels (it’s a good transition from some of the sweeter ciders you might be used to)
Sociable is just a flat-out fun place. Unlike some of the hard ciders you might be used to, theirs are fresh-pressed and stay away from being overly sweet. This is a great place to try a flight to see what cider can really be.
Since I live in a northwest suburb, this list definitely skews Minneapolis and West-Suburb heavy. And I certainly didn’t get a chance to list all my favorites here! Add your own favorite breweries in the comments and tell us why you love them!