The Great Lakes region has long been a major player for American beers, but Minneapolis is quickly gaining prominence as one of the best places in the United States to find a great, small-batch brew. While a hard-line definition of what a craft beer is or isn't is still pending, several Twin Cities breweries are staking a claim in the increasingly crowded market—and eateries are, well, eating it up. From brewpubs to beer halls, more and more restaurants are choosing to fill their taps with only small-batch, locally brewed beers. If you're looking to sample the best of what area breweries have to offer, start by scoping out one of these great Minneapolis-based hot spots.
While other brewpubs might stick to serving their particular brand of brews, the Freehouse isn't quite so exclusive. This brewpub, located in Minneapolis' warehouse district, offers a selection of competitors' beers alongside its own, including local, national and international brands.
Diversity appears to be a primary theme at the Freehouse. In addition to the standard bottles, cans and pours, you can also order one of their unique beer cocktails like the Bearcat, a citrus-and-tequila concoction mixed with an IPA. Its food menu also spans the culinary spectrum, from oysters to banh mi to fish 'n' chips—oh, and breakfast is served all day, ensuring that there really is something for everyone here.
Pro tip: Street parking is available along Washington Avenue and surrounding side streets, but it’s often hit or miss. Instead, opt for the valet, which is complimentary with a minimum purchase.
Since selling its first kegs in 2006, Surly has become a sort of poster child for the Minneapolis craft beer scene. Known for its hop-heavy beers and charitable support of local organizations, this brewing company has earned itself a devoted—and widespread—following throughout the metro area. In fact, it’s hard to find a bar in the Twin Cities that doesn’t serve its craft brews. Surly was also integral in helping to pass its namesake “Surly Bill” into law, essentially undoing Prohibition-era restrictions forbidding breweries from serving their own beers on site and paving the way for their brewery/beer hall in Prospect Park.
The destination brewery has a rotating selection of two dozen Surly beers on tap, as well as a full food menu that’s designed to pair well with a pint. The brews are over-the-top bold with some pretty daring combinations, such as the popular coffee-blended brown ale Coffee Bender, and its tropical Xtra Citra. Despite the clearly beer-centered atmosphere of its Prospect Park location, the space is surprisingly family-friendly. In addition to the kids menu and coloring page, the brewery has event spaces available for weddings and other special events, and opens its doors to local non-profit organizations every Monday.
Built in 1883, the building has housed several different businesses, including a hospital, undertaker and Frank’s Plumbing Supply—that last one being the inspiration for the brewery’s Frank’s Red Ale. The brews are made with local ingredients, sourcing as close to home as the southern suburb of Shakopee, and freshness is clearly a priority. While bolder brews are available, the most popular seem to be its middle-of-the-road flavors like Frank’s, but there’s always something new to try. The restaurant and bar frequently changes out what flavors are on tap, and every month the brewery partners with a local band to create a unique beer that fits the band’s style.
If all the sipping makes you peckish, chow down on one of Day Block’s popular thin-crust pizzas. The made-from-scratch signature pies come in an interesting assortment of flavor profiles that pull from other culinary genres, like Korean beef brisket, Mexican carnitas and Carolina barbecue.
Pro tip: Swing by for happy hour throughout the week to enjoy discounts on pints, cocktails, and small bites. From 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can snag $5 pints or $3 tulips, with more specials happening late-night Thursday and all-day Sunday.
The Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery has long been a pioneer in the city's craft beer community. It was one of the first breweries in the country to try aging beer in a barrel, and boasts more than its fair share of awards.
The brewery offers a wide variety of its own brews, as well some guest beers and cocktails. And while its hoppy Masala Mala IPA and bold Hope & King Scotch Ale are among their most popular signature beers, the seasonal flavors shouldn't be overlooked. The Three Hour Tour, for example, is an English-style milk stout aged on flaked coconut that's as sweet as it is smooth.
Everything is served in a hyper-relaxed atmosphere with standard pub fare. Menu options include beloved Minnesotan classics like beer-battered walleye filet, beer cheese soup, and cheese curds, with many dishes featuring suggested beer pairings. For dessert be sure to try the root beer float, which combines house-made root beer with a big scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream.
This low-key bar in southwest Minneapolis is modeled after a traditional English pub. Wood paneling lines the walls, and coat hooks stick out from poles beside every comfy booth. But while the decor might have a British flare, the beers are decidedly local. The beverage menu features a range of brews from across the Great Lakes region, with most hailing from the Twin Cities area.
That commitment to local suppliers extends to its food menu, too. Primarily a restaurant, dishes are prepared using all-natural and organic ingredients from local, family-run businesses. And while some deep-fried bar food is certainly available, there are some healthy options to choose from, too.
Of particular note is the kids menu. Instead of the standard chicken strips or mac and cheese options common for children at pubs, the kids menu here offers several adult menu items—like the bangers and mash—in kids-sized portions. Toys and books are also available to help keep kiddos entertained while they wait for their food to be brought out and so you can savor your pint—responsibly, of course.