Twin Cities Taproom Guide

We nursed a few hangovers to bring you the definitive Twin Cities taproom guide and best beers from 2015. Checkout the list below and let us know what you think.


Bang Brewing taproom, photo by TJ turner

612 Brew

It’s the quintessential NE Minneapolis brewpub: a groomed industrial aesthetic fitting like a fancy flannel shirt, plus a bustling patio and ubiquitous food trucks. The beers have personality; the citrusy Unrated Rye IPA and the crisp Gateway Park Lager are favorites. There’s no better match of brew and location than the Six pale ale on a sunny, lazy afternoon under one of 612’s patio umbrellas. • 612brew.com

Bang Brewing

This small brewery’s digs—a prefab metal grain bin with little signage—looks rather agricultural for industrial St. Paul. Bang focuses on a limited line of clean and distinct brews created with organic hops and a casual house-party (or machine-shed-party?) atmosphere that sees multi-generational gatherings on folded chairs and a convivial patio scene that feels like a revelation each time out. • bangbrewing.com  


Bauhaus Brew Labs, photo by jeremy nelson

Bauhaus Brew Labs  

Visions of revived old northeast Minneapolis industrial architecture mingle with a cheerful today at Bauhaus, a party spot so welcoming that we once accidentally joined ex-mayor R.T. Rybak with family and (many) friends celebrating the anniversary of his surviving a heart attack. The beers emphasize bright flavors, especially the fiendishly drinkable Wonderstuff pilsner. • bauhausbrewlabs.com

Bent Brewstillery

This Roseville space doubles down on the requisite industrial vibe. Nestled in an industrial park with a view of a work floor that suggests Dr. Frankenstein took a sudden interest in macrobrewing, it’s actually a welcoming taproom that serves a bright Nordic Blonde amber ale as well as rotating experiments that delve into, for instance, honey wine and sour beers that aren’t for every palate—but won’t be found elsewhere. • bentbrewstillery.com

Boom Island Brewing  

This hole-in-the-wall taproom pretty much epitomizes a lack of pretentiousness, though its location just blocks from downtown Minneapolis on Washington Ave. leaves it well situated for some trendy North Loop takeout washed down by a slate of brews with a major Belgian influence (long story short: less traditional than German beer). Highlights include the bright blond Witness, brash Thoprock IPA, and the dark, malty Hoodoo Dubbel. • boomislandbrewing.com

Burning Brothers Brewing  

The unassuming Burning Brothers tap room in St. Paul belies its distinction as the Cities’ only gluten-free brewery (one of its founders, after being diagnosed with Celiac disease, applied his already-existing brewing knowledge to the challenge). The result is a series of brews—including the Pyro American pale ale and Fused Orange Blossom Honey—that touch lighter on the palate while still delivering distinct flavors and a legitimate beery kick. An absolute can’t-miss for the gluten-free suds lover. • burnbrosbrew.com

Dangerous Man Brewing Company  

It’s often a strollers-and-chess-boards oasis on weekdays, and just as often a rocking scene on weekend nights with those seeking Northeast’s rough-edged glamour lining up out the door with Anchor Fish and Chips bags threatening to leak grease on their Carhartt jackets and vintage sport coats. With rustic décor in wood, metal, and glass, it’s one of the more handsome taprooms on either side of the river, and a small-batch brewing strategy ensures constant variety and change—the Chocolate Milk Stout is thick and creamy goodness. • dangerousmanbrewing.com

Day Block Brewing Company  

Day Block’s sunlit, easygoing Downtown East location has it primed for thirsty Vikings crowds starting in 2016. Its kitchen offers salads, sandwiches, and handmade pizzas in addition to the main event: a fine slate of beers including the refreshing English-style Extraordinary Bitter and a Belgian Triple IPA that cozies up before delivering a powerful hoppy wallop. • dayblockbrewing.com

Eastlake Brewery

Who needs a food truck when you have the riches of the Midtown Global Market (Burrito? Burger? Banh mi? It’s almost cruel to pick just one). It’s roomy, with a multigenerational vibe (babies in car seats, Millennials and their parents imbibing elbow to elbow). Taps include the hoppy Belgian Devil’s Kettle, Blueliner pale ale, and Slop City rye stout—you can also order half-beer, half-kombucha for maximum internal fermentation. • eastlakemgm.com

Fair State Brewing Cooperative

A co-op model of member ownership seems to generate Fair State’s genial vibe, which draws families, intergenerational scenesters, and those looking to wash down burritos from El Taco Riendo half a block down on Central Ave. It’s home to one of the Cities’ signature IPAs as well as sophisticated rotators Schwarzbier (German black lager) and a Saison, Czech pilsner, or smoked lager depending on the brewer’s muse. • fairstate.coop

Fulton

The first taproom to open in the Twin Cities is home to a brewery with products that have become stalwarts in local bars and eateries: the fine-tuned IPA Sweet Child of Vine and I’ll-have-another Lonely Blonde. Seasonals and the experimental Garage series add intrigue. Inside it’s pretty much industrial chic without the chic, but it has the advantage of being astonishingly well situated in the shadow of Target Field (where, of course, a beer costs a bit more). • fultonbeer.com

Harriet Brewing

A chockablock slate of bands, readings, DJs, and solo singers keeps the taproom hopping, and on a rainy afternoon you can almost imagine yourself in a little California town in the shadow of the Great Redwoods. The beers tend toward hearty ales and light German lagers, but there are also offerings as far afield as the 1960s-inspired iconography that permeates the place like visions from Jerry Garcia’s sketchbooks. • harrietbrewing.com


INDEED BREWING, photo by allen brisson-smith/sidecar

Indeed Brewing

Indeed laid a brick-solid foundation for its highly respected reputation with Day Tripper pale ale—available by the sixpack in liquor stores, its lysergic steampunk iconography and sheer drinkability have made it ubiquitous in local beer-mavens’ fridges. Indeed’s seasonals have also made their case for indispensability (Shenanigans Summer Ale is now a benchmark flavor for the state’s best season), and its Northeast Minneapolis taproom is a wood-and-brick happy place. • indeedbrewing.com

Insight Brewing

Spacious East Hennepin digs and multi-genre year-round beers make Insight a regular stop for those who know what “hitting target gravity” means (hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with astronauts). The Yuzu Pale Ale is a revelation, made with a Japanese fruit that gives it a citrusy drinkability; the Saison De Blanc is light and complex; and the British-style Chiswick Porter is chocolaty and dark. • insightbrewing.com

Lift Bridge Brewing  

Lift Bridge invaded Stillwater’s wine country with a wide-ranging lineup of brews. Its tap rotates among its signature Farm Girl Saison to its cheekily named Minnesota Tan, to its malty-sweet State Fair specialty, Mini Donut Beer. • liftbridgebrewery.com

LynLake Brewery

Those of us who remember the cramped flea-market ambience of Uptown’s former Theater Antiques will gasp with surprise on the first visit to LynLake: The building has been stripped to the brick, a gorgeous cavernous urban oasis. The Take 6 IPA is a flagship, along with an intriguing Rubbish Oat Amber Ale with a taste of sweet caramel. • lynlakebrewery.com

Northgate Brewing  

Northgate’s beers have been available on tap throughout the Twin Cities since 2013, and its less-than-a-year-old taproom is one of the most homey and unassuming (until the bros get going on the foosball table). The Parapet English bitter pale ale is downright refreshing, and the Maggie’s Leap sweet stout feels like a meal in a mug. • northgatebrew.com

Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub

It’s easy to forget that Northbound has only been in operation since 2012, ensconced on its corner on 38th St. just west of Hiawatha in south Minneapolis like a cozy long-lived institution. The beer slate is composed of seasonal rotators with year-round standbys such as the strong-hop Big Jim IPA, slightly less bitter Light Rail Pale Ale, and heavier Smokehouse Porter. • northboundbrewpub.com

Sisyphus Brewing  

Tucked between the Basilica and Dunwoody in understated upscale digs (even the shuffleboard tables look handcrafted), Sisyphus takes inspiration from the mythological rock-pusher who never quite crested the hill—and who surely could have used a beer. The Steam Beer is crisp and citrusy, and the West Coast IPA is strong and bold; as a recent start-up, they’re brewing small batches and rotating brews regularly. • sisyphusbrewing.com

Sociable Cider Werks  

Sociable’s bikes-and-facial-hair aesthetic and Northeast industrial chic make it a close sibling to the prototypical taproom, plus they also brew beer onsite: Usually some variation of the IPA/stout stalwarts is on tap in addition to hard ciders based on different apple varieties, and in some cases even including hops. A beer/cider combo flight is a solid strategy for the indecisive. • sociablecider.com


Bang Brewing, photo by tj turner

Steel Toe Brewing

Though its tap room isn’t much to look at (it’s tucked into in a St. Louis Park industrial park), Steel Toe offers a perfectly situated pit-stop for those recreating on the Southwest Trail, which follows the rail line along Highway 7 between Minneapolis and Hopkins. Fuel up with food-truck fare and a pint or a flight, and don’t miss their signature IPA, the Size 7, or you’ll want to kick yourself. • steeltoebrewing.com

Summit Brewing

One of the big players in the Minnesota beer scene since the 1980s, the Summit Beer Hall opens on Friday and Saturday nights—and in warm weather, its dog-friendly, food-truck-available bluff-side patio is a relaxing gem and the perfect spot to grab a Saga IPA or a Summer Ale (for $7, you get a pint and get to keep the glass). • summitbrewing.com

Tin Whiskers Brewing Company  

In a spacious, glass-walled space in the zone between St. Paul’s downtown and Lowertown, Tin Whiskers feels like an industrial urban hideaway—albeit one in close proximity to a number of restaurants (Sawatdee and Black Sheep Pizza among them) who will deliver to your table while you sip an easygoing Ampere amber, Flip Switch pale ale, or the deep and chocolaty Short Circuit Stout. • twbrewing.com

Town Hall Tap

The young cousin to the stalwart Town Hall Brewery in Seven Corners, this Chicago Ave. iteration in south Minneapolis doubles as a casual sit-down restaurant with burgers and brunch. The Hope and King Scotch Ale is the flagship (and multiple award winner); it’s malty and goes easy on the hops, also true of the Parkway Java Porter. The Masala Mama IPA kick in bite for hops aficionados. • townhalltap.com

Urban Growler

Its welcoming, high-ceilinged space might inspire historical equestrian flashbacks—the building was once a horse stable for the City of St. Paul—but Urban Growler is also distinguished by its kitchen (with solid sandwiches and an inspired spinach-and-artichoke dip) and its status as the first (for now) all-female owned brewpub. The complex Big Boot Rye IPA is a hard hitter, while the CowBell Cream Ale is a summery point-of-entry craft brew. • urbangrowlerbrewing.com


photo by terry brennan

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Quinton Skinner
Quinton Skinner is a writer and editor based in the Twin Cities. A former senior editor of Minnesota Monthly, he held the same post at Twin Cities METRO and 
has written for major national and local publications. He is the co-founder of Logosphere Storysmiths and author of several novels, including his latest, Odd One Out.