Minnesota's Best Beer & Wine

Minnesota’s Best Wine and Beer

Alexis Bailly’s Voyageur showcases the U of M’s breakout Frontenac grape, a smooth, full-bodied blend that balances dark berry flavor with a savory smokiness.
Surly Furious ignited the local thirst for hop-heavy brews, with its heady, sweet grapefruit aroma and ultra-bitter bite.

Beer

Twin Cities Taprooms

Fulton Beer
Fulton was the first Minneapolis brewery to open a taproom after the passage of the Surly Bill, and its North Loop location makes it a favorite of Twins fans. The utilitarian space keeps the focus on the beer: the hoppy-but-easy-drinking Sweet Child of Vine and crisp, light Lonely Blonde are consistent winners. 414 Sixth Ave. N., Mpls., 612-333-3208, fultonbeer.com

Harriet Brewing
A full slate of entertainment makes Harriet as much event space as taproom, offering foosball, to hammerschlagen, to live music. It’s an offbeat space with a quirky vibe, specializing in Belgian-style brews considered as much of an art form as the psychedelic paintings on the walls. 3036 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-315-4633, harrietbrewing.com

Lift Bridge Brewing
Lift Bridge invaded Stillwater’s wine country with a widely ranging line of brews. Its tap room rotates among the offerings, from its signature Farm Girl Saison, to it’s cheekily named Minnesota Tan and Hop Dish IPA, to an inventive limited-release lineup that includes the Harvestor Fresh Hop Ale, Commander Barleywine, and malty-sweet Mini Donut Beer. 1900 Tower Dr., Stillwater, 888-430-2337, liftbridgebrewery.com

Indeed Brewing Co.
Indeed’s taproom—a cozy, brick-lined space with a pretty wood bar—is a can’t-miss stop along any investigation of northeast Minneapolis’s booming beer scene. Favorite brews include the signature Day Tripper Ale and seasonals such as summer’s Shenanigans and winter’s Stir Crazy. But get there extra early during Art-A-Whirl or you’ll wait hours for a seat on the patio. 711 15th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-843-5090, indeedbrewing.com

612 Brew
At 612 Brew, rotating taps offer tremendous variety, including the Rated R, a citrusy, hoppy brew in the tradition of a Surly Furious, and the malty Devil in Plaid Scotch ale. The taproom itself is easy on the eyes, with big steel fermenting tanks as a backdrop to polished wood, which lends a feeling of being nestled in a secret urban nook. Outside seating offered in warm weather, too. 945 NE Broadway St., Mpls., 612-217-0437, 612brew.com

Dangerous Man Brewing
The small-batch taps and housemade sodas at Dangerous Man make for a pleasing mix of family-friendly and see-and-be-seen, frequently packed to the rafters. Anchor Fish & Chips and Element Pizza are steps away if you’d like to pair takeout with a pint.  1300 NE Second St., Mpls., 612-236-4087, dangerousmanbrewing.com

Sociable Cider Werks  

It’s fresh, fizzy, and cheeky—cider with depth and personality lends Sociable a unique cachet, not to mention environs that could probably best be described as homey industrial (a paradox, yes, but an apt one). Mixed flights of ciders and small-batch beers lend appealing variety. 1500 Fillmore St. NE, Mpls., 612-758-0105, sociablecider.com

Summit Brewing
Summit laid the groundwork for the state’s craft-brew boom back in the 1980s and its year-old Beer Hall & Taproom (open on Friday and Saturday nights) fills up quickly. With long picnic-bench seating inside; umbrella-topped tables outside on the patio. Of course you can always order the iconic Summit EPA, but they also pour seasonals and specialty cask ales. 910 Montreal Circle, St. Paul, 651-265-7800, summitbrewing.com

Surly Brewing
Until its enormous new brewery and taproom opens this year, Surly’s iconic, hyper-hopped Furious and many more year-round, seasonal and specialty beers will be available on tap at its original out-of-the-way industrial park brewery. 4811 Dusharme Dr., Brooklyn Center, 763-535-3330, surlybrewing.com

 

Minnesota Wineries

Alexis Bailly Vineyard
Founded in 1973, Alexis Bailly Vineyard is Minnesota’s original vintner. The winery is best known for its fortified wines—the raisiny, port-like Hastings Reserve and an orange-and spice-infused Ratafia—but it also makes some of Minnesota’s best dry reds, including the signature Voyageur. The beautiful grounds feature outdoor seating, bocce ball courts, and a sculpture garden. 18200 Kirby Ave. S., Hastings, 651-437-1413, abvwines.com

Cannon River Winery
Cannon River Winery is housed inside a renovated Chevy dealership downtown, and as the heady scent of fermenting grapes might suggest, it’s one of the few places where winemaking occurs in the very same room where visitors taste the finished product. The sweet, fruity Sogn Blanc, made from 100% Edelweiss grapes (one of the oldest U of M–developed hybrids) grown on Cannon River’s nearby vineyard, is among the best Minnesota-grown whites in the state. 421 Mill St. W., Cannon Falls, 507-263-7400, cannonriverwinery.com

Carlos Creek Winery
Sweeping the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience awards in 2013, Carlos Creek received titles for best Minnesota wines—both red and white. The vineyard not only includes grape vines but also apple trees grown exclusively for fruit-wine production. The Annual Grape Stomp and Fall Festival is a three-day extravaganza that brings craft and food vendors, live music, and a (messily hilarious) barefoot grape-crushing competition to the vineyard. 6693 Cty. Rd. 34 NW, Alexandria, 320-846-5443, carloscreekwinery.com

Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery
Newcomer Chankaska boasts one of the state’s grandest and most beautiful tasting rooms. The name is derived from a Dakota word meaning “enclosed by the forest,” which aptly describes the 25-acre grounds. Select your favorite blend—Marquette Reserve and Creekside Red are recommended—and pair with a wood-fired pizza or antipasto from the tasting room or enjoy on the adjacent tasting patio. 1179 E. Pearl St., Kasota, 507-931-0089, chankaskawines.com

Morgan Creek Winery
Operating in Minnesota’s oom-pa-pa country, Morgan Creek’s specialty is German-style Gewurztraminer. It’s also the state’s only winery with its production facilities, tasting room, and cellar located underground. Outside, there’s a pretty patio, flower gardens, and acres of vines.  23707 478th Ave., New Ulm, 507-947-3547, morgancreekvineyards.com

Northern Vineyards Winery
Northern Vineyards is among the best places to experience the breadth of Minnesota terroir. The tasting room pours more than 20 wines, most of which are made exclusively with local grapes, including St. Pepin, Edelweiss, and LaCrosse. Frontenac grapes make a lovely port-like dessert wine called Ruby Minnesota, which has a deep, concentrated dark-cherry flavor. An elevated deck overlooks the St. Croix River. 223 N. Main St., Stillwater, 651-430-1032, northernvineyards.com

Saint Croix Vineyards
With its tasting room housed in a century-old barn, Saint Croix Vineyards is not only one of Minnesota’s more charming wineries but also among its most decorated—it’s been a six-time honoree at the International Cold Climate Wine Competition over the past 4 years. Co-owner Peter Hemstad spent more than 20 years breeding grapes at the U of M, and his vineyards continue to be a test site for new hybrids and obscure varietals. Try the rosé made with Frontenac grapes. 6428 Manning Ave. N., Stillwater, 651-430-3310, scvwines.com

 

Expert Picks

Dustin Harkins, France 44 Wines & Spirits
One super-unique style of wine comes from Jura, France. I like the Jean-François Bourdy wine made with Chardonnay grapes. The wine is partially oxidized; they don’t top-fill the barrels, so the oxygen interacts with the wine and gives it this very rustic, dry citrus nuance.

Jim Sebring, Blue Max Liquors
Everyone looks at amber beer and says, “That’s Bud Light with food coloring in it,” but there are some really good ambers out there. The one I really recommend is Dark Horse amber out of Michigan. It has a lot of burnt caramel flavor to it and a substantial flavor profile.

Tom Boland, Elevated Beer Wine and Spirits 
The overall trend right now is for big, brash beers. But a really well-done pilsner is impressive because there’s less opportunity to cover up a mistake; you don’t have a pound of hops obscuring the malt profile. One we’re excited about is the Venture Pils from Bent Paddle Brewing of Duluth.

Chuck Kanski, Solo Vino
No red wine pairs with food like Rioja. The 2012 Viña Herminia is from an emerging region. Fresh fruit, nice acid—no tannins and tremendous with any kind of food. 

Russell Fay, Cork Dork
Gamay is an under-appreciated grapeMommessin produced a 2010 Saint-Amour Les Pechers from Beaujolais that’s a beautifully well-balanced wine. It can compete with Burgundy or Pinot Noirs, but at half the price.

Mark Sobolik, Wine Thief & Ale Jail
I’m a really big fan of smoked beers. People assume they’re going to be, like, campfire thick, but if done correctly, there’s a little more nuance to it. There’s a brewery called HammerHeart in Lino Lakes that’s making top-notch smoked beer and their Surtr’s Flame IPA is outstanding.

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