After a recent visit to Minneapolis and drinking in the burgeoning craft beer scene around the city and state of Minnesota, I couldn’t help but note the similarities to Edmonton and Alberta which is also in the midst of a beer boom.

Historically, Minnesota breweries were not permitted to serve pints of their beers on site but thanks to the so called Surly Bill signed into law by Minnesota Governor mark Dayton in May, 2011 brewers may apply for a license to serve their own brews on site. The legislation was dubbed the Surly Bill as it allowed Surly Brewing Co. to serve pints at their proposed $30 million destination brewery located in the Minneapolis Prospect Park neighborhood which opened in December, 2014. The revamped rules however are not without their limits as I found microbreweries are not able to sell other brewers beers stifling the collaborative spirit shared among the craft beer community.

In  comparison, Alberta only granted a brewery license to those able to prove an ability to brew 500,000 liters of beer, a regulation which kept smaller micro-brewers on the sidelines until it was was scrapped December 3, 2013 leading to a landslide of new breweries throughout the province.

My self-guided Minneapolis craft brewery tour extended over two days and took me to eleven of the city’s best breweries.

Surly Brewing Co.

Surly Brewing Co.’s production facility doubles as a brewpub with restaurant and while out of Minneapolis’ downtown core is well worth the detour, especially on a warm Summer day as when I visited as the ground floor restaurant is open to the outdoor beer garden.

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The beer factory is a short walk from the Prospect Park stop on the Green Line  which connects Minneapolis’ downtown with the University of Minnesota and the twin city of St. Paul.  Visitors can buy a $5 unlimited metro pass which is huge value considering that individual one-way journeys are up to $2.50.

The craft beer menu offers something for everyone but the brew that built Surly is the Furious IPA, a strong  (6.7% ABV) amber coloured ale that blends American hops and Scottish malt to create an IPA unlike any other I’ve tried as it has a fuller favor with hints or caramel and citrus and without the sharp hoppy profile of most IPA’s.

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The super long bar is along one wall of the ground floor restaurant which serves hearty pub grub staples including burgers, BBQ and sandwiches while the second floor eatery serves only artisan pizzas.

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Visitors to Surly may join a free tour of the brewery which can be confirmed online and include a guided visit to the brewhouse, fermentation cellar, and packaging hall.  Free samples are included on an upper platform that looks down on the rolling canning line which cranks out 3500 cans per hour.

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Surly has expanded their distribution from the state of Minnesota to the upper Midwest and Canada so can’t wait to see Furious IPA at a local beer store one day soon.

Inbound Brew Co.

Located in the North Loop neighborhood in a former recycling warehouse, Inbound opens its doors in the warmer months to offer outdoor patio seating as well as German beer hall bench seating indoors. Popular with locals and their dogs, the craft brewery and taproom features a rotating food truck food schedule. Parked outside during my visit was the pink Market BBQ food truck.

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The vibe is super casual and local with small groups of friends hoisting a few after work and beyond myself wasn’t overrun with thirsty tourists. My Inbound beer of choice was their wheat ale as I’ve become partial to Kölsch and German style wheat beers.

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Fulton Beer

Claiming the title of Minnesota’s first legal taproom opened the taproom in 2012, Fulton Beer has produced some of Minnesota’s most popular beers with such saucy names as Sweet Child of Vine IPA, Worthy Adversary, Mama Bravo and my favorite The Lonely Blond.

The brewery is located in the heart of the Warehouse District near many of its fellow microbreweries making a self-guided pub crawl convenient.

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A shiny vintage 1969 Airstream camper was re-purposed as a food trailer offering solid pub grub including the classic Canadian poutine!

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I couldn’t resist a pint of the breweries signature Lonely Blonde, a mix of German hops and American wheat for a fine, balanced blonde ale.

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The Fulton patio is a perfect perch on a warm Summer evening to watch the world go by.

 

Clockwerks Brewing

Housed in Downtown Minneapolis century-old brick warehouse is Clockwerks Brewing, a microbrewery and taproom with a passion for session beers — beers containing  no more than 5 % ABV with a balance between malt and hops to create a clean finish  and high drinkability.

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I sampled the Clockwerk Orange, a very pale Belgian style witbier with hints of orange as well as pepper and cloves making for a solid Summer light beer.

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In the back corner of Clockwerks there’s an original City Billiards pool table, a tribute to the space’s previous tenant.

 

 

Eastlake Craft Brewery

I stumbled upon Eastlake Craft Brewery while visiting the Midtown Global Market , a vibrant internationally themed market with stalls selling food & crafts from around the world, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample one of their brews, Mendoza Line.

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Eastlake is surrounded by a multitude of diverse food stalls so whether you’re in the mood for a vegan Indurrito, a camel burger, sushi, pad thai, falafel, a cheese steak torta, or a custom slice of pizza you can bring it in to the taproom which occupies a corner of the former Sears & Roebuck Building, a historic registered 1928 local landmark.

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Freehouse Brewery

Freehouse is a breed apart from the other Minneapolis breweries I visited as it’s as much a restaurant as it is a fully functioning brewpub with food as central to its mission as the beer brewed onsite.

Also unique is that beyond it’s own core four beers –  a Kölsch style ale, an IPA, a brown ale and a stout – Freehouse serves up the local competition in the belief that the quality of the ingredients and care of their brewmaster will set their brews apart.

Unlike all taprooms I’ve encountered in Minneapolis or elsewhere, Freehouse opens it doors weekdays at 7 AM and 7:30 AM on weekends offering a cooked to order hearty breakfast with or without beer.

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The interior of Freehouse is wonderfully rustic with exposed brick walls and ceiling duct work as the landmarked 1911 Loose-Wiles Building was once home to the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company before a complete 2013 renovation and restoration.

 

Day Block Brewing Co.

Day Block Brewing takes it’s name from the historic 1883 Day Block Building it’s called home since 2014 and is one the few breweries in the downtown core offering food, beer and a full-service bar.

I tried a pint of Frank’s Red Ale and learned the name is a tribute to Frank’s Plumbing, which occupied the building for about forty years .

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Given it’s location almost in the shadow of the new U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, home games for the Minnesota Viking NFL team see the brewery fill to overflowing so visitors wanting to avoid a sea of football fans should consult the team’s schedule for home game dates.

Finnegans

One of the few Minneapolis breweries not built in a historic building, Finnegans Brew Co. moved into its downtown digs in March 2018 but has been on the local beer scene since its founding in 2000.

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What makes Finnegans unique is what it calls barstool philanthropy with all of the profits going to feeding the hungry through the Finnegans Community Fund which works with local food bank partners.

Finnegans has a large taproom indoors plus a back patio open in warmer weather and food is provided by the Tavola Kitchen, a full-service restaurant located next door.

Town Hall Brewery

Located at Seven Corners between the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis, Town Hall Brewery opened in a century old heritage building in 1997 at a time when only 20 breweries were operating in the state and has gone on to produce more Great American Beer Festival award-winning brews than any other Minnesota brewery,.

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Gluek’s Restaurant  & Bar

German Jewish immigrant Gottlieb Gluek established his first Minneapolis brewery in 1857, one year before Minnesota was declared a state so has a brewing lineage like few others. Its downtown Minneapolis brewpub has all the feel of a German beer hall with its dark wood, sturdy brick walls and historic company back & white photos displayed with pride.

I was about 20 minutes ahead of the normal 11 AM weekday opening time when Gluek’s Bar and Restaurant Owner Lee Holcomb took pity on me and invited me inside and poured  me a beer while he began his morning routine, one he’s likely been through many times having operated the bar since 1961!

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Gluek brews its beer at Fulton Brewing which ironically is under a mile from the site of its original northeast Minneapolis brewery.

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No visit to Minneapolis breweries would be complete without a stop at Gluek’s as it feels like a step back in time to at least the 1960’s.

Modist Brewing Co. 

In an industry replete with rule breakers and risk takers, Modist Brewing has plotted its own course to brew beers starting with  flavors rather than follow a prescribed pattern from traditional styles of beers.  This creativity is aided by the areas first mash filter which allows the use of any grain in any percentage while using a fraction of the water and energy of a traditional brewery.

The brewery has a bright, modern interior with itself is a departure from the raw, industrial spaces many smaller breweries embrace. I opted for a pint of the Supra Deluxe, a crisp Japanese style lager brewed with 40% rice.

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One other unique aspect of Modist as bartender James explained is the policy against offering patrons samples of its beers in the belief that little samples over a whole year add up to large amounts.