Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota craft breweries, beyond the beer March 16, 2018

A logo on the F-Town taproom wall, which opens to a street-side patio of this Faribault brewery. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.


I NEVER THOUGHT I would enjoy beer like I do. But since the growth of Minnesota craft breweries, I’ve acquired a taste and appreciation for beers brewed locally.


The IPA I tried at Turtle Stack Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.


Call me a beer snob if you will. I even term myself as such. I prefer the hoppy flavor of an India pale ale. It took me awhile to get there. But these days if you offer me a mass-produced beer from some mega company, I’ll likely decline. I’d rather drink a glass of water, thank you.


Randy and I recently checked out Mankato Brewery in North Mankato. It’s a busy, and noisy, place.


I don’t pretend to be a beer expert. Nor do I drink a lot of beer. I’ll have one with my homemade pizza, a grilled dinner or occasionally with a meal out. And when I’m at a brewery, I’ll drink a single glass or share a flight with my husband. That’s about it.


This aged tower stands outside Lake Monster Brewing in St. Paul.


An artsy detail on the building next to Lake Monster.


If you prefer larger breweries and don’t have issues with hearing, you’ll enjoy breweries like Lake Monster (pictured here).


For me, craft breweries are about the experience, the setting, the atmosphere, as much as the beer. I appreciate comfortable seating, uniqueness, friendliness, good service and the ability to hear conversation. In addition to good beer.


Lake Monster Brewing is located in an old St. Paul warehouse area. The brewery offers a play space for kids.


Mankato Brewing is located in what look like machine sheds to this farm-raised girl.


Reads Landing Brewing Company in Reads Landing, Minnesota, is housed in an historic former dry goods store. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I’ve been in breweries housed in former garages, historic buildings, machine shed style new buildings, an old chapel, a re-purposed warehouse… Most recently, I visited one that provides a play area for children in an effort to draw young parents. I have mixed feelings about that.


I like the intimate setting of Chapel Brewing in Dundas. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2018.


In the dozen or so breweries I’ve patronized in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I’ve found the smaller ones more appealing. If a brewery is physically too large, I feel like I’m in a bar. I prefer a more intimate space with a sense of connectedness to the brewers. I want to come face-to-face with those who craft their beers, who hold a passion for sharing their brews.


A flight from F-Town. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I appreciate, too, when breweries connect with their local communities. F-Town Brewing in Faribault, for example, partners with River Bend Nature Center to create a maple beer using sap from the center’s trees. (River Bend is hosting a Free Maple Syrup Open House from 1 – 3 p.m. Saturday, March 17.) The brewery showcases the arts through local original artwork hung on taproom walls and by collaborating with the Paradise Center for the Arts to promote theatre productions.


Image from the Faribault Main Street Facebook page.


And on Saturday evening, March 24, F-Town and next-door 10,000 Drops Craft Distillers will host the 2018 Faribault Flannel Formal. The Formal features beer, live music, a Lumberjack Hot Dish Contest and prizes for the best-dressed Lumberjack and Lumberjane. The event benefits the Faribault Main Street Program.


The patio outside Imminent Brewing Company in Northfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Imminent Brewing over in Northfield also does more than simply serve beer. Last October the brewery hosted a beer poetry contest as part of the 2017 Northfield Poetry Festival. I participated by reading my original poem about beer. What a unique experience pairing beer and poetry.

Even if you don’t drink beer, you can still enjoy a brewery. Many offer non-alcoholic drinks, often focusing on local soft drinks, along with foods (often from food trucks), a stash of board games, music and just a kicked back place to relax and catch up with friends.


A flight at Turtle Stack Brewing in La Crosse. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.


One more thing: If you choose to drink beer at a brewery, do so responsibly.


© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


28 Responses to “Minnesota craft breweries, beyond the beer”

  1. Glad to see you are experiencing craft brews – loving your post 🙂 Craft breweries revitalize the community by restoring buildings, build partnerships within the community and give the community a sense of community aka a place to gather and socialize. Happy St. Pat’s tomorrow – Cheers!!!

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    Most recently, I visited one that provides a play area for children in an effort to draw young parents. I have mixed feelings about that.

    We need more of this. A good brewery is a public space. A “Pub”. It should be place where everyone is welcome and feels welcomed.

    In too many places, especially in the small town and big city neighborhood tradition, bars were watering holes where mostly men felt comfortable. Brew pubs are changing that.

    One could feel that when children are invited into a bar, it sets an example for drinking, which is undeniable, but it also sets the example of drinking responsibly.

    Two good examples of this are The Contented Cow pub in Northfield and my son’s distillery (insert shameless plug for Loon Liquors here) also in Northfield. In both The Cow and Loon Liquors, you will not find a television, instead there are large shelves full of board games where friends and family can sit down together and socialize as they play.

    • You make some good points. My concern was mostly for parents drinking too much, then strapping their toddlers into car seats and driving away. As long as people drink responsibly, I’m fine with kids accompanying them.

      Kudos to Loon Liquors banning TVs. That’s one of the reasons I dislike sports bars/restaurants. There’s one in particular in Northfield where I love the food and the great selection of craft beers. But there are televisions everywhere. Everywhere. I suppose in a sports bar you would expect them. I would be happy also if craft breweries banned TVs.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        My concern was mostly for parents drinking too much, then strapping their toddlers into car seats and driving away.

        That is the nightmare of every bar owner. Minnesota Dram Shop and Social Host statues are brutal, as they should be.

        Anytime, anyone sees an intoxicated person get behind the wheel, especially with children in the car, they should call 911.

        I hope people know that as a host, you are responsible for the actions of anyone leaving your house “who has had too much”.

        One of the things that is happening with brew pubs and craft distillers, is that they are creating a “vibe” in their establishments that is more community oriented than what was traditional. It discourages boisterous, aggressive and intoxicated behavior. Discourage is another word for getting ’86’est. 🙂

        I think I know the place you are talking about. Is it Fielder’s on Hwy 3?

        If it is, its a great place, great food, great beer but yeah, it’s a great place to watch a ball game – but you want to hear the person across the table…. Again, it’s the vibe.

      • Again, your assessment seems spot-on that these breweries and distilleries are creating a new vibe. And you’re spot on with call 911 if the need be.

        And, yes, you’re right on Fielder’s being the place that serves great food and beer, but fails with me in too many TVs and too noisy.

  3. My sister is a huge beer fan! Writing these breweries down for our next road trip – she would love to stop and explore these places!

  4. Lynne King Says:

    Very informative blog Audrey! I like beer, but usually drink it with food. I have occasionally gone out with friends and drank just the beer, but I generally have it with a snack or meal. Until your post, I had no idea what a “flight” was. That’s interesting. I have also not had any from local breweries. They are fairly new to my “neck of the woods”. We now have three in Grand Forks, so I need to try them out. I will try and seek out the more intimate ones, as I’ll need help choosing what to have! My family is Irish on my father’s side, so maybe tomorrow will be a day to try a craft brew! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours.

  5. jhc1218 Says:

    This is my shameless plug for Loon Liquors and Imminent Brewing, both in Northfield, for partnering with local farmer Little Hill Berry Farm. Great spirits, beer and berries! Also check out Tanzenwald Brewing. They serve up delicious food, as well delicious beers. I met some friends there a few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon and took my kids. They kept themselves occupied with root beer, food and cards.

    • Thanks for your first-hand account of experiencing these Northfield breweries and Loon Liquor. I’ve only been to Imminent but have the other two on my list of “must visit.” Thanks also for mentioning Little Hill Berry Farm.

  6. david wassink Says:

    bottoms up

  7. Valerie Says:

    I’m not a fan of beer but will take sips of my husbands and sometimes drink more of it than he wants me to. I think now he insists I get my own…so I’m acquiring a taste. I do like Imminent Brewery here in Northfield…I have not been to Loon Liquors yet…I will have to try it sometime.

    • I’m laughing at your comment about getting your own beer. When I first started drinking craft beer, I didn’t much like it either. Thus I believe it’s an acquired taste. Now I am an IPA beer drinker. I like the hoppy taste.

  8. Beth Ann Says:

    Not a beer drinker at all but appreciate the many different kinds that there are. We live in a major brewery area here and Sierra Nevada is the biggest brewery around here that brings in folks near and far for tours. We have yet to get there to tour but it is definitely on the list . I do like to see how the actual process works and have been on a couple brewery tours to date. So much to learn!

  9. Brenda R Says:

    I had a wonderful experience at a craft brewery in Virginia last summer while visiting our cousin Kari. We went to Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, VA. The building had large glass garage doors to let the sun in. The 8 of us sat at a picnic table and enjoyed our beer! While I don’t remember if they had TV’s, they did have board games and the thing I liked best was being allowed to bring your own snacks to eat with your beer! We shared veggies and dip, chips, & cheese and crackers while sampling their delicious beers! I don’t know if any southern MN breweries allow that, but think it’s a great idea!!

  10. Jackie Says:

    Rick and I recently enjoyed dinner at the Canal Park Brewery in Duluth. We are not beer drinkers but breweries often have the best food!

  11. threefrenchs Says:

    I hope to be enjoying some of the breweries when I’m in Minnesota in May.

    • That’s wonderful. What’s bringing you to Minnesota? If you have more questions about Minnesota, ask away.

      • threefrenchs Says:

        My wife and I, are working on visiting all 50 States, and we are both missing Minnesota. We have a Twins game on the schedule, along with some breweries. I will send you a message if we have any questions or need a suggestion. Thanks

      • Sounds good. I don’t pretend to know all that much about Minnesota breweries, or even beer. But I know which taprooms I personally like and which beers. You’ll likely hit metro breweries. Other than Lake Monster, I haven’t been to any in the Twin Cities.

        May will be a good month to visit Minnesota. We typically don’t have snow then, although we have had snowstorms in early May.

  12. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    You captured some interesting architecture in this post. I’m not a big beer drinker but I think that I’d enjoy getting out in a cozy setting.

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