1. Junkyard Brewing Company, Moorhead
Junkyard’s beer is brewed in small batches (it’s a nano-brewery) but the flavors are big and bold. Brothers Dan and Aaron Juhnke offer a rotating weekly selection of 10 (occasionally wildly) experimental offerings, from favorites like The Coal Miner’s Daughter (a roasty, rich Russian Imperial stout) to the beer nerd cult classic Free Candy, a Belgian style quadrupel ale. The buzzy taproom is the place to be in Moorhead (sister city to Fargo, ND) and live music and sidewalk stargazing (sometimes complete with telescope) kick things up a notch.
2. Third Street Brewhouse, Cold Spring
The bright and modern taproom, three year-round brews, and a rotating selection of specialty and seasonal beers draw beer fans to tiny Cold Spring, a community of just over 4,000 souls near St. Cloud. Try the malty Lost Trout Brown Ale or visit between November and March to sample Sugar Shack, a sweet, creamy stout made with maple syrup from Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum and Forest, located 12 miles down the road.
3. Brau Brothers Brewing Co. , Marshall
The crew at Brau Brothers believe in local ingredients so much, they raise 11 varieties of hops and grow and malt their own two-row barley near their southwestern Minnesota brewery. The comfortable, family-friendly taproom is open daily and offers a surprisingly comprehensive menu to compliment the rotating 12-beer selection. The silky, mellow MoosJoos Oatmeal Milk Stout is a bestseller but Bancreagie, a Sour Peated Ale, offers a slightly smoky change of pace.
4. Mankato Brewery, Mankato
The no-frills taproom offers six year-round beers and a handful of seasonal offerings. Try the Imperial Red Ale, with hints of raisin, caramel, and brown sugar or the crisp, hoppy knockout that is the Haymaker IPA.
5. August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm
This proud brewery has stood along the banks of the Cottonwood River for generations – the first brick was laid in 1860. German craft beer has been produced in this southern Minnesota community of just over 15,000 for almost as long. See the history at the Museum of Brewing, sample a Firebrick (a mild, malty Vienna-style amber), or try Schell’s Pils (a hop forward, European style pilsner).