An Up Close and Personal Look at Southeastern Minnesota’s Beer Scene

By Ender Göçmen


Reads Landing Brewing Company’s Kottbusser German Ale 

Casting off on Lake Pepin 

The Mississippi River is kind of a big deal in Southeastern Minnesota— and for good reason. In Reads Landing, Minnesota, the Mississippi’s contribution is Lake Pepin. A short ten mile drive north from Reads Landing is Lake City, which offers the largest array of activities.

The outwash of Wisconsin’s Chippewa River basin in the Mississippi forms the twenty-mile long Lake Pepin, offering over eighty-five different species of game fish available all year round. Cast a line anywhere along the seven miles of shoreline or try one of the two designated trout streams. If fishing isn’t your bag, Lake Pepin offers excursions on sail boats, yachts, and paddle boats.

Then, of course, there’s the beer. You can find Reads Landing Brew Pub along the Mississippi River in a historic two-story storefront that showcases an unobstructed view of the river. Spend some time after your Lake Pepin excursion with a pint of their staple brew, Kottbusser German Ale.

Getting its name from the German town of Cottbus, Kottbusser ale is most relatable to a typical summer ale. Pouring with a dark gold, almost honey color, the ale settles with a medium, white creamy cap with little lacing.

It has a sweet malty aroma with a slight floral finish, thanks to a healthy dose of German Noble Hops. Bring this brew to your lips, and you’ll get quite the ballet of flavors on your palate. Malt flavors are up front, but it slowly turns bitter while finishing sweet thanks to the use of clover honey and molasses. Reads Landing currently has four hand-crafted brews on tap and a fully functioning kitchen. So sit down and enjoy the brew— or view.


Wenonah Brewing Company’s Nut Brown Ale

Exploring the Holzinger Lodge Trails, Winona, MN

Surrounded by breathtaking river bluffs and the long slow bends of the mighty Mississippi, Winona offers numerous forest trails and other outdoor activities. A great place to start is Holzinger Lodge, which features trails of gentle sloping hills that snake down the popular bluffs surrounding this historic island city.

For all-around outdoor activities, try Lake Park. This city park sits on the banks of Lake Winona and features a beach, rose garden, picnic sites, dock and boat fishing, a Frisbee golf course (nothing wrong with that at all!), and five miles of trails for walking and biking. Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards are available for to rent.

Head north from Lake Park and you’ll come across Wellington’s Pub & Grill, featuring brews from Wenonah Brewing Company. Established in 1996, Wenonah (original spelling of “Winona”) Brewing is Winona’s only brewery, producing around three hundred barrels a year and — making it a nanobrewery.

Nut Brown Ale, their flagship brew, is chestnut brown in color and clear—no haze here. The ale pours to a light tan, creamy, head with medium bubbles. Just before taking your first sip, you’ll inevitably pick up on an aroma dominated by malty and bready notes derived from the over five different malts used. The taste has a subtle sweet beginning, but it ends on a nutty note due to the roasted barley.

Related Post: Chasing the Beer Scene in Upper Michigan

Kinney Creek Brewery

Urban and Woodland Trails, Rochester, MN

One of the Rochester’s biggest weekly summer highlights is Thursdays on First and Third, a weekly outdoor market that takes place on Thursdays around the intersection of First & Third. The event runs every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. until August 29. It offers locals and tourists an outdoor market of city proportions with over one hundred art, craft, and food vendors, and with live entertainment during the evening hours.

If you’re looking for outdoor activities of the less “concrete” variety, take a short drive north of downtown to Quarry Hill Nature Center Center, where you can spend a day fishing, hiking dog-friendly trails, and checking out historic sandstone caves. If you’re really up for a challenge, a paved bike path links downtown to the nature center.

Whether you’re coming or going, Kinney Creek Brewery sits just miles north of downtown’s Thursdays on First and Third. Established in 2009, Kinney Creek Brewery is the first official brewery in Rochester since prohibition. They also feature a fully functional tap room, which makes it extremely easy to grab a pint of their Sunny Days White Ale. Bottled summer — sounds amazing!

Pulling a pint from one of the rails in the taproom, this summer ale is golden in color, settling with a light cap of fine bubbles. Orange citrus and honey aroma dominate this brew. These same notes, with a surprise appearance by coriander, carry over in taste. Finishing slightly sweet, this brew is crisp, clean, and refreshing.

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