Minnesota might never have an answer to Vegas, but its racetracks and casinos are focusing on one thing that’s in short supply at most Sin City establishments: craft beer from across the great Midwest. We consulted with four major gaming establishments within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities and came back with some encouraging news about their craft beer offerings.
Mystic Lake Casino
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd.
Prior Lake, MN 55372
(952) 445-9000 / (800) 262-7799
Mystic Lake is about as close as you can get to Vegas without leaving the great state of Minnesota, so it’s no surprise that you can find a Sin City-sized lineup of restaurants, bars, and clubs here. But for beer drinkers, a couple sites stand out.
First, the Meadows Bar & Grille is an unpretentious fine dining establishment with an ample beer and wine list. The taps here are macro- and import-heavy but there are a few local craft faves on display, including Fulton Lonely Blonde, Summit Pale Ale and a rotating Summit seasonal. (Sam Adams and New Belgium each get a tap, too.) The craft bottle selection is spottier, with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale the sole entrant.
The Promenade Bar, which is open from 5pm to midnight on midweek evenings and 5pm to 2am on the weekends, is an even better bet for craft beer fans. It has six local taps available at all times, with signature flights offering a taste of each. Since its opening, the place has been so popular—and its taps forced to rotate so quickly—that it hasn’t even had time to publish a drink menu for distribution outside the casino. Any any given time, though, you’ll find local favorites from Surly, Lucid, Lift Bridge, Fulton and Indeed.
1785 Highway 210
P.O. Box 777
Carlton, MN 55718-0777
Phone: (218) 878-BEAR (2327) / 1-888-771-0777
Two hours in the car from the Twin Cities is a small price to pay for the unbridled party that is Black Bear Casino—and if you’re lucky enough to live in Duluth, well, you can practically walk there. But do you have to drink domestics as you dance, gamble or celebrate the night away?
Yes and no. On normal days, Black Bear Casino doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of craft beer offerings—Seven Fires Steakhouse may offer Minnesota stalwarts from Summit and Schell’s—but the casino does host the Twin Ports Brewfest, one of the largest non-music festivals in the northern half of Minnesota, every February. This year’s event drew most of the area’s breweries and brewpubs, including local (and The Growler) favorites like Fitger’s. One of the most popular entrants was little-known Thirsty Pagan, a Superior favorite whose brews don’t often make it down Twin Cities way. And the headlining musical act, Dropkick Murphys, put on a hell of a show—although attendees had to be bummed that the craft beer stands shut down early and the concert hall reverted to its everyday Bud-Miller-Coors lineup.
15201 Running Aces Blvd
Columbus, MN 55025
Phone: (651) 925-4600 / 877-RUN-ACES
Located just off Exit 129 on I-35, Running Aces Harness Park boasts a “cutting-edge Las Vegas style card room, with live summer harness racing, a full service restaurant and year round Simulcast wagering,” according to its website. Basically, it’s a hybrid casino-track, with plenty of options for dining and drinking. The card room hosts several tournaments throughout the year, and the place has plenty of space for conventions and banquets—wedding planners, take note. Running Aces hasn’t been around as long as some of its peers—it ran its first race in April 2008, and has been steadily expanding ever since—but it’s already made a name as the North Metro’s gaming destination.
This growth has come at a price for craft beer fans, though. “So far, we have next to nothing in terms of craft beer,” says Aaron Bedessem, Running Aces’ marketing director, citing Surly as the sole (but popular!) local option. The Winner’s Circle Restaurant & Lounge has only five tap lines, so there’s little room left over after the big boys have had their say. Keg storage is a challenge as well, given the restaurant/bar’s limited space. But Running Aces has thrown its own craft beer festival during the past three Aprils, sending Lucid home with the grand prize each time. (Can they four-peat? We’ll keep you updated.) Bedessem’s a big fan, partly because the beer fest attracts a younger crowd and partly because there aren’t that many watering holes in the far northern suburbs that trade heavily in craft brews.
Running Aces plans to step up its game in a big way, though. A planned restaurant/lounge expansion could add several tap lines over the medium term, bringing more full-time craft options to the table. By this fall, the lounge plans to add a “Gambler’s Tap” that features a (usually) local craft beer that rotates depending on availability and any deals Running Aces’ distributor might offer. Plans to up the selection of craft bottles and cans are also in the works, with storage as the main limiting factor. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, Running Aces has been mulling a tie-up with a contract brewer to produce house beers on a consistent basis. Talks have been ongoing, but there’s nothing concrete to report on this front yet.
1100 Canterbury Road
Shakopee, MN 55379
(952) 445-7223 / 1-800-340-6361
Across the metro, Canterbury Park has steadily built its craft beer selection over the past couple years. With this month’s opening of the Chalk Pub, these efforts kicked into overdrive. The establishment currently offers 12 craft taps, most of which are currently devoted to local brews, and about 20 craft bottles. The tap offerings should change on a regular basis, depending on supply and the whims of the pub’s managers, and the bottle selection may expand as more attendees learn that they don’t have to settle for macrobrews while placing their bets. The Chalk Pub will serve every live racing day, including the entirety of the 69-day racing meet that’s currently in progress. Hours are 6pm to close on Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to close on Saturdays and Sundays.
What’s on tap at the Chalk Pub? Selections include*:
- Summit Oatmeal Stout
- Alaskan Amber
- Odell IPA
- Lift Bridge Farm Girl
- Lucid Duo
- Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
*Subject to change
For bottles, there’s some overlap with the pub’s taps, but not much. It’s one of a handful of places in the Metro where you can find Mankato’s Ceres, and at least three gluten free options beckon at any given time. Other highlights: Surly’s Cynic and Bender pint cans, and 25.9 oz bombers of Goose Island Matilda.