Thousands of homebrewers are gathering in Minneapolis June 15–17 for the 39th Annual National Homebrewers Conference, better known as Homebrew Con. The three-day conference will include a massive show floor, speakers, educational seminars, parties, and more. It’s also the site of the final round of judging for the National Homebrew Competition, which saw 7,962 entries from around the country in 2016.
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For many attendees, especially those from out of town, the conference is only the beginning of the fun. To make sure they can find the best of what the Twin Cities have to offer, The Growler put together this guide.
Before we get into our recommendations, visitors should first check out The Land of 10,000 Drinks, our statewide Minnesota brewery, winery, cidery, and distillery map. It’s mobile-friendly, searchable by location, filterable by various amenities, and an all-around great tool for finding a place to grab a drink straight from the source.
Homebrew Con’s location at the Minneapolis Convention Center is great starting point for hitting some of the Twin Cities’ best breweries, distilleries, restaurants, and attractions. We’ve broken them down below by neighborhoods that offer great geographic bang for your buck with stops within walking distance (or short Uber rides) from one another.
Lastly, a quick word about a couple Minnesota laws that pertain to alcohol that out-of-towners should be aware of if they’re looking to take home some liquid souvenirs.
- Most craft breweries and brewpubs can sell you pints, 64-ounce growlers, or 750-milliliter bottles or Crowlers from their taprooms.
- Larger breweries like Surly, Summit, and Fulton, however, can sell pints in their taproom, but are not allowed to sell off-sale products from their breweries.
- While the state legislature recently voted to lift Minnesota’s Prohibition-era ban on Sunday alcohol sales from liquor stores, the law change doesn’t go into effect until July 2, so conference attendees should make sure to get their shopping done before Sunday. (Craft breweries, however, can sell you beer to go on Sundays).
Where to drink, eat, and play
Distance from Convention Center: 15 minute drive (click here for a map and zoom in on the dark blue pin)
TLDR: High concentration of breweries, including some of the finest Minnesota has to offer
With the highest concentration of breweries in the state and a short distance from the Convention Center, consider Northeast Minneapolis a required stop. While there’s too many great breweries to mention all of them, some of our favorites include: Dangerous Man Brewing (making waves lately with their Blueberry and Boysenberry Milkshake IPAs, but their Peanut Butter Porter, Sour Delores series, and House IPA are longtime favorites); Fair State Brewing (perhaps best known for their sour beers, but don’t sleep on their Pahlay’Ahlay and Pilsner); Bauhaus Brew Labs (lager-focused brewery with a huge patio and one of coolest taprooms around); Indeed Brewing (great sours and a hop-forward beer lineup); and NorthGate Brewing (traditional English-inspired ales for those who crave the higher side of the SRM scale).
Some of our favorite places to grab a bite in Northeast Minneapolis are Young Joni (a reflection of a modern American kitchen with global-inspired dishes and wood fired pizza—tables fill up fast though so make a reservation); The Sheridan Room (scratch comfort food for brunch, lunch, and dinner and a selection of 100 canned beers); Northeast Social (farm-to-table contemporary American); Masu Sushi & Robata (top-notch sushi); 1029 Bar (dive bar with a decidedly non-dive bar menu from the attached Smack Shack—don’t miss the lobster roll and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese).
Distance from Convention Center: 11 minute drive (click here for a map and zoom in on the dark blue pin)
TLDR: Some of the Twin Cities’ best dining and four solid breweries within a couple blocks of one another
The four breweries that call the North Loop home are worth a visit, which is easy to do because they’re all just a short walk from each other: Fulton Brewing (their 300 IPA took the top spot in our blind tasting of 50+ Minnesota-made IPAs); Modist Brewing (one of only a handful of breweries in the country with a mash filter that allows them to brew beers with unique grain bills that would otherwise clog a more traditional mash tun); Inbound BrewCo (there’s a new beer every Friday at this industrial taproom); The Freehouse (“Breakfast to Beer” is the motto at this full-service brewpub).
A short drive from the North Loop is one of the founding members of the Twin Cities’ craft beer scene, Town Hall Brewery, known for producing high-quality beers across a range of styles and a barrel-aging program that’s got a good 10 years on most others around the country. While you’re in the area check out Republic, perpetually heralded as one of the best craft beer bars in the nation by Draft Mag just across the street (or stop and see them at the airport on your way out of town).
Some of the Twin Cities’ most popular restaurants call the North Loop home. Definitely call ahead for a reservation if you’re going to try for a meal at one of these: Bar LaGrassa (Italian with a great wine selection); Spoon and Stable (seasonal Midwestern fare from James Beard award-winning chef/owner Gavin Kaysen); and The Bachelor Farmer (Scandinavian-inspired food from chef Paul Berglund, 2016 winner of the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest, with the fabulous Marvel Bar in the basement). For more casual options try Black Sheep Pizza (coal-fired pizza) and Red Cow North Loop (great burgers, tap beer selection, and happy hour deals).
Explore the architectural wonder that is the Guthrie Theater (open to the public during regular hours, not just during performances) and walk across the Stone Arch Bridge for great views of the Mississippi River. Then take a step back into Minneapolis’ history as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World” by touring the ruins at the Mill City Museum.
St. Paul/Minneapolis “Industrial Brewing Area”
Distance from Convention Center: 12 minute drive (click here for a map and zoom in on the dark blue pin)
TLDR: Less walkable than the others but some true gems worth checking out
An unofficial brewing district has established itself in an industrial area that straddles St. Paul and Minneapolis. It’s home to: Surly Brewing (the state’s largest taproom, serving BBQ and other eats that pair well with their wide ranging beer selection); Urban Growler Brewing (the first all women-owned brewery in Minnesota whose Plow to Pint series incorporates local ingredients like honey, plums, and more); Bang Brewing (located a literal stone’s throw from Urban Growler, Bang is a 100-percent organic brewery); Black Stack Brewing (relatively new on the scene but getting noticed for their NEIPAs); Lake Monster Brewing (great patio and their Empty Rowboat IPA was runner-up in our blind tasting of Minnesota IPAs); and Burning Brothers Brewing (a completely gluten-free brewery).
Lastly, but surely not least, the Twin Cities’ perennial “best craft beer bar,” The Happy Gnome, is about a 10-minute drive further into St. Paul from this brewing district. They also have a full bar and a great, chef-inspired food menu. Explore more of what St. Paul has to offer on our Land of 10,000 Drinks Map or Visit St. Paul’s brewery directory.
Some spots that are worth a visit: Foxy Falafel (casual Mediterranean) and On’s Kitchen Thai Cuisine (don’t miss the stuffed chicken wings) are both good options for lunch and dinner. Keys Café & Bakery is a go-to for classic diner breakfast. Or jump down south of Highway 94 to visit Heirloom Kitchen & Bar (modern farmhouse cuisine) and Blue Door Pub (inventive riffs on the famed stuffed “jucy lucy” burger).
Hop on the Green Line to explore further into downtown St. Paul, check out the Witch’s Hat Tower in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park, and visit Can Can Wonderland for artist-designed mini golf and off-the-wall cocktails.
Distance from Convention Center: walkable, Convention Center borders this neighborhood (click here for a map and zoom in on the dark blue pin)
TLDR: Though relatively light on breweries, the neighborhood that borders the Convention Center is rich in great bars, restaurants, and things to do
The Belgian-inspired Lakes & Legends Brewing is the closest brewery to the Convention Center, followed by Rock Bottom Brewery (12-minute walk, brewpub with a full bar), and Sisyphus Brewing (20-minute walk, live stand-up comedy regularly). Nearby bars with great beer selections include The Bulldog, Butcher and the Boar (also known for their expansive bourbon list), and downtown Minneapolis’ original craft beer bar, Mackenzie. For a change of pace, grab a cocktail at Constantine.
For a bite to eat, check out the aforementioned Bulldog (casual American) and the backyard beer garden at Butcher and the Boar (brats and sandwiches), Mercy (steaks and seafood), Eli’s (“classy yet casual”), and 4 Bells (seafood). The Bird (American farm-to-table) is only open for breakfast but is a good place to lay down a base before you hit the convention.
Walk over to the newly renovated and reopened Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (home to one of Minneapolis’ photographed landmarks, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry” pictured above), explore the Walker Art Center, or stroll through Loring Park.
If it’s a road trip you’re craving, get in the car and head to one of these breweries in outstate Minnesota. To the north is Duluth, home to Bent Paddle Brewing, Fitger’s Brewhouse, and more, and northwest of there is Bemidji Brewing in Bemidji. To the south is New Ulm, home to the second oldest family-owned brewery in the country, August Schell Brewing, and their newly opened, sour-only taproom, the Starkeller, along with Rochester, home of Forager Brewery and more.
Where to buy beer souvenirs
One of the best parts of visiting a new city for beer connoisseurs is bringing home beer that’s not available in their hometown. As mentioned previously, most breweries can sell 64-ounce growlers and 750-milliliter bottles or Crowlers, but if you’re looking for a six-pack you’ll have it hit a liquor store.