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TDG Off Topic: The second annual top 10 breweries list

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The second annual super subjective list of the top 10 breweries in Minnesota

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A year ago I did a list of the top 10 breweries in Minnesota (along with best breweries in surrounding states and best brewery venues). Considering we are in a time of no sports (and more drinking), I felt like updating my list. After a year of additional research and seeing how breweries are changing, below is my NEW list of the top 10 breweries in the state.

We are in a very odd time where many people, for good reason, are uncomfortable going out in public. You are seeing some breweries who are slowly opening up their taprooms again while some are not ready yet. But one thing is certain, every one of them is offering their beer to-go. Do you love beer? Do you enjoy local breweries? Then get your butt online to order from your favorite brewery.

On to the 2020 list. Please keep in mind that this list is highly subjective. I am eager for the debate and your lists to be discussed in the comments. Your lists will all be wrong and mine is right, but I’m here for the discourse

10 - LTD

URL: http://ltdbrewing.com/
Address: 8 8th Ave N, Hopkins, MN

I said it a year ago and I’ll say it again, LTD is sneaky good. Every time that I’ve walked into LTD, I have loved their variety on the menu.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently open along with to-go options.

Beer Recs: In the summer their Patio Crusher series and Patio Slammers are fantastic choices. Often a number of fruited beers on tap that are not overly sweet.

9 - 56 Brewing

URL: https://56brewing.com/
Address: 3055 Columbia Ave NE, Minneapolis

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**EDITOR’S NOTE: Essentially at the same time as publishing this list, 56 Brewing has been involved in a pretty serious racial allegation against one of the owners and head brewer. This list was put together without knowledge of these accusations and we are not supportive of places of business where ignorant actions like this are occurring.

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Typically fewer options available on the menu (than LTD) but their beers are all very good. 56 tends to do a lot of fun things with their taproom. Last summer they had a patio concert series, they have a big event room just off the normal tap room where they have done concerts and private events. They have had “date night” options where for a good price you get 2 pours and 2 items from that evening’s food truck.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently open along with to-go options.

Beer Recs: I am a big fan of their current anniversary IPA called Big 5. They also have a cherry lime sour coming soon, sounds like a good summer beer.

8 - Modist

URL: https://modistbrewing.com/
Address: 505 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

A new entry into the top 10 as I had Modist in the Honorable Mention category in 2019. Mostly I feel like Modist did more in the past year, trying new things that turned out well. Looking at their current taplist there are 3 or 4 things I have not had from Modist, all that I WANT to try. More than just Dream Yard and the Shook series. Earlier this year they had a fantastic ice cream barleywine.

Modist makes great stuff and is a brewery that is very much community minded. The ideal brewery to hit up right before you go to a Twins game.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently open along with to-go options.

Beer Recs: Fruited Farm is what I’d try if I walked in today. Any of the Shook series is worth it.

7 - Dangerous Man

URL: https://dangerousmanbrewing.com
Address: 1300 2nd St NE, Minneapolis

The venue is one of the best in the state, Dangerous Man is one of my favorite places to grab a beer (when we can do that sort of thing). The beer is sometimes REALLY good and sometimes they miss the mark. More consistency and making a really good IPA would see DM shoot up my personal list. This year they dropped from 6th to 7th for me.

I find myself making special trips to DM for releases on a regular basis. Though the highlight of the year had to be getting beers with Gopherguy05 and GoAupher the day before the Penn State game.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently CLOSED but there are to-go options.

Beer Recs: Anytime they are offering a double-stout variant, it is a must try. Again, some are elite and some are just fine. But absolutely a must try. Also known for making really good milkshake IPAs.

6 - Junkyard

URL: https://www.junkyardbeer.com/
Address: 1416 1st Ave N, Moorhead

Junkyard is an elite brewery that is constantly bringing something new to the market. They had a pretty significant drop from #3 down to #6 but that is more of a statement on the breweries that moved up, not that Junkyard has dropped off.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently CLOSED but there are to-go options and they deliver to the Twin Cities weekly.

Beer Recs: All of it. Honestly. Some are better than others but every week has new offerings.

5 - Blackstack

URL: https://www.blackstackbrewing.com/
Address: 755 Prior Ave N, St Paul

Dropped from #2 to #5 and this time, for me, it is due to plateauing. Always making excellent IPAs but it became a little repetitive. Blackstack has been releasing a lot of sours and smoothie sours lately. Some have been elite, others have been average. IPAs are always good with DDH Dad Jokes (released around Father’s Day) being the best lately. Stouts? Still lacking here. When they release a great stout, they will shoot back up my personal list.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently CLOSED but there are to-go options.

Beer Recs: Anything that they release with DDH. I’d argue that 755 is one of the best “regular” IPAs in the market. This summer they have been releasing smoothie sours in the Ken Burns series. Worth trying.

4 - Fair State

URL: https://fairstate.coop/
Address: 2506A Central Ave NE, Minneapolis

Up one from a year ago due to their consistency and quality. Almost everything the make is very good. They experiment a lot. You’ll find things like beer based cocktails on tap, apple-brandy barrel aged stouts and a wide range of mixed culture beers along with the standards.

The tap room is in a great location and is one of my favorites to visit.

Covid Update: Their outdoor beer garden is open, indoor taproom is not. But to-go beers are available.

Beer Recs: The FSB variants this past winter were delicious (and very rich). You can still these cans around town. On tap? get creative, try something you wouldn’t typically order.

3 - Back Channel Brewing

URL: https://www.backchannelbrewing.com/
Address: 4787 Shoreline Drive, Spring Park MN, 55384

From unranked to #3? Am I crazy? Nope, you absolutely have to get to Back Channel. Personally, I am a huge fan of breweries that can do multiple styles really well. Back Channel (just a couple years old) has hit on all IPAs, stouts, sours and I’ve loved their pilsners.

Back Channel’s biggest negative is their location. They are actually on Lake Minnetonka, which is beautiful, but it is so far west that the distance from those east of 494 is prohibitive. You need to make the trip.

Also, all of their beers are coyly named after a Minnesota personality. “The Gant Lifter” IPA - named after Kent Hrbek lifting Ron Gant off 1B in the ‘91 World Series. “The Big Ticket” pretty obvious (and my favorite IPA of theirs). “The Fullback” named after Bronco Nagurski. Some are harder to figure out, but you’ll have to look at the clues and figure it out on your own cause they aren’t usually forthright with the inspiration.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently open, a large outdoor seating area and to-go options via drive-through.

Beer Recs: Blue Bomber, Sterling and N Nah N Nah are the three on tap that I’d encourage you to try.

2 - Forager

URL: https://foragerbrewery.com
Address: 1005 6th Street NW, Rochester

Moved up to #2, probably because they should have been here anyway. A trip to Rochester is worth it. The beer AND the food at Forager are elite. Fantastic pastry stouts, mixed culture beers are more true to style rather than heavily fruited or smoothied. Forager is a little different than most breweries, their style is unique and it is truly elite.

Ideally you make a trip to Decorah, IA to hit up Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock while making Forager your 1st stop. But a trip to Rochester to hit up Forager and the other local Rochester breweries (Little Thistle, Thesis Project) is also a great idea.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently open, a large outdoor seating area and to-go options via drive-through.

Beer Recs: Right now, I’d try Buzz Waldron. I highly recommend that you find Gypsie Outpost at your local liquor store (technically made by Humble Forager).

1 - Barrel Theory

URL: https://barreltheory.com/
Address: 248 East 7th Street, Saint Paul

Last year’s #1 and it remains. Barrel Theory just does everything so well. Their more regular offerings are top notch all the way up to their special bottle releases. Everything is not just good, every single beer they make is excellent.

A fun place to grab a beer (when we are allowed to again) and you cannot go wrong with any beer on the taplist.

Covid Update: Taproom is currently CLOSED but there are to-go options.

Beer Recs: Purple Lamborghini is one of the first BT beers I ever had and it’s back out. Try this one. Shredder McGavin is also highly recommended.

Honorable Mention:

  • Falling Knife - to be honest, I could make a compelling argument that Falling Knife belongs in the 8-10 range right now. This brewery opened up in the the old Northgate facility in October and have very quickly established themselves as a brewery that makes some high quality beers. DDH L-Bombs is as good of an IPA as I’ve had from any non-Barrel Theory brewery. They have a couple great pilsners. And their coffee miel stout is elite. Open throughout the week, must wear a mask in the taproom. Next year, I’ll be shocked if I don’t have them in the top 10, maybe pushing top 5.
  • OMNI - consistent, large outdoor patio, a great IPA (FAD) and often an extensive tap list.

On Deck:

I’ve been to around 80 Minnesota breweries in the region and there are many more that are on my list. Here are the top few that I’m excited to visit.

  • Thesis Project - a new brewery in Rochester that is getting good reviews. I’m excited to check them out.
  • Wabasha Brewing - St. Paul brewery in a cool, old building.
  • Roets Brewery - I’ve had some of his beers when he was just home brewing. So I’m looking forward to checking out his taproom.