I’ve been to San Diego. Which is to say I’ve been to the epicenter of craft beer. Which is to say I’ve been to paradise and back and tasted the sweet nectar of craft beer’s past and future.
San Diego is rightfully held in high esteem, its climate and pace creating a perfect incubator for experimental and quality-driven craft beers. The pedigree - Stone Brewing, AleSmith - has produced a movement, with nearly every brewery standing as an offshoot of the original. It’s a decades-long family tree that also happens to taste very delicious.
Here’s the thing, though.
We have our own San Diego. Just four hours northeast.
There, in the dusty dual villages of Minneapolis/St. Paul, a beer renaissance is underway. And it’s happening quickly.
It’s ultimately rooted in two old standbys - the now craft-centric Schell’s Brewing (not technically Twin Cities, but close) and old standby Summit Brewing. While the two are now some of the most ubiquitous varieties of Minnesota beer, they haven’t rested on their laurels. They are responsible, in some way, for everything that came after, paving the way for the new brewery explosion, but refusing to be meek. Summit keeps it real with their new Union series, while Schell’s has been saving and testing some nearly forgotten German recipes.
For all that Schell’s and Summit provided as a foundation, the recent renaissance really started when Surly burst onto the scene. Their gradual expansion - and the pull-back that occurred when they became popular - has made their beers as sought after as ever. Surly’s success tempered the region’s need for great beer, and the next generation of breweries followed suit.
For example, let’s champion the fellas in charge of Fulton Brewing, a small and fantastic brewery in the shadow of the new Target Field. The taproom is basic and the food is brought in via food truck, but the atmosphere is one of an afternoon in the garage with your pot boiling and your wort filling the air. Their blonde ale is one of the best, and everyone seems to love their IPA, Sweet Child of Vine.
Now, northeast Minneapolis is getting into the game, with both Indeed Brewing Company and Dangerous Man Brewing Co. bookending a mile-long stretch that seems to be transforming into a new youthful neighborhood. Indeed sells bottles and routinely dry-hops their kegs to the point that you’re never sure which beer you’ll get during a visit. Dangerous Man is growler- and taproom-only, and their Belgian Strong Ale is a thing of beauty.
And these are just the breweries! There’s The Four Firkins for buying, and there’s The Happy Gnome for drinking, and there’s Butcher & The Boar for meat-ing, and there’s so much great Minnesota beer that I have made a pact with the Twin Cities: when I am in MPLS/St. Paul, I will only drink Minnesotan.
So save a few dollars and make your beer pilgrimage closer to home. (Even easier in a few years, when Surly builds their destination brewery.) Make it a weekend. Take in a Twins game. Play mini-golf at the Sculpture Garden. And knock back some of the best beer in the world.