Soon after Minneapolis breweries hurdled state and city regulations to open their taprooms, St. Paul officials started easing their own restrictions to encourage taprooms in redeveloping sections of the city.
In fall 2012, St. Paul started by easing requirements on industrial park areas, making it viable for Summit Brewing to open a taproom. By mid-2013, the city tackled mixed-use neighborhood regulations, nixing a similar restriction to Minneapolis’s that had limited liquor licenses within 300 feet from a school or house of worship. By removing the restrictions, St. Paul intentionally encouraged the expansion of tap rooms and breweries into its town. Former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman stressed the Irish Catholic city’s long history with beer: “Microbreweries are part of a growing urban agricultural industry,” he said. “St. Paul has been a beer town for generations, and these microbreweries and taprooms … are small businesses that continue to make St. Paul a vital and energetic city.”
No more politics for today, let’s talk about beer, as today there is a lot to say and many places to go!
Surly Brewing Co.
East of downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, along the Green Line light rail, you will find Surly Brewing. I can already hear some people challenging Surly’s placement here, since their address is technically in Minneapolis. I’m including Surly with the St Paul breweries since it’s near the border of the two cities and didn’t fit with downtown or Northeast. So yell away! Surly is a great stop as you travel from Minneapolis to St. Paul on your brewery crawl.
As the driver of the statewide Surly Bill (officially, the Pint Law), Surly’s facility definitely is a destination brewery. With a full shelf of awards, and a fast-rotating set of 30 taps, Surly offers something for almost any beer drinker. Seating at the indoor Beer Hall’s many long tables is community style, so don’t be surprised if the server seats you directly next to people you don’t know. Be warned, evenings here can be crowded, so if you’re coming with a larger group, you may find yourself waiting a while to get a table. (Good thing they have a lot of beer and four portals to occupy your time while you wait!)
The Beer Hall has a chef-driven menu that has tasty options; for the pizza+beer=YAY crowd, recently added on the brewery’s second floor is “Surly Pizza Upstairs”.
One thing to note: Unlike many of the other breweries/taprooms, Surly does not allow external food to be brought in.
Seasonal releases: Surly Darkness isn’t officially released until Halloween this year, but you may be lucky and find a bar or two that gets a keg early or has a previous year’s versions on tap. Darkness Day is Sept. 28-29, so if you are into the beer trading scene, you may find this year’s bottles available through other channels.
Lake Monster Brewing
Venturing a little further into St. Paul, the next brewery you’ll encounter is Lake Monster Brewing. This gem of a location, with a fun logo featuring an octopus tentacle and eye, features lots of both indoor and outdoor seating, a rotation of food trucks, and a selection of board games.
Lake Monster has four staple beers on the menu (looking for a solid session IPA option? Try the Buddy Check) and run approximately six seasonal/rotating taps in addition. Their rotators usually include one or two sour options: at time of writing, they have a Sour Red, a Gose and a Berliner Weisse.
There are also four portals near this location.
Seasonal releases: Lake Monster has an Oktoberfest on tap at the moment, but with six rotating taps, they are bound to have something interesting you haven’t tried before when you arrive.
Urban Growler and Bang Brewing
Head a little bit north of University into St. Paul’s Midway district, and you’ll find two very different neighboring breweries.
Urban Growler, a growing operation with a very pleasant Cowbell Cream Ale offering, is by far the bigger of the two locations. You’ll find a good variety of different styles at their taproom as they have 11 taps available currently. They offer a kitchen with American fare, including many vegetarian and some vegan-friendly options depending on the seasonal rotation. But you can’t go wrong just asking for more Cowbell! You can bring your leashed dog (if well behaved!) and hang out on their patio.
During Bang’s somewhat limited hours (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only), you’ll find seven taps. Bang Brewing built their brewery with an eye to environmental stewardship. They are located in a prefabricated, grain silo-shaped building they call “The Bin” and are committed to organic ingredients. “The Bin” is 100% powered by wind through Xcel Windsource, and the brewery aims to be zero waste, so you may be asked to haul away your garbage. Bang has food trucks visiting on a rotation.
Both breweries are portals, with a third (duplicate) nearby!
Seasonal releases for both locations: TBD
A little farther into St. Paul, in the West Seventh neighborhood, Summit Brewing is a tradition going back three decades. With distribution throughout the Midwest and beyond, it’s a local and regional favorite. Their Ratskeller taproom (open Thursday through Sunday) features classics like Extra Pale Ale (a Midwestern favorite whose yellow tap handle is often the gateway to many people’s craft beer adventure), Saga IPA, and many other offerings, some unadvertised. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to try one of their Unchained series, which are offered only for a limited time. They have a portal on site for you to hack while you enjoy their many beers.
For food, Summit offers a rotating schedule of food trucks: make sure to check their website to see who will be there for your visit!
Seasonal releases: In fall 2018, Cranky Woodsman will be on tap in limited quantities as will their Oktoberfest until it runs out. You will also find specialty beers at the Ratskeller that they do not advertise: you need to visit to see what is on tap or cask!
Tin Whiskers Brewing
Tin Whiskers, the giant of craft brewing in downtown St. Paul, is another fantastic option with a wide variety of styles to taste. Three electrical engineers started this brewery, and the theme runs throughout their beer names and the circuit board flight holders. Their flagship Wheatstone Bridge can be found at discerning bars around the metro, but most of their other offerings require a pilgrimage to the taproom. The Ingress landscape is a little greener here, so make sure to fire off a few bursters on your way in and out of the area! With one portal onsite and three occasionally within reach, this is a good place to enjoy a beer and hack.
Tin Whiskers does not serve food, but both Black Sheep Pizza and Sawatdee Thai (on the same block) will deliver to the taproom for you.
Seasonal releases: Look for the Schottkey Pumpkin Ale and the Funkenfest, along with many other unique beers they may serve up at the time of your visit!
By no means is this all St. Paul has to offer. To expand your brewery crawl, just consider how much light rail or Uber time you have to donate to the taproom crawl cause. Again, definitely talk to the locals, we all have a favorite place to tip back a pint or tulip glass.