1. Natural wine has arrived.
There’s no clearer indicator than Bar Brava, a wine bar entirely devoted to the low-intervention vino. Share a bottle via porrón, a long-necked pitcher that pours wine directly into your mouth without needing to touch your lips to the spout. Meanwhile, indie wine shop Henry & Son cemented its place as the best spot to get your hands on a bottle of the funkiest fermented grapes.
2. So has cider.
This year brought not one, but two new cider taprooms. Minneapolis Cider Co. was launched by two buddies who developed the business plan in a U of M entrepreneurship class. No. 12 Cider House, which opened in late 2018, was also started by two friends who turned their home-brewing hobby into a State Fair blue-ribbon winner.
3. The North Loop became the neighborhood for craft brews.
One Fermentary & Taproom just opened — next door to No. 12 Cider House. Add those to the district already bursting with places to try distinctive local beer, such as Inbound BrewCo, Modist Brewing, Clockwerks Brewing Co., the Freehouse, and the North Loop taproom that started it all, Fulton.
4. Breweries bet on hard seltzer.
There are only so many beer drinkers. To reach beyond a limited, beer-loving audience, breweries began to diversify by introducing low-calorie alcoholic alternatives. Lift Bridge Brewing Co. kicked off 2019 with the year’s first new batch. Now, it’s everywhere.
5. But it’s really wine’s time.
Besides the natural wine craze, note the impending opening of AxeBridge Wine Co., a North Loop winery from the Schram Vineyards folks. Or Uptown’s new small-producer-focused Tasting Room. Or Hopkins’ California-style Vine Room. “The brewery scene came and exploded,” said Ali Hanson, the Vine Room’s owner. “I think people are going to be excited about what’s next.”
6. Cocktails are having a moment, too.
Last November, voters in Minneapolis approved a charter amendment to allow restaurants outside a 7-acre zone to apply for a full liquor license. Since then, more restaurants are adding craft cocktails to their beer-and-wine offerings, like the Lowbrow, St. Genevieve and Pizzeria Lola.
7. Spirits got the spotlight.
Royal Foundry Craft Spirits kicked off 2019 by opening a distillery focused entirely on British-style spirit-making (London Dry Gin, in particular). Chanhassen’s new Tequila Butcher has 300 bottles of agave-based spirits, and Savage’s Whiskey Inferno has 350 of its namesake. Dampfwerk Distilling is all about liqueurs — herbal elixirs and fruit-based brandies meant to be drunk neat. Try them all at the distillery’s new cocktail room.
8. Ready-to-drink took off.
Why even go out for a cocktail, when canned and bottled options are on the rise? Locally, Tattersall Distilling and Dashfire both launched bottled versions of the Old Fashioned. Tattersall also delighted summer drinkers with a bottled country club classic Bootleg. Madison, Wis.-based Plain Spoke just added a Brandy Old Fashioned to its lineup of canned cocktails.
9. Teetotalers got to drink, too.
Mocktails abound, with ever more innovative, bartender-crafted menus that skip the booze. For daytime drinking, look to Jinx Tea, which skips the coffeehouse vibes and instead crafts nonalcoholic drinks from various leaf-based brews.
10. It’s fun to drink with history.
The soaring brick Forgotten Star Brewing Co. takes inspiration from its surroundings, a former naval artillery factory in Fridley. Its brewing equipment is framed by the building’s original smokestacks. In downtown St. Paul, Celeste is a classy hotel cocktail lounge in a former convent. Drinks nod to the building’s original use: Bad Habit, Resurrection, Sister Jane. Wink, wink.