Bikeable brews

Minneapolis and St. Paul are bike-loving cities. There are well over 200 miles of dedicated bike paths and designated on-street bike lanes to explore. Minneapolis has been awarded with the Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the League of American Bicyclists. Whether on sleek road bikes or sturdy fat-tire bikes, Twin Cities cyclists hit the road year-round, pedaling through both sweltering summer heat and icy winter blizzards.

The Twin Cities area is also becoming a nationally known destination for beer. “Far & Away,” the new travel magazine from the Wall Street Journal and National Geographic, recently named Minneapolis-St. Paul “America’s coolest drinking city” — and they weren’t talking about water.

In the past four years the number of breweries has blossomed. There are currently 50 breweries in the Twin Cities proper and many more in the surrounding metro area where one can enjoy a fresh and frosty pint. Many are easily accessible from bike routes.

With the summer riding season heating up, it’s time to bring beer and bikes together with bikeable brewery tours. With so many taprooms and trails, the possible combinations are nearly endless. Here are two routes to get you started. Happy riding.

Route 1:
Greenway/Minnehaha/Lakes Loop (22 miles)

  • 1 Steel Toe Brewing (starting point)
    4848 W. 35th St., St. Louis Park
    Open daily.
  • Taproom: The Steel Toe taproom is nestled in an industrial area near the Nordic Ware tower. A green awning differentiates the space from surrounding identically utilitarian buildings. Need more help? Look for the many bikes chained to the rack in front of the entrance. A covered patio offers shaded outdoor seating.
  • Best brew: Start your ride with the lightweight Provider Golden Ale. Super-refreshing and only 5 percent alcohol, Provider features lightly sweet and bready malt balanced by low bitterness. Hops bring floral notes and hints of lemon. This beer won a silver medal at the prestigious 2018 World Beer Cup.
  • Nibbles: Food trucks that vary.
  • Highlights: A fun fact about the Nordic Ware tower is that it was the world’s first concrete grain elevator. It was built from 1899 to 1900 as an experiment to prove the concept was viable.
  • 2 Eastlake Brewery & Tavern
    920 E. Lake St., Suite 123, Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Route: 4.7 miles, mostly flat. Follow the Midtown Greenway eastward from Beltline Road. Leave the Greenway at 10th Avenue and head south toward Lake Street. Eastlake is located inside the Midtown Global Market.
  • Taproom: The simple space opens onto the Global Market, allowing all of the hustle-bustle and appetizing aromas to waft in. Wooden high-top tables and a short wooden bar give it the feel of a vendor stall. Outdoor seating is available on a small patio facing Lake Street.
  • Best brews: Mud in Your Eye is a multigrain American brown ale featuring malty flavors of biscuits and Toostie-Roll chocolate. Background notes of hazelnut and low floral hop notes round it out. It’s smooth and creamy, but not heavy enough to weigh you down on the ride.
  • Nibbles: All of the deliciousness of the Midtown Global Market. Food from some vendors can be ordered in the taproom for delivery to you.
  • Highlights: Take some time to stroll through the Midtown Global Market with its colorful sensory swirl of international food and goods.
  • 3 Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub
    2716 E. 38th St., Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Route: 2.8 miles, mostly flat. Return to the Greenway and head east to pick up the Hiawatha LRT Trail at 28th Street. Head south along Hiawatha Avenue and turn right onto 38th Street.
  • Taproom: The cozy dining room welcomes you with soothing tones of gray and black. It’s almost always abuzz with activity and lively conversations. The patio is shaded by a pergola and hop vines.
  • Best brew: Big Jim IPA delivers a blast of citrus and floral flavors and aromas from the copious amounts of Pacific Northwest hops. Bitterness is bracing, but supported on a substantial malt base with biscuits’ complexity.
  • Nibbles: The brewpub menu includes a range of pub food with a focus on house-smoked items, from whitefish dip to cheese and meats. Even the hot dog is smoked. The 18-Hour Porketta sandwich is terrific.
  • Highlights: Northbound has a full liquor license. If you need a break from beer, wine and cocktails are an option.
  • 4 Venn Brewing Co.
    3550 E. 46th St., Suite 140, Minneapolis
    Open Tuesday through Sunday.
  • Route: 1.3 miles, mostly flat. Continue south on the Hiawatha LRT Trail. Turn right onto 46th Street.
  • Taproom: The large space is mostly unadorned, but not uncomfortable. The walls are nearly all windows, allowing cheery light to pour in. Stainless steel fermenting tanks of the brewery rise behind the long bar.
  • Best brew: The beers at Venn rotate regularly so a given beer may not be available on any particular visit. There has always been a version of pilsner on tap when I visited and it has consistently been my favorite. Venn pilsners tend to take an American slant with citrusy hop notes. But they are crisp, clean and bitter as any good pilsner should be.
  • Nibbles: Food trucks that vary.
  • Highlights: The taproom has a good selection of board games to engage you while you savor a pint.
  • 5 Wild Mind Artisan Ales
    6031 Pillsbury Av. S., Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Route: 4.8 miles, mostly flat. Ride west on 46th Street to pick up the East Minnehaha Parkway Trail. Head south on Nicollet Avenue and then turn right onto 60th Street.
  • Taproom: The front wall of taproom is all large garage doors, giving an outdoor feel even when you’re sitting inside. The space spills out onto a large patio and yard with umbrella-equipped picnic tables and beanbag toss games. Barrels and large wooden foudres for fermenting wild ales are visible through glass in the barrel room.
  • Best brew: Flagon of Ale is a low-alcohol saison fermented with wild strains of yeast. It delivers a complex mélange of flavors including white wine, pepper, pineapple and citrus fruits. Extraordinarily dry, it makes a refreshing quaff to carry you through the longest stretch of the ride.
  • Nibbles: Food trucks that vary.
  • Highlights: Wild Mind specializes in farmhouse-style ales fermented with mixed cultures of wild yeast and souring bacteria. The taproom is dog- and kid-friendly.
  • 1 Complete the loop by returning to Steel Toe Brewing.
  • Route: 8.1 miles, mostly flat. Ride north on Pleasant Avenue to return to the East Minnehaha Parkway Trail. Turn left onto the Lake Harriet Parkway and follow it to the West Calhoun Parkway. At the north end of Bde Maka Ska, return to the Midtown Greenway and retrace that section of the ride back to Beltline Road.

Route 2:
Follow the Mississippi River (19 miles)

  • 1 56 Brewing (starting point)
    3055 NE. Columbia Av., Suite 102, Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Taproom: The room is a mostly industrial space with the brewery tanks visible off to one side. The wood bar, a wooden wall sculpture in the shape of Minnesota and an old, age-browned map of Minneapolis add some warmth. There is a lovely patio overlooking a community garden that makes the generally industrial area feel like a cozy beer garden.
  • Best brew: Lowry Pils is a solid Czech-style pilsner. It favors a bready malt sweetness, but has enough sharp bitterness to keep it balanced. The soft, perfumed aromas of traditional Saaz hops waft over the top. At just 4.4 percent alcohol, it’s a good light beer for the start of a long ride.
  • Nibbles: Food trucks that vary.
  • Highlights: The taproom hosts live jazz every Sunday from 4-7 PM.
  • 2 Pryes Brewing Co.
    1401 West River Road N., Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Route: 2.6 miles, mostly flat. Follow Marshall Street south and cross the river at Broadway. Follow the bike path south along West River Road to the taproom.
  • Taproom: The best part of the Pryes taproom is the spacious patio overlooking the Mississippi River. It’s a great spot to relax with a pint or a flight. A large garage door leads into the spacious interior space. The feeling is modern and sleek with loads of light wood and subtle industrial touches to remind you that it is a brewery.
  • Best brew: Miraculum IPA is the brewery’s flagship beer. It’s a classic Midwestern-style IPA with moderate bitterness and a pronounced malt presence. There is plenty of citrus/floral hop aromas and flavors to satisfy fans of the IPA style. Miraculum is available on both CO2 and nitrogen gas. The latter gives a smoother mouthfeel and lower perceived bitterness.
  • Nibbles: Small menu prepared in-house by rotating guest restaurants. On a recent visit, it was street tacos by Seventh Street Truck Park.
  • Highlights: Two semiprivate event spaces available for rent.
  • 3 Day Block Brewing Co.
    1105 Washington Av. S., Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Route: 2 miles, mostly flat. Continue south along West River Parkway. Turn right onto 11th Avenue S.
  • Taproom: Day Block takes its name from the historic 1883 building in which it is housed. Through the years the building has served as a hospital, a furniture store, a funeral home and, finally, as Frank’s Plumbing Supply before becoming a brewery. Exposed brick walls and the restored original facade help maintain the historic feel of the place, while angular booths and steel chairs bring it into the 21st century.
  • Best brew: Frank’s Red Ale is named after the building’s last tenant before becoming Day Block. It’s a malt-forward beer with notes of caramel and toast. Citrusy hops and moderate bitterness provide a lifting contrast.
  • Nibbles: Full menu of sandwiches, salads and specialty pizzas such as the delicious Bánh Mizza, a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich in the form of a pizza. Try the flights of house-made pickled vegetables and bacon.
  • Highlights: Full bar. Event spaces available for rent.
  • 4 Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery
    1430 Washington Av. S., Minneapolis
    Open daily.
  • Route: .3 miles, flat. Head just a few blocks farther east on Washington Avenue to Seven Corners.
  • Taproom: Wood paneling, exposed brick, a high tin ceiling and a glorious antique bar give Town Hall the feel of a 19th-century saloon. They make some of the best beer in the Twin Cities.
  • Best brew: West Bank Pub Ale is a subtle and sessionable English best bitter. It has a more assertive bitterness than many English examples available here, but the caramel malt and earthy hops are right on target. And at just 4.8 percent ABV you can enjoy a pint and keep on riding.
  • Nibbles: Extensive menu of standard pub food.
  • Highlights: Full bar with an excellent selection of guest beers, ciders and scotch.
  • 5 Bad Weather Brewing Co. 414 W. 7th St., St. Paul
    Open daily.
  • Route: 14 miles, Mostly flat with some gentle ups and downs. Follow West River Parkway south and cross the river at the Ford Parkway Bridge. Follow Mississippi Boulevard south and turn off to ride through Crosby Farm Regional Park. Turn left onto Eagle Parkway and then meander through the quiet neighborhoods back to the brewery.
  • Taproom: The taproom has a pole-barn feel. The brewery is visible behind the long bar; old-school video games line one wall. A large mural fills another, evoking a mix of fantasy novel art and 18th-century German romanticism. Glass garage doors across the front fill the space with light and open onto a large patio.
  • Best brew: Sun Pillar Belgian blond is a great refresher to cool off with after this long section of the ride. Light notes of toasted grain sweetness offset the characteristic pear and pepper flavors that come from fermenting with Belgian yeast strains. It’s light-bodied with an extraordinarily dry, crisp finish.
  • Nibbles: Food trucks that vary.
  • Highlights: Private event space is available for rent.
  • 6 Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery
    445 N. Smith Av., St. Paul
    Open daily.
  • Route: It’s a short walk across the alley that runs behind Bad Weather.
  • Taproom: The rustic 1857 building, which is the oldest surviving commercial building in the Twin Cities, was built as a German lager saloon. That feeling was preserved during the recent restoration. It has the look of a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse with wide-plank pine floors, wood stoves and handblown window glass.
  • Best brew: Though low in alcohol for the style, the German-style bock delivers a full-bodied punch of rich malt character. Sweet caramel and raisin roll smoothly over the tongue. A subtle hint of campfire-like smoke adds interest.
  • Nibbles: A simple German-themed menu of housemade sausages, pretzels and cheese/meat planks. The currywurst is lovely. The Waldmann mustards and curry ketchup are delicious. The bread roll from Aki’s bakery is worth the price of admission.
  • Highlights: Frequent live music. On my visit it was an entertaining accordion duo playing classic hits from artists such as Petula Clark and the Monkees.