Craft beer has become an ultra-local game, and every small city has its own highlights. Few Twin Cities beers are available in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. Instead, the small metro area has its own brewing scene, led by Fargo Brewing Co. (established in 2010) and a new generation of beer makers.
The cities, which are a 3½-hour drive from Minneapolis up Interstate 94, also boast Scandinavian heritage at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center, a developing Fargo downtown, sports and concerts at the Fargodome, and a booming restaurant culture. Whether you’re in town for a Bison game, a family outing, or to take in the Fargo Air Museum, there are plenty of new beers to check out, most of them exclusive to the area. The following four breweries can be visited along a 7-mile trek from east to west. All are close to I-94, I-29 and numerous hotels. (Don’t forget to bring a designated driver.)
The basics: Moorhead’s only brewery is a small-batch nanobrewery tucked just off Hwy. 10. With limited production, it’s all about the taproom, with only a few kegs available at select beer bars in town.
The taproom: Very laid-back, with garage doors that open to the street. The walls are covered in stenciled artwork. It’s small but cozy, reminiscent of a neighborhood coffee shop.
The beers: The beer selection is expansive given Junkyard’s size, with a tendency toward experimentation. Junkyard offers new twists on old favorites, from IPAs to a Belgian tripel to a wild sour, sometimes blurring the genre lines.
The best: Coal Miners Daughter imperial stout is jet-black and bitter with a chocolate tone complemented by dark fruits and raisin. Coachgun IPA is citrus-dominant, letting tropical and orange balance the hop bitterness. Hop Tun, their fresh-hop beer, is more resinous, with a pine note at play.
Where: 1416 1st Av. N., Moorhead; 1-701-936-5545; junkyardbeer.com.
The basics: Started by four home-brewing friends, Drekker is a variation of the Norse word “drekka,” meaning “to drink.” Beer names include Pillager, Burn the Boats and Igor’s Horn, and the decor features a viking mascot alongside horns and longship decorations.
The taproom: Located in downtown Fargo, Drekker draws a younger crowd. Inside it’s sleek and modern, with ample windows and elbow room. The brewhouse is tucked behind the bar, mixing cold industry with contemporary comfort.
The beers: Drekker’s style is crafty but a little unfocused. While it’s generally an alehouse, many taps are dedicated to seasonal beers that are a hodgepodge of styles, including Berliner Weisse and a coffee-infused Irish red.
The best: Pillager porter is semisweet with strong roasted malt notes. Ryesistance saison has clove and banana characteristics that downplay the rye spiciness. Techno Viking Berliner Weisse is a crisp, mild sour that’s more tart than puckering.
Where: 630 1st Av. N., Fargo; 1-701-540-6808; drekkerbrewing.com.
The basics: Fargo Brewing has the biggest imprint, producing about 10,000 barrels a year in a 21,000-square-foot facility. Its cans are available in four states, including at select Twin Cities stores. Fargo Original Lager won a bronze medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
The taproom: A warehouse with some custom tables and a lot of extra room. A shelf is packed with board games, which may get a lot of group play on the large wooden tables.
The beers: With Iron Horse Pale Ale, Woodchipper IPA, Sodbuster Porter and Stones Throw Scottish Ale, Fargo has created a well-rounded roster. The taproom doubles the lineup with seasonals and one-offs like an Oaked Wood Chipper or a cabernet-aged Dark Ale.
The best: Woodchipper is a true Midwestern IPA, equal parts aroma and malt balance, citrusy and resinous but tempered. Sodbuster is best on the fresh tap; it’s a roasty beer for the long, cold prairie winters, heavy on chocolate and with a powdery dryness. Roustabout Oatmeal Milk Stout is smooth, with a sweet complexion and thick body.
Where: 610 N. University Dr., Fargo; 1-701-478-2337; fargobrewing.com.
The basics: Fargo’s newest brewery is surrounded by lumber and tile businesses in an industrial park. The former home brewers seek to have a beer for everyone, from macro drinkers to dedicated beer geeks.
The taproom: Off the beaten path, Kilstone has a garage aesthetic. There are TVs, tables and a roped-off patio, but it’s clearly a brewery first and taproom second. The atmosphere is half workshop, half barroom, akin to an amped-up pole barn.
The beers: True-to-style American craft. Typically light-bodied and sessionable.
The best: Kilstone’s initial offerings are clean, refreshing and easy-drinking. Ironstone Irish Red carries a caramel profile with hops adding bite and a hint of fruity ester. Hopposable Thumbs IPA is a borderline double IPA with a tangerine aroma and an earthy balance. Carl’s Cascadian Dark Ale is a nice black IPA on the bitter end of the hop spectrum, with a touch of smokiness.
Where: 764 N. 34th St., Fargo (Google directions can be unreliable); 1-701-893-5224; facebook.com/KilstoneBrewing.
Loren Green is a Minneapolis writer and beer fan. Follow him on Twitter @lorenmgreen.