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Beertown, U.S.A.: Minneapolis/St. Paul

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Icehouse

The thermometer regularly plummets well below zero, but that doesn’t stop hardy locals from bundling up and trekking to the best spots in the Twin Cities for a cold one.

by Emily Weiss

BREWERIES

Opened just last summer, Indeed Brewing (Logan Park, indeedbrewing.com) rocketed onto the scene with two year-rounds: the powerfully hopped Day Tripper pale ale and the rye-spiked Midnight Ryder. Stock up on the cans, but don’t miss the brewery’s first run at seasonal drafts like Sweet Potato Ale and Stir Crazy, a winter warmer brewed with brown sugar and raisins. Across the Mississippi River sits Indeed’s head brewer’s former stomping grounds, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery (West Bank, townhallbrewery.com). A senior member of the local brewing scene with a Phelpsian collection of GABF medals, Town Hall’s cozy corner-joint atmosphere’s perfect for lying low with a snifter of Twisted Jim, its seasonal barleywine aged in Jim Beam oak, or local favorite Masala Mama IPA. Looking for more action? Hit the buzzing warehouse tasting room at Fulton Brewery (North Loop, fultonbeer.com) as pints of its hearty Imperial Red Ale thaw out patrons. Ladies, take note: This year, alternative weekly City Pages voted Fulton the city’s best place to meet single men. Just outside the city, Steel Toe Brewing (St. Louis Park, steeltoebrewing.com) is still hammering away in its soon-to-be tasting room, but the trek’s still worth it to score bombers of the decadently sweet-and-spicy Lunker, an English barleywine aged in Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels. Pair beers like Dark City dubbel with the bottle’s original artwork at Harriet Brewing (Longfellow, harrietbrewing.com), where the music-filled tasting room doubles as a gallery for Jesse Brodd, who designs the brewery’s impressionist-style labels. No trip to the Land of Lakes is complete without a stop at Surly Brewing (Brooklyn Center, surlybrewing.com): Fill up on year-rounds like the hoppy Furious IPA and eye-opening Coffee Bender, a Joe-spiked brown ale, but don’t leave without liberating a few bottles of Smoke, a luscious oak-aged, smoked Baltic porter on shelves now. If the snow’s forcing you indoors, make a pit stop at venerable bottle shop The Ale Jail (St. Paul, winethief.net); nothing alleviates cabin fever like hard-to-find Midwestern releases from Dave’s Brewfarm and Two Bros.

BARS

Beer travelers will recognize The Happy Gnome and Muddy Pig from best-of lists worth their beer foam; with just two blocks separating them, you can’t not visit both. Once a firehouse, The Happy Gnome (Cathedral Hill, St. Paul, thehappygnome.com) is now a cozy, brick-dressed pub serving up spirited fare like game hen and duck burgers. But the beer’s the soul of this place: Stop in for frequent brewery events or just wile the night away, choosing your own flights from 70 utterly inspired taps. Quaint, quiet neighborhood hangout Muddy Pig (Cathedral Hill, St. Paul, muddypig.com) also has a steep selection with 100 draft beers, but don’t miss the killer Cubano sandwich and impressive Scotch menu. At swank and shadowy Devil’s Advocate (Downtown West, devilsadvocatebar.com), you can mix and match 40 craft taps with signature gourmet meatballs and sauces. Hint: Ask for owner Erik Forsberg’s off-the-menu blend of Imperial Stout with Framboise that’s essentially a liquid chocolate truffle. Republic’s (West Bank, republicmn.com) cheap happy hours and elevated pub fare like grass-fed burgers appeal to grad students and pre-gamers, but during off-peak hours, the bar’s quiet corners are the perfect place to sip cask-conditioned ales from the newly installed beer engine. Spacious Amsterdam Bar and Hall (Downtown St. Paul, amsterdambarandhall.com) is a beer drinker’s music venue, with plenty of crafts on tap and two full stages hosting everything from beer releases to burlesque shows. Need a break from beer? Revel in the kitsch at Nye’s Polonaise Room (Northeast, nyespolonaise.com), an old-timey polka-and-pierogi Polish joint with a classic martini list and the same wood paneling and red carpet since the ’60s. When winter finally breaks, there’s no better drinking spot than the outdoor bocce courts at gritty Nomad World Pub (West Bank, nomadpub.com), which just happens to have a few dozen craft taps and a dizzying live music lineup, too.

DINE

The battlefield of Man vs. Food’s meterwurst challenge, Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit (Northeast, gasthofzg.com) brings stein-swinging, communal dining back to life: Swig from “Das Boot” and gorge yourself on jaegerschnitzel and Black Forest torte. Afterward, head downstairs to the hidden bar and ask a server for a “sneef,” a fine, cherry-scented snoose meant to be taken as a digestif. Still, the Twin Cities aren’t wanting for higher-brow fare: Between the beer, bourbon and house-made charcuterie, Butcher & the Boar (Downtown West, butcherandtheboar.com) is a bona fide mancave starring sinfully rich lobster grilled cheese sandwich and smoked beef long rib; 5 minutes south, an übercool  artsy crowd springs for small plates like truffled cheese soufflé and sublime craft cocktails at the dim, sparse Icehouse (Eat Street, icehousempls.com). For Old World fare, Belgian quads and a warm hearth, head to tony Pig & Fiddle (Edina, pignfiddle.com); its Eurocentric menu embraces delicacies like pickled trout, Finnish meatballs, and Amish chicken. The always-hopping, upbeat Tilia (Linden Hills, tiliampls.com) doesn’t take reservations, but they will let you drink your first brew out on the sidewalk while you wait. Why it’s worth it: Braised beef cheeks and BLT hot dogs are executed with equal aplomb, and the 21 taps are diverse in kind and size, with pours available in seven different measurements. If you want a Wild game blaring on a big-screen TV and a wild ale in your glass, then the sportscentric Bulldog NE (Northeast, thebulldognortheast.com) is your spot. Come on an empty stomach: This place serves life-altering bar food like deep-fried truffled chicken nuggets and brisket nachos.

SLEEP

Located across the street from Target Center and next door to famous concert venue First Avenue, Graves 601’s (Downtown West, wyndham.com) sleek wood-and-mirrors decor suits sophisticates, while the hotel’s bar, Bradstreet Crafthouse, also offers a solid craft beer selection and inspired cocktails. Cool, shadowy W Hotel (Downtown West, starwoodhotels.com) is the swank spot where you’re most likely to spy a privacy-seeking starlet; take the elevator up to Prohibition, the 1920s-inspired bar that unfolds to a huge observation deck. Nicollet Island Inn (Nicollet Island, nicolletislandinn.com) is a romantic boutique-style hotel with antique, feminine flourishes and a small-town bed-and-breakfast feel; it’s famous for its riverfront location and decadent brunch. On the other side of the river, the splendidly historic St. Paul Hotel (Downtown St. Paul, saintpaulhotel.com) has spectacular views of many of downtown St. Paul’s most notable landmarks. Rooms are elegant and old-fashioned with plush high-backed chairs and wooden four-poster beds.

 

PLUS: Ethnic Eats & Beer

Sun streams into Ngon Vietnamese Bistro (Frogtown, ngonbistro.com), a happy, yellow-dressed spot where Buddha statues mingle easily with contemporary art-lined walls and indie music. The fare leans traditional with killer spring rolls and warm-your-soul pho, while the strictly Minnesota tap selection even includes one brew on cask. Funky Blue Nile’s (Seward, bluenilempls.com) colorful sub-Saharan art and beer signs set the stage for Ethiopian cuisine served family-style on biddeena, a large crépelike bread used to eat spice-laden meats and vegetables with your hands. More than 30 globe-spanning bottles and 12 taps ensure you’ll find the perfect pint to extinguish the heat.

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