Today’s my birthday, but Sunday, I got a few friends together and organized an outing I’d been planning for awhile, a Light Rail brewery tour of the Twin Cities. For the first attempt, I think I’d consider it a success and I learned some tips that I think will help in its next iteration. I use the Twin Cities’ growing light rail transit systems quite regularly, but I definitely could learn more about them. In addition, I definitely need to up my beer connoisseur game, as I think I’m running out of descriptors for beer tasting quite quickly!
Inspired by the Rails and Ales event, I thought it would be fun to arrange my own, lower key version of this event on a calmer day. I had put together an elaborate plan of eight breweries at seven light rail stops on the Blue and Green lines, and we made it to three of them. We didn’t quite make it into St. Paul, but we did get across the river! All in all, a good time was had and some good beers were sampled.
Meeting up at the 28th Avenue Station Park and Ride; it was a Twins Sunday, so I thought it would be good to have a place for those with cars to park. Park and Rides ramps with free parking exist at the 28th Street Station and the Fort Snelling Station on the Blue Line, Next time, I’d choose a closer station to meet up at. We started on the Minneapolis side, but perhaps beginning in St. Paul would be even better! For small groups, free street parking can probably be found without too much difficult within a short walking distance of many of the stations. You can buy a one day pass for riding the light rail at any of the stations for $6.
So, after meeting up, we rode the rail past the airport into South Minneapolis and got off at Lake Street-Midtown Station, walking a few blocks to the first brewery on the list, Harriet Brewing. Harriet focuses on Belgian style beers, which tend towards complex, spicy flavors. This was evident in the four beers Harriet had on tap that day- most of us went for the Harriet’s Pils, with one trying the Sooner or Later Belgian-style Blonde. Both were good choices for a hot summer day, I felt, with light flavor and a smooth mouthfeel. As we sipped our beers outside on the patio, listening to some live acoustic guitar, it was a nice start. A food truck was parked nearby, providing snacks to go with the beer.
Hitting the Blue Line again, we went into downtown to the Downtown East station, near the looming monolith of the uncompleted stadium which dominates the sky in this part of town, and walked the short distance to Day Block Brewing Company, a spot that opened up on Washington Avenue last year. This brew pub has a large variety of beers on tap to choose from, as well as some delicious food as well.
Day Block had some local jazz bands performing, and we sampled a wide variety of the offerings here; the Belvarian Hefeweizen, Berliner Weisse, Frank’s Red Ale, and the Imperial Stout. I had the Federales Mild, which was delicious.
Another nice, light beer for summer, this one had a woodsy pine smell courtesy of the fresh pine tips used in the brewing. I think everyone highly enjoyed their choices, and the food we had, pizzas, pretzels, salads, and pickles, were great as well.
For our last stop of the day, and just before the rain started falling, we hopped onto the Green Line and headed across the river to the Prospect Park neighborhood to stop at the vaunted Surly Brewing, exiting on the Prospect Park station. I had not visited this acclaimed and anticipated new “destination brewery” complex, but it was pretty awesome. I will have to return here, for sure.
We ended the day sipping our beers on the expansive yard in the back of the impressive new building, under the shadow of the interesting industrial ruins of that area of town, old grain silos towering over us as we enjoyed our beverages. I tried the ‘Merica, a “pre-Prohibition” lager which had an extremely herbal nose, so much so that some called it “skunky.” It definitely had a slightly rough flavor, perhaps as was common in pre-industrial days. I quite enjoyed it, personally. Others had the Schadenfreude, a malty Munich lager, the Cacao Bender, which tasted very strongly of chocolate (as it should!) and the old standby, the Bender American Brown Ale.
Feeling full and happy, we parted ways for the day, just as the rain clouds began to close in. However, we didn’t leave before all being qued up on the Untappd app on our phones, which of course, proved very useful in keeping tabs on our beers. I love good list making, of course, so this was a good discovery. Thanks, Weird Dave!
This will definitely not be the last local beer adventure I embark upon. After all, I still have six others on this itinerary alone that I’ve yet to check out, plus I still have plans for a biking brewery tour!
Some photos courtesy of Luke Price.