By Jesse Marx
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Summer is the official season of beer gardens, ale fests, and fair-weather homebrewers getting back into their favorite pastime, but with our craft beer culture booming and laws loosened (well, some of them), Twin Cities small breweries are still some of the best and most interesting places to drink around town. If you think the taproom experience means you'll be relegated to a dark corner in a musty old warehouse, think again. Most of these places opened with or have recently added modest to impressive outdoor seating, so whether you've never been or just haven't been in a while, don't fret. We've done all the hard work for you to present our guide to drinking in the new local breweries.
The location: Dangerous Man (name and logo inspired by the impressive Zeus-esque beard sported by owner and head brewer Rob Miller), housed in the historic Northeast Bank building in Sheridan, is squidged in among plenty of late-night action, thanks to the 331 Club, Mayslack's, the Knight Cap just down the street, and now that it's summer, a steady stream of Pedal Pubbers. This area has great art to see and great steaks to eat, but the major reason to plan a stop at Dangerous Man's taproom is that it's the only place you can get Dangerous Man beer. They emphasize small-batch brewing and super-fresh product, so you won't find DMB's brews on tap at any other bars or for sale in sixers at any stores, but it's so fan-damn-tastic you sort of understand why they keep it close to the chest.
The vibe: There are as many (if not more) bikes parked outside Dangerous Man's taproom as there are cars, which should give you a pretty good idea of the crowd inside. DMB's airy, artsy, wooded space, with its long communal tables and mismatched chairs, seems to draw in the fixed-gear types and curious couples coming in for an after-dinner drink. On weekdays (DMB is one of the only local taprooms open Tuesday through Saturday) it's predictably quieter, and the one already-unobtrusive big screen TV usually stays switched off unless a specific request is made. Mini clipboards stacked with menus from nearby restaurants such as the Anchor Fish and Chips, Element Pizza, and Maeve's Cafe are scattered around the taproom tables. They don't offer any nibbles onsite, but they're more than cool with you bringing in food from neighboring restaurants or cheapskating it and packing up whatever you have in the fridge. Think of it as a big indoor picnic with interesting premium beer and the pretty pierced people who pour it.
Dangerous Man Brewing 1300 Second St. NE, Minneapolis 612.209.2626 dangerousmanbrewing.com
Fulton Beer 414 Sixth Ave. N., Minneapolis 612.333.3208 fultonbeer.com
Harriet Brewing 3036 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis 612.315.4633 harrietbrewing.com
Pour Decisions Brewing Company 1744 Terrace Dr., Roseville 612.567.6871 pourdecisionsbrewery.com
612 Brew 945 Broadway St., Minneapolis 612.217.0437 612Brew.com
Steel Toe Brewing 4848 W. 35th St., St. Louis Park
Indeed Brewing 711 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis 612.843.5090 indeedbrewing.com
The beers: All DMB's beers are crafted reverently, reminiscent of the great beers of history. Miller's team is particularly deft at isolating and layering flavors, as exemplified in the murky-dark but surprisingly light-bodied Black Lager that's on tap. They tend to be more adventurous with flavors and ingredients than the other breweries, producing brews like a coconut milk stout and a toasted hemp brown ale, and do some pretty out-of-the-ordinary styles, such as the Baltic porter they put out a few months ago. DMB keeps four to six beers in rotation, and you can order them in a 10-ounce tulip glass or a 20-ounce big boy.
The location: Like many of the small breweries that have started popping up all over the metro, Fulton began with a few friends and many hours logged in a garage. But unlike any of its beer peers, Fulton went from a hobby homebrewing outfit to perhaps the most popular and ubiquitous mid-size craft brewery in Minneapolis in the space of just a year or two. The business quickly outgrew its original location, set up a new shop just a stone's throw from Target Field, and opened the city's first official taproom in spring 2012. More than a year later the owners are still adding to the facility and have announced plans to build an outdoor patio area with landscaping designed by Tangletown Gardens, which also teamed up with the brewery to offer CSA box pickup right from the taproom. Drop by for a drink, catch a little of the game on one of the taproom's many TVs, pick up all your fresh produce, and head home to make dinner. An excursion to this Warehouse District spot needn't be for special occasions only.
The vibe: From opening day to the end of the season, Fulton's taproom turns into a bar for Twins fans, but on away-game days you'll find a good mix of designers, modern mad men, and beer geeks from all walks of life. The interior, spare and steely, is conducive to wandering, mixing, and socializing — a great place to meet people and experience some now-familiar favorite beers straight from the source. Of all the taprooms, Fulton's seems to be the most consistently busy and as a response, they schedule food trucks to park in the front lot almost every day they're open. If there is a more perfect union than the one between an Hola Arepa flatbread and one of Fulton's refreshingly soapy beers, I don't know what it is.