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Friday, September 6, 2019


Taproom patio at Pryes Brewing, Minneapolis
GUEST BLOG / By Kevin Revolinski, Writer,
It’s often referred to as Mighty as well as Muddy, but the Mississippi River cuts down a path in the middle of America. That path that could be your next beery own road trip. From the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, there are dozens of breweries along the Great River Road.

The Great River Road was developed in 1938, this system of connecting highways–some national, some state and even a few county roads–runs the length of the 2,348-mile Mississippi River through 10 states.

Along this National Scenic Byway, you’ll find more than 70 museums and historic sites chronicle fascinating stories of the Mississippi River Valley, from the birthplace of Mark Twain to Civil War battles to the roots of blues music. State and national parks and wildlife refuges abound. Experience friendly small-town America at one stop and the bright lights of the big city at the next. Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans anchor the road trip, from north to south.

Remember that the route changes highways many times, so watch the signs. You can get a free map that provides all the major cities, towns and highway numbers on the Great River Road’s website. The Federal Highway Commission also breaks the route down by state with even clearer directions.

Pack some empty growlers and a good cooler and discover craft breweries along the Great River Road.’s first stop is Minnesota:

Minnesota Breweries
Headwaters of the Mississippi gather inside the glacially formed Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park. Here the mighty river is a modest stream. You can wade across without getting your knees wet. Ironically, the river first heads north from here on its journey to the Gulf. That first stretch of road from Itasca to Minneapolis/St. Paul runs about 380 miles, crossing the river 18 times on single route, before becoming two routes on either side of the wider river.

After you’ve wet your toes at the source, the first place to wet your whistle is at Bemidji Brewing. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the brewery opened in 2013 in a former drugstore and has had incremental expansions since. The beers switch up constantly with a robust porter and IPA typically among the 12 on tap. Its ample taproom menu of burgers, flatbreads and gyros pairs nicely with them. Bemidji Brewing does fill other branded growlers–not always a given in Minnesota.

After Bemidji, you’ll find craft beer in Grand Rapids at Klockow Brewing, in Crosby at Cuyuna Brewing, on either side of the river in Brainerd (Roundhouse Brewery) to the east and Baxter (Jack Pine Brewery) to the west as you come down out of the Northwoods.

Then stop at Starry Eyed Brewing in Little Falls, a big pole barn with a picnic-table taproom insight of the brewhouse. Play a little cribbage or other board games with your sample flight. Along with some well-received standard beers, try the Tapfoolery and Hopfoolery beers, weekly changing small batches. There are free popcorn and bonfires in the beer garden at night.

You’re on Minnesota 15 as you roll into St. Cloud, which puts you a block away from Pantown Brewing. If you want to head downtown before continuing south, Beaver Island is three blocks from the river on Minnesota 23. County Road 75 runs through Monticello, right past Rustech Brewing, then on to Anoka for 10K Brewing and Coon Rapids, home of Alloy Brewing.

It's the craft beer, not the weather that makes Surly Brewing the talk of Minneapolis
Minneapolis/St. Paul

The Twin Cities represent the first metropolis of brewing on this road trip, and you could spend a couple weeks here. The National Park Service’s Mississippi River Visitor Center is in St. Paul within the Science Museum of Minnesota. If you can’t decide on which of the dozens of breweries to visit, start in the brewery-dense northeast Minneapolis neighborhood with a number of great options including:
--Indeed and
The entire area is walkable.
The veteran Summit Brewing in St. Paul overlooks the river. Edgy Surly Brewing and its production brewery and beer hall opened in 2014 as a destination brewery. Mission accomplished. The brewery’s Furious IPA is quite popular and crosses state lines, and the creamy Coffee Bender ale is smooth enough for breakfast.

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery is one of the “old guard” here dating back to 1997. They produce more than 50 beers each year and there are 17 on tap plus some casks. And the food is good. Pryes Brewing sits along the riverbank with a large taproom and a patio with water views. Citrusy Miraculum IPA and a raspberry Berliner Weisse are staples on the 12-tap menu, which includes cask ales and a bit of barrel-aged beers. Only pre-filled growlers and cans are for sale.

South of the Twin Cities, at Hastings, the route splits so you can travel on either side of the river from that point on. Stop in at the family-run, community-focused Spiral Brewery, named for a historical bridge that once crossed the river. The brewery is steps from the modern bridge and two miles from where the river meets the St. Croix and becomes the state line. For Wisconsin, you could cross the Mississippi on U.S. 61 and follow U.S. 10 east to pick up Wisconsin 35 to continue south.

But consider staying on U.S. 61 south to Red Wing on the river, home to the factory of the famous shoe brand and, of course, Red Wing Brewing for a draft and a house pizza. Before and after Red Wing, the highway deviates from the river, but 10 miles south of town it follows closely along the edge with rising bluffs to your right.

Reads Landing Brewing in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of the same name occupies an 1869 dry goods store. Cremona Cream Ale is the staple with a rotation of others, and the river is steps away with river and rail traffic frequently passes. The brewery has a full menu and the shrimp and grits is a nice foreshadowing of where this trip is heading. Winona is the last beer stop in Minnesota. Island City Brewing has reliable core beers and some well regarded rotating brews.

SOURCE: is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association.


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