Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It’s also home to the late Prince, Vikings football, and food on a stick. And, of course, it's a great place for beer lovers, with a slew of fantastic options: everything from old staples like Grain Belt (“the friendly beer”!) to thousands of new craft brews that’ve taken the state by storm.
Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or have lived there your whole life, you need to try the following 10 Minnesota beers -- each of which we've paired with a beloved Minnesotan pastime. It doesn't get more Minnesota than any of these combinations:
Watch the Vikings
August Schell Brewing Co. Schell’s Deer Brand
American Lager, 4.8% ABV
To determine the best beer to drink when taking in a Vikings game, we went straight to the source and asked one of the team’s wide receivers, Adam Thielen. “You’ve gotta have Schell’s beer at your tailgate," Thielen says. "It’s a great small-town Minnesota beer. It tastes great. And it’s a classic! The Schell’s brewery has been around a long time for a reason. I love it.” Not only does Thielen play for Minnesota’s favorite football team, but he was born in Detroit Lakes, which gives him even more clout when it comes to his home state. And he's not wrong. The New Ulm brewery is a Minnesota staple, and has been since 1860. Nothing says tossing-around-the-old-pig-skin like a cold bottle of the signature Deer Brand, a crisp and simple American lager that's remained consistent since before Prohibition.
Eat Food On a Stick
Fulton Beer Lonely Blonde
American Blonde Ale, 4.8% ABV
Since food on a stick tends to be fried, heavy, and full of cheese, you’ll want a nice, crisp beer to help cut through the grease without filling you up too much. That's where this Minneapolis brewery's American blonde ale comes in. It's bright, fresh, and has just enough bite to help you digest stick after stick of fried candy bars, meatballs, and sausage. And for those single beer lovers out there, we hope you find a lonely blonde at the Minnesota State Fair who’s also in search of someone with whom to share a brew and a fried pickle on a stick.
credits:"Linnea Covington" align:center
Take In the Spoonbridge and Cherry
Brau Brothers Brewing Co. MooJoos
Oatmeal Milk Stout, 5.8% ABV
Artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen created this eye-catching, tourist-attracting spoon with a cherry: a colossal sculpture that screams "dessert." Sip Brau Brothers' creamy, chocolatey oatmeal milk stout while you take in this beautiful work of art. And while there may not be a cherry version of MooJoos, you can get other variations of the stout all year round -- including one laced with blood orange, and another flavored like red velvet cake. The brewery itself is inspiring, too: it opened in the 220-person town of Lucan in 1999 and garnered so much fanfare that by 2013, the brothers Brady, Dustin, and Trevor Brau moved to Marshall, expanded distribution, and opened a tap room.
credits:"[Walker Art Center](https://walkerart.org/collections/artworks/spoonbridge-and-cherry)"
Chow on Hotdish
Surly Brewing Co. Overrated IPA
West Coast-Style IPA, 7.3% ABV
Hotdish is basically casserole -- a mish-mash of all sorts of foods thrown together. Trust us: despite how it sounds, tater tots, cheese, sausage, green beans, and a can of cream of mushroom soup can be pretty tasty, especially if you’ve had a few local beers beforehand. To help cut through the heaviness of this state dish, a hoppy beer with a lot of oomph is the ticket. Surly, one of Minneapolis's most popular breweries, concocted a West Coast-style IPA with zesty orange and pineapple notes, thanks to dry-hopping. It's aggressively bitter in a way that makes you want to take another sip, just as hotdish begs for another bite -- even when you think you've had enough.
Bemidji Brewing Espresso Porter
Porter, 5.3% ABV
Jason Rylander has been ice fishing since he was three-years-old. While he wasn't drinking beer at that tender age, he’s since made putting away a cold one as part of his current ritual while chasing burbot, eelpout, and walleye. "Having beers while you’re out on the ice or in a heated fish house is part of the culture here," says Rylander, who loves Bemidji Brewing and lives in the town. "Normally I’m a Pabst Blue Ribbon guy, but this craft beer movement in Minnesota is exciting." One tip he shared is to make sure you get a good cooler, which might sound odd at first. But in order to ice fish, subzero temperatures are necessary. "You’re actually keeping [the beers] from freezing," he explains. "You set your beer on the ice, catch a couple of fish, and you go back to it and it's slush." As for the beer, Bemidji Brewing's robust espresso-laced porter is just the ticket to warm the belly and keep you from falling asleep as you wait for the fish to bite. And, if it does freeze a little, at least you have something akin to iced coffee.
credits:"[Matthew Stinar / Flickr](https://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewstinar/3139365619)"
Dive Into the Tall Tales of Paul Bunyan
Inbound Brewco Oaked Brown Ale
Brown Ale, 7.2% ABV
The American folk legend of Paul Bunyan involves the exploits of a behemoth lumberjack and his giant blue ox, Babe. You can find the story all over the midwest, and in Minnesota this includes larger-than-life statues in Bemidji and Akeley, and a theme park in Brainerd. But what beer should one sip while listening to this hero's tales of valor? Something strong, something memorable, and something as full of woodsy flavors as the edge of Bunyan's axe. As the name suggests, oak leads the way in this Minneapolis brew, but you also get flavors that include coffee, roasted nuts, and a bit of warming spice.
Visit the World's Largest Ball of Twine
credits:"[Darwin MN Twine Ball / Facebook](https://www.facebook.com/DarwinMNTwineball/photos/a.392105277515324.87752.391813177544534/1393737157352126/?type=1&theater)" width:350 align:right
Lake Monster Brewing Last Fathom
Munich-Style Dunkel, 5.5% ABV
Thankfully for people who love the outdoors, there are more lakes in Minnesota than giant sculptures (and more craft beer, too). But if you’re going to visit one of the huge works of "art," make it the World's Largest Ball of Twine in Darwin (even though the world’s current largest ball might actually be in Kansas). To pair with this stringy adventure, try a beer featuring another state staple: wild rice. Lake Monster offers a Munich-style dunkel with earthy undertones thanks to the local rice with which it's brewed. The rice complements the full body and nutty, malty beer. Grab a six-pack of cans and take it with you -- the beer tastes great cold, but can also be sipped at room temperature.
Pay Homage to Prince
Dangerous Man Brewing Co. Blackberry Milkshake IPA
IPA, ABV 6.3%
No, this beer is no raspberry beret. But even though Prince allegedly never drank beer, we're guessing he’d approve of this bold brew that has dessert-like qualities and a dark, fruity undertone. This IPA by the swanky Minneapolis brewery proves perfect as it imparts a creamy, berry shortcake flavor and a strong, hoppy finish. It might be a short pour, but it's large in both character and nuance, much like the late star. Drink this while listening to the iconic Purple Rain album or after a visit to Paisley Park in Chanhassen.
Get Bitten By the State Bird
Bad Weather Brewery Sun Pillar
Belgian Blonde, 5.1% ABV
This Saint Paul brewery boasts brews that are "untethered and unpredictable, just like the weather here in Minnesota." But while the wind, rain, snow, sun, and cold can't always be foreseen (thanks to the abundance of lakes), getting bit by the state bird (a.k.a. the mosquito) is a foregone conclusion. As anyone who’s been covered in itchy red welts will tell you, one of the best ways to relieve the pain is to get good and tipsy. Or at least have a really nice beer to make you feel better. This Belgian blonde is just the ticket -- it's subtle in flavor but packs a nice bubblegum essence made sunny by a dash of warming clove. Not only can it help wash away the insect's sting, but it's refreshing on those hot days when you might encounter said creature.
Learn About Spam
Mankato Brewery Mad Butcher IPA
American IPA, 7.5% ABV
It was indeed a mad (and genius!) butcher who first put Spam on the market. Okay, we exaggerated: it was the Hormel Foods Corporation that created this canned, spiced ham in 1937 as a way to get a protein-filled food to the troops fighting in World War II. Still, it's fun to imagine a crazy meat doctor having at it, and even more fun to drink a beer from a can that features a cartoon mustachioed man whacking a pig with a chicken. This American IPA proves just right for cutting through a meal that includes the processed meat. It’s a little sweet and very citrus-forward, with a nice hoppy bitterness to even out the taste. And it also pairs nicely with a visit to the Spam Museum in Austin, the town where the legendary meat product was created.