Northern Vineyards is a shared winery owned by the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative, a group of winemakers who own 1- to 15-acre vineyards across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Members grow Frontenac, Prairie Star, and other grape varieties that perform well in the region; since the region has a cold climate and short growing season, grapes grown here must tolerate lower temperatures, ripen early, and be able to knit their own woolen mittens. In the fall, growers lug their mature grapes to the main winery in Stillwater, where award-winning winemaker Robin Partch transforms them into 30 kinds of wine.
The winery?s barrel room hosts wine tastings seven days a week at a glossy, wooden tasting bar. There?s also an outdoor deck that overlooks a historic lift bridge along the St. Croix River. In nice weather, visitors can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a glass of wine on the deck.
To create small batches of wines and spirits at Infinity Beverages Winery & Distillery, the proprietor draws upon the best raw materials available throughout the United States. But those aren't always the raw materials you'd imagine: Spirits include vodka made from midwest apples rather than grain, authentic fruit brandies, and whiskey distilled from full-flavored craft beer to be released in November 2014. The one-of-a-kind wine recipes are equally distinctive, ranging from sweet-tasting pinot noir and zinfandel to port-style moscato and classic dry reds such as syrah and pinot noir.
At Infinity Beverage's Tasting Lounge, visitors enjoy samples of hand-crafted wines, spirits, cocktails, and libations-in-development in a relaxing atmosphere. Customers are urged to visit Infinity's website to view their ever-growing list of current products.
When the Gaffer family describes The Nova as "an eclectic little wine bar," they're not speaking figuratively. This cozy spot was refurbished from half of the historic liquor store it's attached to, a liquor store with a cave that burrows 150 feet into the nearby hillside. The Nova is the Gaffers' love letter to wines, where chef Nate crafts seasonal menus inspired by the more than 200 bottles of wine onsite. And while pan-fried walleye with a cornmeal crust would pair nicely with a bottle of white, dishes such as the Nova dirty burger with mushroom-cream sauce would probably fare better with a craft beer from the restaurant's 12 rotating taps. As a proponent of wine, beer, craft cocktails, growlers, and all things spirits, the Nova and its sister liquor store often host events and tasting parties in the aforementioned cave.
American Sky Beer by Hudson Brewing Company was established by Greg and Molly Harris in 2012. The line reflects a military reverence, whose flagship beers pay homage to US aviation during World War II and appeal to microbrew and mainstream fans alike. Their flagship beers – a mainstay at establishments in western Wisconsin – include the blonde ale Tailgunner Gold, smooth and malty Amber Salute, and robust citra-hopped USA-IPA.
The military and aviation theme can also be seen through the black-framed photographs of past and current veterans which decorate one corner of The Hangar—their taproom. Complementing this decor is a U-shaped bar, made of riveted aluminum and looking as though it's been stripped right off a plane. This sense of architectural spectacle is more than mere theatrics; for every picture the microbrewery receives, it donates $2 to Fisher House Foundation, which provides low-cost and free housing to the families of veterans receiving medical treatment.
Along with American Sky Beer's mainstays, beer-tenders serve pints of weekly-rotating specialties, such as Black IPA, Coffee Stout, and Cream Ale. Keeping revelers in full revel, events such as beer and bacon Sundays, happy hour Thursdays with complimentary meat and cheese samplings, and Firkin Fridays complement live local music featured on Saturdays. The Hangar is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-8 p.m., Saturdays from 2-8 p.m. with live music beginning at 5 p.m., and Sundays from 12-4 p.m.
In the open autumn air at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Twin Cities Oktoberfest celebrates all that is German during its two days of festivities. Throughout the weekend, live bands such as The Squires Band, a four-piece band with 30 years of experience, entertain guests with traditional German harmonies and live renditions of the ER theme song. Between shows, audience members peruse vendors' booths, noshing on brats and German snacks. Beer from Summit and wine from Pedroncelli flow into glasses, keeping guests lingering into the evening hours as they discuss the latest in lederhosen fashion.
Though Sand Creek Brewing Company officially launched in 2004, its heritage stretches all the way back to 1856. That's when the Swiss-born Ulrich Oderbolz built his Oderbolz Brewing Company. on the side of a hill in Black River Falls. The facility changed hands and names over the years?Badger Brewing Company, Pioneer Brewing Company?before the Sand Creek team relocated from their makeshift brewery on a Wisconsin dairy farm.
These days, Pioneer's brewmaster Todd Krueger?a winner of three World Beer Cup golds?joins forces with Sand Creek's Jim Wiesender. Together, the duo concocts 10 year-round and seasonal brews, from an award-winning oatmeal chocolate stout to a German-style ale made with Wisconsin-grown cranberries. Brews flow every Friday evening at Sand Creek's taproom, while free tours offer glimpses into the historic building and its 19th-century beer cellar, where bottles are fashionably attired with top hats and monocles. Besides extended taproom hours each summer, the microbrewery participates in myriad events throughout the year.