Named for Stillwater's iconic bridge, the Lift Bridge Brewing Company cooks up an array of solid brews for all occasions. Its brewers—all passionate beer geeks and homebrewers from Stillwater—strive to be creative while blending balanced beers such as the Chestnut Hill nut brown ale that boasts a healthy malt backbone. Their golden Farm Girl saison acquires intriguing spice from Belgian yeasts, while their Hop Prop IPA overflows with the floral and citrusy flavor of seven varieties of American hops. Lift Bridge also dallies with seasonal and specialty brews that have included a barleywine, an oyster stout, and an Oktoberfest. Visitors can go on brewery tours every Saturday afternoon to spend some quality time with huge fermenting tanks and bags of barley.
The brewers at Herkimer Pub & Brewery truly embrace the brewing craft as they make their signature Kolsch and Alt microbrews. To complement these staples, the brew masters experiment with small-batch beers that change with the seasons, much like a goose's mailing address. In the kitchen, chef Omar Gillego concocts a slew of pub favorites, including Angus sliders, spicy buffalo wings, and shrimp po’ boys with celery-root rémoulade.
Posters of sultry pinups decorate the walls, and an expansive glass wall gives guests a glimpse of the onsite brewery.
moto-i gives diners an authentic Japanese culinary experience without requiring that they leave uptown Minneapolis. Unpasteurized draft sake is brewed inside the izakaya-influenced bar and restaurant; onsite production keeps this staple libation fresh and free of jet lag. Executive chef Omar forges Asian-fusion dishes that meld flavors such as whole fish served with handmade pickles and abura ramen peppered with smoked pork shoulder. Instead of airing football games and soccer matches, the restaurant’s TVs run live and pre-recorded sumo wrestling bouts simulcast from Japan, proving to diners that sports aren’t required by international law to include a ball.
Scenically located on the banks of Saint Croix River, Nova boasts more than a century of history, dating back to pre-Prohibition years, as well as a selection of scrumptious, seasonal cuisine and more than 200 bottles of wine. For dinner, after an appetizer of andouille quesadillas ($9), traditional tastes can try hand-tossed pizzas ($12–$14), pastas, or burgers, and adventurous eaters can brawl with the Fighting Bison, a 12-ounce bison rib eye rubbed with blackened seasoning and gorgonzola to hide its battle scars ($21). Become fast friends with Johnny Boy, a pan-fried and almond-crusted walleye swimming in blueberry tarragon sauce ($18), or Georgie Porgie, a soy-braised, all-natural pork tenderloin paired with vegetables and rice ($20).
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.
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.
Taste of Stillwater's annual festival, established in 2011, directs the spotlight toward the palate-popular offerings of local wineries, breweries, restaurants, and food trucks. Throughout the daylong celebration, empty tummies shuffle from station to station filling up on samples of refreshing beverages and foods, fueling bodies to explore the festival grounds' shopping opportunities and to tour Saint Croix Vineyards. Families stake their claim on the lawn area with blankets, foldable chairs, and giant bronze statues of their great-grandfathers before they feast their ears on live music. Taste of Stillwater dedicates a portion of its proceeds to charities including Valley Outreach, a community-based nonprofit organization that supports low-income people with donations of food, clothing, and other necessities.