The craft beer craze has not missed the Whitefish Chain area of Minnesota. Delicious beers are brewed locally in a great atmosphere at five area breweries. Each has a variety of beers and is sure to have one you'll love! You could easily hit all of them in a day (though you may not want to drive!), or split the tour into Brainerd area breweries and those north of Brainerd. You can also find these local brews at many local bars and restaurants.
Crosslake's first brewery is 14 Lakes, named for the 14 lakes of the Whitefish Chain! Located on County Road 66 just south of City Hall, the brewery now boasts a lineup of 11 beers, many of them named for parts of the chain (like the Hay Lake Helles and the Big Island Double IPA!).
Owners Steve and Cindy Guttormson opened the brewery in the same building as their other business, Arnie's Meat and Seafood. Now run by Steve, Arnie's Meat and Seafood was started by Steve's father, Arnie. Steve and Cindy both love good beer, saw a need and figured they already had the fridge space to store all that delicious beer.
Roundhouse Brewing: Roundhouse Brewing is combining the history of the area with great beer. Roundhouse, which opened April 28, is located in one of the former Northern Pacific Railroad buildings in Brainerd, and incorporates the history into its decor, branding and the names of its beers. Kombucha and root beer are on tap for those who don't want to have alcohol.
According to their website, Roundhouse is named for a place in the railyard where train cars would enter into a turntable where they were rotated and lined up to enter a workshop stall for maintenance or repairs. The building was knocked down at the Brainerd Northern Pacific center after it went out of commission in the area, but the round outline of the area can still be seen as you drive to a parking spot near the brewery.
There's no food served at the brewery, but you're welcome to bring your own or order delivery to the brewery. Sometimes food trucks or other local restaurants serve at the brewery; see the events page for more info.
Jack Pine Brewery: The Brainerd Lakes Area’s first brewery to arrive was Jack Pine, which still remains a favorite among locals. Patrick Sundberg founded the brewery after years as an award-winning homebrewer and homebrew competition judge. Jack Pine has a new building in Baxter that's just a block off Hwy. 371.
Jack Pine has been known to experiment with barley wines, sour beers and small-batch IPAs, and always has something new on tap. In addition to his four standard beers, several seasonal beers rotate on the taps. Hornet’s Nest, a honey lemon wheat that incorporates local honey and lemon zest into the beer, is Jack Pine’s summer beer and is now on tap. Jacktoberfest, a fall seasonal Oktoberfest style beer, is also on tap. Craft sodas are available for those who don't want alcohol. You can tour the brewery every Saturday at 2 p.m. No reservations are needed.
Big Axe: Big Axe Brewing in Nisswa is right on main street, nestled in the city’s popular shopping area. Having opened about a year ago, Big Axe has a cozy and comfortable atmosphere with great beer, which sometimes incorporates coffee roasted by nearby Stonehouse Coffee, owned by the same family. Its location makes it the perfect stop after a day of shopping Nisswa's main street.
Big Axe has a variety of beers as well as soda, and also serves sandwiches, burgers, apps and more.
Quenching the thirst of hoardes of mountain bikers is Cuyuna Brewing Company in downtown Crosby. Just a short drive east of the Whitefish Chain, this brewery is in a historic building that used to be a bank. Cuyuna Brewing has 11 beers on tap plus cider, hard root beer, beer-mosas (think mimosa, with beer) and non-alcoholic drinks.
The brewery holds regular events including food trucks and live music.
And if all of these breweries don't satisfy your appetite for craft beer, check out the Harvest Moon Brewfest being held Sept. 7. Hosted by the local homebrew club, you'll have the chance to try beers from local breweries as well as breweries across the state, plus the homebrewers' own creations.