Breweries and Brew Pubs



Rochester Minnesota, like a lot of places, is exploding with craft beer. In the last few years, two brew pubs and two breweries have opened for business in our little town. This is good news!

Five years ago, a documentary called Beer Wars really opened our eyes to how evil the beer industry can be. With government regulations and the three-tier system on their side, the big brewers really have an advantage over the little guys, so most people drink mediocre beer from these monopolies. Thus, since about 2010, we have made an effort to avoid beers from the big guys. No Anheuser-Busch, InBev, Miller or Coors for us… if we can avoid it. Or course, avoiding it is difficult and the battle is fierce as is described in a recent Time article titled, “Big Beer’s 5-Point Plan to Crush the Craft Beer Revolution.”

So given the desire to drink craft beer, it is really exciting to see some little guys taking root locally. In 2011, Minnesota passed what was nicknamed the Surly Bill into law. Before that law, Minnesota breweries weren’t allowed to serve their own beer at their own breweries because of that three-tier system that required separation of alcohol manufacturers from alcohol distributors from alcohol retailers. But now, as long as a brewer has the appropriate license from their local municipality, they can sell the beer they make at their own brewery. Very good news for craft beer drinkers.

Last week, I attended a presentation given by Brandon Schulz, co-founder and brewer at LTS Brewing Company. He discussed the difficulties of taking a craft beer making passion from hobby to small business. His talk was entertaining and educational. Besides being a good review of the process for making beer and a glimpse into the challenges of starting an alcohol-related business in Minnesota, he answered a question that I didn’t know I had.

What is the difference between a brewery and a brew pub?

These definitions may vary from state to state, but in Minnesota, brewpubs are allowed to brew and serve their own beer as well as beer and liquor of other companies, but they cannot bottle, can, or keg their beer to sell to bars, restaurants or stores. Brewpubs are really restaurants that are operated on the premises of a brewery. The purpose of a brewpub is to sell beer in their restaurant or bar. They can, with appropriate licensing, sell growlers for customers to take home.

Breweries, on the other hand, can distribute their beer to other bars, restaurants and stores, but they can’t serve anyone else’s beer or sell other liquor on their premises. The main purpose of a brewery is to create beer.

So, that brings me back to beer in Rochester’s four new beer venues.


Both of the Rochester breweries are in industrial-type buildings without many frills. They built their businesses more for the purpose of brewing beer than for attracting tourists. LTS, especially, is a bit out of the way. It is located where it is easy for delivery trucks to bring them hops and take away finished kegs of beer, but is not located downtown where out-of-towners might stumble upon them. But, since Rochester is a relatively small city, both of these breweries are easy to find and their tap rooms are worth visiting.

Kinney Creek Brewery

According to their website, Kinney Creek Brewery was the first official brewery in Rochester Minnesota since prohibition. They have a taproom where you can sample their large variety of beer. They have a long list of beers on tap ranging from IPAs to Stouts to Strong Ales. They also brew several seasonal beers that change throughout the year. With some of the catchy beer names like Squirrel’s Delight and Canoe the Zumbro (IPA), it is likely that everyone could find something they want to taste. They serve pints, flights and growlers and while they don’t serve food, you can bring your own, have it delivered, or visit when a food truck happens to be outside. Kinney Creek gives tours monthly on an irregular schedule. Besides their taproom, you can find their beer in Rochester at HyVee Wine & Spirits, Apollo Wine & Spirits, Andy’s Liquor, and Northwest Liquors. It can also be found in Owatonna, Eagan and Red Wing, proving perhaps that they have been successful in the brewery goal of creating beer and selling it.

LTS Brewing Company

With their motto, Life’s Too Short, LTS Brewing Company started brewing beer in April, 2015 and opened their taproom in August, 2015. In their taproom you can find about ten beers on tap at their attractive bar. The beers vary from week to week and season to season. They have a wide range of beers including Kölsch, Belgian-style Blond, Belgian-style Saison, Oatmeal Stout, IPA, American Pale Ale, Northern-German-style Altbier, American Brown Ale, and the list goes on and on. Tasting flights are available. In addition, they brew several sodas including root beer and cream soda. Thus far, my favorite LTS beers are FUN and Ctrl-Alt-Delete. FUN is their Belgian-style Blond. It was low on hops (good for me since I’m not a big hops fan), but full of flavor and refreshing when the weather was hot. Ctrl-Alt-Delete is a Northern-German-style Altbeir. I’m not really sure that that means, but it is similar to their Kölsch, but darker. They describe it as having hints of coffee, but lucky for me since I’m not a coffee drinker, the coffee flavor is not very strong. I look forward to trying more and more of their beers.  LTS eventually plans to add a restaurant, but for now, you can enjoy their popcorn, bring in your own food, have food delivered, or enjoy a visit while a food truck is there. They hope that eventually they will be distributing their beer to local restaurants and liquor stores.


Our two brewpubs are both in trendy locations and feature gourmet food to go along with their beer. Disclaimer: I grew up on meat and potatoes, so any place that throws goat cheese on a menu item seems like a gourmet place to me.

Grand Rounds Brewing Company

Grand Rounds Brewing Company is in the heart of downtown, situated in an enviable location on Historic 3rd Street. They will be found by locals and tourists alike. Tours of their brewing operation are given on the first Saturday of every month. They also offer tasting packages that combine a 30-minute guided tour with tastes of Grand Rounds beer. I wrote about my first visit here a couple months ago, so I won’t repeat myself, but I will take a second to remember how much I liked their Freedom Scotch Ale – yum. They have several of their own beers on tap, guest beers, and some other beverage choices. As one would expect from a brewpub, they have a full and unique menu. Some of the more interesting things listed on their menu are an appetizer called Bison Tartar (Hand-cut bison, jalapeno jam, onion/pepper marmalade, capers, pickles, remoulade, quail egg), The Jams & Cheddar Dag (bacon jam, jalapeno jam, and sharp white cheddar on a hot dog), the Chickpea and Goat Cheese burger, and the Beef & The Bird sandwich (sliced steak, fried eggs, sautéed onions, tomato, mozzarella and truffle aioli). They also offer a few “big plates” (main dishes), pizzas, and a few desserts. After enjoying your meal and a beer, you can get a growler of their beer to go.

Forager Brewery

Okay, so they call themselves Forager Brewery / a thoughtful beer, but they are really a brewery and restaurant, so officially they are a brewpub. It is all so confusing! Forager Brewery opened its doors very recently in the new Kutzky Market in the Kutzky Park Neighborhood just north of downtown Rochester. They have an upscale and hip venue. (When you read the names of the beers you will forgive me for using the word “hip.”) The place was really hopping (no beer pun intended) when I was there a couple weeks ago. As the Forager name might imply, they make beer and food with unusual “locally foraged” ingredients. Their beers have funky names like Urban Hops, Broken Compass, Funky Dangerfield, and Starry-Eyed Blond. I was especially excited to try the Sherpas Survival Kit which was described as “American double stout, coffee, chocolate, complex.” Unfortunately, the coffee was too over-powering for me. I wonder if drinking beer will eventually teach me to like coffee – hmmm. I didn’t like the Sherpa, so moved on to a glass of Autumn Harvest, a seasonal pumpkin ale, which I found to be much more to my liking. Besides their own beers, they offer wines and spirits. Their gastro pub menu features starters like nachos made with pickled corn, pork shoulder, goat cheese and chimicurri, but mainly concentrates on their rustic wood fired pizza. With their wood-fired oven, they can cook about 100 pizzas an hour. The “Piggy Pie (sausage, roasted pepper, balsamic, cream cheese)” was the most traditional pizza on the menu. It was delicious. Forager does offer tours that include getting to sample all eight beers on tap as well as a complimentary pint.

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of the beer scene in Rochester. With two beer pubs and two breweries thus far, we definitely should be able to get a good quality craft beer whenever we need.


Battina, Bryan A. “The Surly Bill.” Understanding Craft Beer, Breweries, Brew Pubs and the Law in Minnesota. Trepanier, MacGillis, Batina. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

Battina, Bryan A. “Craft Beer.” Understanding Craft Beer, Breweries, Brew Pubs and the Law in Minnesota. Trepanier, MacGillis, Batina. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

Forager Brewery. 2015. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

Grand Rounds Brew Pub. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

Kinney Creek Brewery. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

LTS Brewing Company. 2015. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

Tuttle, Brad. “Big Beer’s 5-Point Plan to Crush the Craft Brew Revolution.” Time Magazine. 16 Oct 2015. Web. 18 Oct 2015.

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