Summer's a-brewin'

St. Croix Valley breweries—and their favorite hot-weather beers—to add to your summer must-drink list.

Lift Bridge Brewery | Stillwater | Opened 2008 (taproom added 2010)

Lift Bridge offers a fun atmosphere, free popcorn and ample board games alongside pours of local favorites Farm Girl Saison and Hop Dish IPA, plus about 15 other brews available seasonally. (There’s even yummy Lift Bridge Root Beer that’s brewed on-site for the under-21 and designated-driver crowds.) Check the website for a lineup of summer events, like release parties for small-batch brews.

On tap this summer: Mango Blonde Ale is a limited-release that’ll make you say “ahhh” as you sink into your lawn chair. Mango adds depth, but doesn’t overpower. 4.6 percent ABV.

Maple Island Brewing | Stillwater | Opened 2014

Gigantic garage doors let fresh St. Croix River air flow through this laidback spot on Stillwater’s Main Street. Grab a bag of popcorn, order a pizza or bring your own snacks to enjoy with your flight of imaginative brews. “We have a beautiful view, and there’s not a bad seat in the house,” owner Frank Fabio says. “It’s even better when it’s raining!”

On tap this summer at Maple Island: I Scream Brew stout, available midsummer, features Nelson’s Ice Cream from just down the road. Chocolate, peanut butter and caramel ice cream are swirled in with caramel, carabrown and chocolate malts. (It’s like summer in a glass.) 5.2 percent ABV.

Oliphant Brewing | Somerset, Wis. | Opened 2014

You won’t be able to read the Oliphant tap list with a straight face. From Ant Ray Cow Pants to Mothra vs. Mothra, each beer (and corresponding chalk drawing by Taproom manager Jeremy Hughes) is born out of nostalgia, creativity and a little dose of weird. It’s dog-friendly, kid-friendly and encourages you to BYOP (bring your own pizza—and other snacks). Look for the lizard mural behind Liquor Depot, and you’ll know you’ve found the place.

On tap this summer: That’s anyone’s guess. There are about 40 brews that regularly make an appearance on the tap list. Honees Honees Golden Ale is one recent favorite that’ll harken back to your Peanut Butter Crunch days. 6 percent ABV.
Pitchfork Brewing | Hudson | Opened 2013

There’s a decidedly local flavor to Pitchfork beers, and a community-centric approach to business. Anniversary parties include a free smoked pig shoulder. You can order in from Paddy Ryan’s next door, and you won’t even have to set foot outside—they share an entryway, and delivery is available! Free popcorn and fresh-made root beer.

Rotating on tap this summer (and all the time): Straw German Pilsner and the Midwest Pilsner take traditional German brewing to heart, with some hops character that’ll delight but never offend. Pitchfork uses local, whole-cone hops for the Midwest Pilsner, sourced directly from farmers, so have fun and support your local economy in one glass.
5 percent ABV.

Rush River Brewing | River Falls, Wis. | Opened 2004

A transplant from Maiden Rock, Wis., Rush River Brewing has been in River Falls since 2007. Ever-changing, imaginative brews include coffee- or grapefruit-infused beers and barrel-aged stouts. “That’s the beauty of the taproom,” owner Nick Anderson says. He says there are about 15 Rush River beers tapped at a time, and they’re always “rotating through new, fun stuff you can’t get anywhere else.” (They’ll also fill any growler, so bring one along.)

On tap this summer: Scenic Pale Ale, a smooth and drinkable light pale ale with loads of Citra and Mosaic hops and just a tinge of tropical flavors like grapefruit and apricot. 5 percent ABV.

Swinging Bridge Brewing | River Falls, Wis. |Opened March 2017

Swinging Bridge is a newbie on the scene, but it’s community-supported (think CSA, but for beer) and river-friendly. With four beers of its own, guest taps supporting other local brewers, fresh kombucha and nitro cold-brew coffee on the ready, there’s something fresh and fun for everyone. With a canning machine on-site, they also can fill up your cooler, glass-free, with yummy beers for your paddling adventures (the Kinne is practically in the backyard).

On tap this summer: Cleary’s Dry Irish Stout is a creamy beer with notes of chocolate and smokey undertones. 6.7 percent ABV.