Minneapolis isn’t the only city you can visit to drink local. With multiple breweries, vineyards, as well as a distillery, Waconia is becoming the new Minnesota beer, wine and spirits hub. So of course, I had to visit.
J. Carver Distillery
If you are looking for the best local spirits, look no further than J. Carver Distillery in Waconia. Vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy, and even grappa, J. Carver has it all, and truly is the best you can find in Minnesota. The greatest way to grant access into all of what the local distillery has to offer is to take their tour. For a little more than the average cost of a cocktail, at $10 you can get a guided look around the distillery by one of the distillers themselves. I guarantee you will gain more information on how they make their liquor than you can even comprehend, and of course enjoy some samples.
Before touring the car dealership turned distillery make sure to grab a drink from their cocktail lounge. With over 14 classic and specialty cocktails to choose from, you will surely be able to find at least one that you will want to sip on. I recommend the Blackberry cosmopolitan made with their premium vodka, the Barrel Gin Bees Knees, or the Minnesota Mule. If you are not taking the tour you can also purchase a tasting flight of three of their spirits for $8.
So what makes J. Carver a Minnesota must try? The tour guide himself says it best, “it’s easy to make your stuff taste different from everyone else’s, and it’s just as easy to make it taste equally as good. But to make your spirits taste different and better, that’s harder, and that’s what we did.” There is no arguing that, considering their premium vodka has absolutely no after-burn.
If you need another reason to check out J. Carver, go for their stance on being local. Everything the Waconia distillery uses in their production, except the bottles and machinery itself, is local. Which means each ingredient that goes into the spirits is from around you, even the barrels and labels.
Whether you purchase the flight alone or get it included with tour you need to try their Premium Vodka, plus a gin and whiskey of your choice. If you want to be real adventurous ask about the Marquette Grappa. If I could sum up the distillery in one statement, it would be that the folks at J. Carver love what they do, and do it well. A tour through locally produces adult beverages isn’t complete without visiting J. Carver, even if you just stop by to grab a cocktail. They are located at 1320 Mill Lane, Waconia. To buy tickets for a tour, determine the closest location to you to pick up a bottle, or find out more information visit www.jcarverdistiller.com.
Waconia Brewing Company
Waconia Brewing Company is best described as an “adult coffeehouse”, with great beer, of course. WBC is another mandatory stop when drinking through Waconia, with its warm atmosphere, free popcorn, extensive board game collection, and amazing brew. Before jumping in headfirst, or mouth-first into a pint of beer, I suggest ordering a flight. The $12 flight includes six beers of your choice, and you can’t go wrong with whichever ones you end up choosing.
Waconia Brewing Company has four flagship brews that you will always find on tap: 255 Amber Ale, WacTown Wheat, Carver Co. Kōlsch, and 90K IPA. These beers are flagship for a reason, all fantastic and worth a sip, or more. My favorites are the WacTown Wheat, which has fantastic orange citrus flavor, and the Carver Co. Kōlsch, which of course is a German style ale. As well as the four flagships, WBC also rotates a good number of seasonal and specialty brews and always has root beer on tap. If you happen to be at Waconia Brewing Company when they are serving up their Mo’ Whiskey brew, you absolutely have to give it a try.
Waconia Brewing Company has a gas fireplace, some comfortable seating, a couple of TVs and a small area for musicians to perform. WBC also has a patio used for extra seating and even some outdoor yoga during the summer. Speaking of events, they host BeerGo (Bingo to win some free beer) every Monday, Wacky WacTown Wednesday ($3 pints of WacTown Wheat) on Wednesdays, and plenty of delicious food trucks scattered throughout the month.
Waconia Brewing Company is the best stop for a quick pint of some great beer and some free popcorn to munch on while watching a game or listening to some music. Although you cannot buy bottles of their brew you can take home a growler…or two. Waconia Brewing Company is located at 255 Main Street West in Waconia. Check out their website at www.waconiabrewing.com
Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery
If you are having trouble deciphering if you want a hearty beer or a delicate wine, or maybe you just want both, Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery has you covered. With over fifteen wines and twelve beers, Schram can be overwhelming, but in the best way possible. I suggest tackling the winery/brewery by doing a wine tasting and a beer flight. Both samplings will cost you $10 each. Red, white, specialty, dessert, light, hoppy, dark, honestly you just have to try it all.
More than just the beer and wine are great here, the scenery at Schram is just as stunning. When sitting inside enjoying your drink of choice you can look out large windows and see out to the vast vineyards. To the front of the winery is an open pavilion that has another bar with more seating and two large bocce ball courts to the side. Schram offers some cheese and crackers inside and will often have a food truck out front on the weekends. Live music and yoga events are also spread throughout the month. The beer, wine, and scenery all make Schram another Waconia must try. Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery is located at 8785 Airport Road, Waconia. Visit www.schramvineyards.com for more information.
So what did I learn traveling my way through Waconia’s best liquor spots? That I will be back very soon, for there is far more to drink and enjoy. Plan a day trip to sip your way through Waconia, or make multiple trips and visit it all. Sovereign Estate Winery, Parley Lake Winery, Enki Brewing, and Excelsior Brewing Company are also all located in or nearby Waconia.