The Cheap Chick has gathered a list of her favorite frugal food and drink options in Minnesota -- from breweries to cheese testing, there's plenty to do on the cheap throughout the state.
Best Brewery Tap Rooms and Tours
A great way to try a great MN beer is to visit the brewery's tap room in person. Many of our local brewers also offer tours of their breweries for free, and the following two are in Yelp's Top Five Brewery Tours for Minneapolis.
Located in downtown Minneapolis on 6th Avenue North, this brewery started in Jim Oiley's garage (he's one of the four founders) and has expanded into a fabulous space in the North Loop. Stop by for a free tour on Saturdays. It's first come, first serve, and there are three tours each Saturday at 1, 2 and 3 PM. You do need to sign up in person, no exceptions! While you're hanging out in the tap room, waiting for you tour to start, sample some of Fulton's Sweet Child of Vine, one of their more popular brews. For more information, log on to Fulton Beer.com.
Located on Minnehaha Avenue east of Hiawatha, Harriet offers an hour long tour of the brewery, for free, three times a week – Thursdays at 7 PM and Saturdays at 1 and 2 PM. The tours are first come, first serve as well, and they do offer free samples. There are only 20 openings per tour, and you can register online. Fun fact! Harriet Brewery bills itself as an "art-infused brewery," so the tour includes cool beer-related artwork. For directions and more, Friend the brewery on Facebook.
Best Places to Sample MN Wines
Because, yes. You can grow grapes in Minnesota. Take that, Napa Valley!
This is the most conveniently located place to sample local wines. You'll find their store front on Main Street in Stillwater. Stop by and sample 10 wines for $5 per person, Plus, they'll waive the fee if you buy 2 bottles of wine. Seeing as many of their bottles are in the $10 price range, that's not a hardship! Fun fact, Northern Vineyards was the first modern winery cooperative in the United States. Each member maintains a vineyard between 1-15 acres and produces grapes that are brought to the winery in the fall to be made into their wines. To learn more, go to Northern Vinyards.com.
ALEXIS BAILLY VINEYARDS
At Alexis Bailly Vineyards in Hastings, you can sample all their available wines for $5 per person. You can also play bocce ball on their courts, tour their sculpture gardens, and have a picnic in the vineyard. They're open Friday through Sunday, now until Thanksgiving. Check them out at ABV Wines.com,
ST. CROIX VINEYARDS
St. Croix Vineyards, located off of Highway 36 on Manning Avenue North. They offer a full tasting of all their wines for $5 per person, plus they do a free tour of the winery and vineyard on Saturdays at noon. For directions, go to SCV Wines.com.
Best Cheese Shop(s)
Do you know what goes well with wine and beer? Cheese! And do you know what's not frugal? Wasting money on a fancy cheese that tastes terrible. To avoid cheese failure, be sure to sample before spending your hard-earned cash.
France 44 Cheese Shop / St. Paul Cheese Shop.
You can sample before you splurge on both sides of the river with these brother cheese shops – one on France and one on Grand Ave. Both offer samples of their delicious wares, along with a full menu of tasty sandwiches at reasonable prices. Pick up a couple sammies, pair them with a locally made beer or wine, and you have home-grown dining at a respectable price. For a list of available cheeses, meats and sandwiches, log on to France 44 Cheese Shop.com.