Liquor ran through the streets of St. Paul ever since it was settled.
The early fur trading post that would eventually become Minnesota’s Capitol city was first called ‘Pig’s Eye’ named after Pierre ‘Pig’s Eye’ Parrant, the first person of European descent to live in the area north of the Mississippi, up stream of a newly created military base, Fort Snelling. Pierre began distilling and bootlegging shortly after arriving, and would later build the first house, distillery, and tavern in the St. Paul area. All before the city was properly named.
About a decade later, Yoerg’s Washington Street Brewery, opened in 1848, becoming the first brewery in Saint Paul, and it was the only brewery in town until 1853 when Schmidt Brewery opened its doors. Both buildings still stand today.
You could say prohibition began in Minnesota. The Prohibition Act of 1919 was called the Volstead act by many, named after Minnesota congressman Andrew Volstead who introduced the bill to congress. But Congress couldn’t stop the insatiable desire for a cold brew. Minnesotans are hard workers, and hard workers need a hard beverage to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
St. Paul earned its reputation as the “sanctuary for criminals” in the Midwest with the help of corrupt politicians and police chiefs who agreed to turn a blind eye to gangsters’ underground activities, which included smuggling, racketeering, and gambling.
Many of the early 20th centuries speakeasy’s still stand today, and a few have even been reconverted to modern day brew houses.
From clay pots to copper kettles, beer has come a long way in the last 6,000 years. Being invented 500 years BEFORE the wheel, beer is as fundamental to our civilization as written language itself. To put that into perspective, beer has been around for over 30 times longer than Minnesota has been a state. But in that short time, Minnesota has been home to many great beer inventions and host to some of the most scenic breweries in the world.
With 10 new breweries (and counting) since 2015, you could say things are changing. The passage of the “Surly Bill” in 2011 opened the flood gates, or should I say keg taps. Gov. Dayton signed into law legislation that allows breweries to sell beer on site. Since then, we’ve seen 15 new breweries in the city and countless good times to be had all around St. Paul.