The holidays are upon us and it’s time to start thinking about that perfect gift for the Craft Beer Adventurer in your life! The Craft Beer Passport is the best gift that you can give because it keeps on giving for an entire year. For those of you not familiar with the concept it is a pocket-sized passport booklet that you take to designated breweries. The breweries stamp your book, and you get a BOGO (buy-one-get-one free). 2016 Minnesota saw the first passports hit the scene starting with Northern Ale Guide. Now there are a few more options available, each with their own unique offering. Today’s guide will be a look at the most popular Craft Brewery Passports available, and look at the pros and cons of each. As always feel free to leave your comments below and lest us know your thoughts!
The Northern Ale Guide is the the one I am most familiar with, and I have had one since they came out in 2016. Each year this book gets better and better, and this year has the biggest, and best changes since the original. The iconic passport blue book fits easily into your pocket. Each brewery listed has its own page that features a little snippet about the brewery, including hours of operation, and little bubbles that let you know if the brewery is family friendly or dog friendly, outdoor seating and more. This year’s book includes 70 breweries and the list of participating breweries is their strongest line up EVER. They have great Minnesota craft beer powerhouses like: Tin Whiskers, Bent Paddle, Inbound, Summit, and Lift Bridge. Also they have expanded into our neighboring state Wisconsin, and they now have a passport of their own! For and additional purchase you can add over 35 additional breweries from Wisconsin. You can also buy a wood-bound version (shown below) that includes BOTH Minnesota and Wisconsin. So start planning the brewery road trip of your dreams!
PROS: By far the largest brewery list of all the Minnesota Craft Brewery Passports. Easily fits in your pocket, and are extremely durable. The guide is useful with giving you great information on each brewery allowing you to custom tailor your trip to your unique needs.
CONS: Its the most expensive one on the list with the Minnesota version being $5 more then the next closest one on our list, but keep in mind you are getting A LOT more breweries too. The only other thing to note is that the other passports on this list really focus on the Twin Cities. Some of the breweries included in here like Revelation, and Voyager are in the far reaches of Minnesota.
COST: Minnesota: $35, Wisconsin: $20, Special-Edition (wood-bound and includes MN and WI): $60.
Where to Buy: northernaleguide.com
Minnesota Hop Passport is back for another year. Many of you might be more familiar with this one because it is sold in participating breweries. This passport offers a lineup of 68 Minnesota breweries (+10 guest breweries from other states, including Iowa and Wisconsin), and it too has grown it’s list from the previous year. While the lineup has some overlap with Northern Ale Guide, there are quite a few differences too. Some of the more popular breweries in here not found in the Ale Guide include Urban Growler, Fitger’s, and Wooden Hill.
PROS: The Hop Passport is slightly cheaper then Northern Ale Guide, and there are also other states available if you are buying this for a person out-of-state. Currently Hop Passport is in 14 states (visit their website for more info). Again, this is a very sturdy, easy to transport book. There is also a different list of breweries, so it might appeal to you more if the breweries you love are in here. It is also worth noting that Hop Passport was available all year last year, where Pub Pass and Northern Ale Guide had a limited supply. Lastly this book does have a smattering of breweries outside of the Twin Cities, but most of the breweries are within 30 minutes of the Cities.
CONS: While the Minnesota book did get some GREAT additions this year, I personally don’t feel the brewery line-up is as good as Northern Ale Guide. But don’t let this detract you if your favorite breweries are here, this is just as good as Northern Ale Guide. It really is just my opinion that is putting Northern Ale Guide above this one.
COST: The Minnesota book is $30. There are other regions available for $25 to $30.
Where to Buy: Hoppassport.com
I am not nearly as familiar with this one as I am the other three on the list. There are some really cool differences that make this worth your consideration though. For starters, this one if focused on the Twin Cities. That means not having to trek up to Duluth to finish this one off! Another key difference is this one has pubs as well as breweries and includes popular hangouts like the Chatterbox, and the Red Stag Supperclub. It is also the only pass on this list that lists the Minnesota legend Surly. This pass is great for the craft beer drinker who doesn’t like to go to far from the cities.
PROS: This book is cheaper then the first two options, and like the Hop Pass you can buy other city areas as well for your out of town friends and relatives. One of the BIG advantages of this list is that it is not a BOGO offer, it is just one free beer straight up. This pass also has the best list of places that also include food. This passport would be a great pick up for a craft beer lovin’ couple who are looking for places to go on date night. Lastly, Surly, if that is your thing.
CONS: With only 25 breweries/pubs listed this gives you the least bang for your buck. And while the addition of pubs is cool, the lack of any of the premier Minnesota breweries (sorry, I LOVE you Bent Brewstillery and Wild Minds) also don’t help this book in the standings.
Where to buy: getpubpass.com
Got a friend who has gone beyond craft beer and into craft spirits? Well this might be the book for them. Minnesota Craft Notes by Thrifty Hipster offers you 14 craft beers, and 4 craft cocktails for FREE (not BOGO). The book also gets you exclusive access to special tours and events, a chance at winning a weekly growler, and some complimentary drinks via their mobile app. Currently there are three volumes available to allow you to custom tailor your Craft Beer Adventure. This passport is best for a person to go beyond the Craft Beer scene and really take in more of the Twin Cities culture.
PROS: As stated above, this passport goes beyond beer and gets you into some Craft Distilleries as well. This book also gets you your drinks for free with no additional purchase needed. One of the biggest draws that I like about this book is that they NEVER expire. So once you buy it, you are good to go. This book also gives you options outside of beer and liquor. Volume II, for example, includes Next Chapter Winery, and Can Can Wonderland. This book is probably the most about exploring what the Twin Cities has to offer. Also it looks like you access your free drinks via their app, so if you are one of those always forgetting your book at home, this might be the right book for you!
CONS: If you are looking for a book that specifically focuses on Breweries, one of the other passes might be more up you ally. While this is a REALLY good bargain if you get out to even half of the locations in your volume, some of the other books on this list offer an even greater return.
COST: $25 for one of three volumes
Where to Buy: craftnotes.net
Last but not least is a specialty niche passport from Sidewalk Dog. This one is an absolute must for the dog lover in your life. The breweries listed in here are all dog friendly venues that you can bring your pooch along to. Our staff member Jason has this and takes Bella, his golden lab, with him for a pint. It’s great socializing for the dog AND you! This dog friendly passport gives you some unique breweries too, the biggest of which are Fair State Co-op and Bauhaus.
PROS: Part of your proceeds for to support Pinkyswear, and also keep Sidewalk Dog running. Also this is the best list for dog friendly breweries.
CONS: If you are not a dog owner you are better off buying one of the others. There are more breweries, and they are better deals as this book only has 17 breweries in it.
Where to buy: sidewalkdog.com
So there are plenty of options out there for you to fill your Craft Beer Adventure’s stocking with. We hope this guide helps you select the right guide to give, or maybe order a second one for yourself! Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know about your experiences with the Craft Beer Passport in your life!
Will Matthews has been involved with Beerploma and the Minnesota Craft Beer scene since 2013. Will is in charge of business relationships, beer review articles, and gadget reviews. Will’s favorite beer styles include sours, saisons, flavored porters, and California Commons. If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.