This summer social patterns seem a step behind. Outdoor areas and patios continue to increase access, but there’s uncertainty. In my opinion we’d be at the tail end of optimal taproom patio weather.

Many people have eyed public social settings conservatively. My wife and I have largely written it off as unattainable. We’ve supported our cherished spots with online orders and curbside pickup, but at the time of writing this, our activity is mostly limited to private patios.

It stings. It stings because we know hospitality outlets are hurting, and it stings because hitting patios is something that’s fit into our lifestyle. We don’t use sitters a lot. Taprooms are great about integrating kids into their outdoor spaces—perhaps this is somewhat unsung, and I’d carry some blame for that. Sometimes there are outdoor games for kids. Often there are other kids, which can be key for short attention spans. The taproom scene isn’t as gritty as bars.

One of our favorite events has been Bad Weather Brewing’s Outdoor Arcade. For a cover charge, you let loose your children on a patio lined with tents of classic video games. I’m a little slow, so it took me a dollar to realize the coin slots were bypassed. You can pretty much survey the entire gated area from one position. There are a handful of food trucks. We always run into friends and acquaintances. The Arcade is off the table this season. Fortunately, we realized a while back that taprooms were springing up around scenic areas. So we plotted out a few solid routes with off-sale options.

On principle, when we plan a day trip, we incorporate an element of physical activity. It seems to make the car ride go more smoothly. A scenic walk also can be a pleasant way to work off a split flight.

Northfield and surrounding areas offers such scenarios. Imminent Brewing spent some time cautiously planning this patio season. The spot boasts a nice, historic setting and, with a little planning, there are beautiful walking routes— some along the river connected to other venues, including Tanzenwald Brewing Company. Imminent offers solid variety and Tanzenwald intriguing series.

In nearby Dundas, nestled alongside the Cannon River, is Chapel Brewing. The site has a history dating back to 1880… and a balcony. They specialize in American-style ales. Also of note is Keepsake Cidery, and The Gear Resource Outfitters –kayak and paddleboard rentals.

On a different heading is Badger Hill Brewing in Shakopee. They’ve worked on expanding their patio area. They’ve got bike racks and award-winning pours. Nearby is The Landing, a Minnesota River Heritage Park that includes shady walks, historic buildings (that you can tour under normal conditions), and a few farm animals for the effort. There is also a trailhead for the Minnesota Valley State Trail— hiking, biking and horseback riding. SandVenture Aquatic Park, a wonderful resource, sadly called the season for COVID-19.

Check sites and social media for hours and updates.

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