Froggy Bottoms: We start our list with one of the two proper bars in Northfield. Colloquially known as “Froggy’s,” this establishment is more known for its cheap price and lively energy than it is for its drinks. The selection is made up mostly of pretty generic brands that can be found at most bars. The place is pretty small and often feels very crowded. On the other hand, this intimacy between patrons can raise the energy of the atmosphere that many people look for in a night on the town. Indeed, if Northfield can be said to have a dive bar, this is it.
Cons: Poor selection, small and crowded. Pros: Cheap, energy is buzzing. Verdict: Good party-ish venue if that’s your thing, but leaves a lot to be desired as a drinking establishment.
The Contented Cow: Northfield’s other bar takes a very different approach to its execution, functioning as a British-style pub. With a noticeably larger amount of square-footage, the atmosphere is considerably more relaxed. There is almost always somewhere to sit and it is rarely difficult to hear your conversation partner. The selection cycles through a line-up of quality beers, often featuring Minnesota breweries. However, it can often be a bit of a wait in line to get a drink and the bar’s location within the establishment makes that wait quite clunky as patrons stand in the way of a major thoroughfare between different sections of the building. But once a pint is obtained, its an enjoyable place to be, whether you’re just chilling or partaking in one of the many weekly activities enthusiastically organized by the staff.
Cons: Wait for drinks can be a little long and a little awkward. Pros: Great drink selection, good atmosphere, fun activities. Verdict: A quality neighborhood pub that is fitting for a drink any time of the week.
Carbone’s Pizzeria: A wild card on this list as the only establishment not primarily known for its alcoholic offerings. Instead, Carbone’s is most famous for its pizza – not surprising given that it is a pizzeria. However, it deserves mention on this list if for no other reason than its magical two-for-one happy hour special. The quality of the beer selection falls somewhere in the middle between Froggys’ and the Cow’s, but the fact that one can get twice as much of it adds a certain appeal. The atmosphere is a little gloomy and run-down (and not necessarily in a charming way) it isn’t a deal breaker by any means. Additionally it is nice that patrons can still order quality-tasting appetizers well into the night.
Cons: Atmosphere isn’t great, food and drinks are simply adequate. Pros: Two-for-one happy hour special, food available late at night. Verdict: A suitable place for a low-energy, late-night hangout with some friends.
Loon Liquors: Now we move on to the establishments in Northfield that actually make their own drinks. First up is the city’s only distillery, Loon Liquors. The first thing one will notice about Loon is that it’s really hard to find. The place is located in what appears to be an industrial office park, and patrons have to walk down a stretch of twisting hallway to actually reach the distillery. Perhaps this is an attempt at some sort of speakeasy vibe, but it’s frankly just confusing. Once you get there, though, it is quite a charming place with folksy wooden furniture. It is a little small for how busy it can get at times, but usually this is not too much of an issue. The drinks are a little pricey, but this is reflected in the quality of the liquor. The menu consists of many wonderful and unique cocktails, but this can also make it hard for patrons to determine what they might like.
Cons: Hard to find, confusing menu. Pros: Quality liquors, quaint venue. Verdict: A classy, yet cozy place to start or end the night.
Imminent Brewing: Randy Clay’s passion project has quickly become a staple of the Northfield community, offering freshly brewed beers and frequent events. The drinks are good, and Clay keeps a good balance of introducing new blends but also keeping around some favorites. Weekends often feature live music and, if it’s warm enough, a food truck. The downside of Imminent’s popularity is that it can often get quite crowded and loud, which can be a deterrent if you’re trying to go for a more mellow evening. But the big windows and clean, organized seating area make it a great place to go for a drink on a sunny afternoon.
Cons: Too popular for its own good some nights. Pros: Good beers, quality events, great community involvement. Verdict: There’s a reason Imminent has retained such popularity months after its opening.
Tanzenwald: Oles don’t often head down to Tanzenwald even though it is closer to campus than any other establishment on this list. And that’s a shame, because it’s a really quality place that is sadly underrated on campus. The drinks are all delicious and the menu has fun descriptions such as “a great drink for contemplating crop circles” or “contains notes of freshly cut grass.” Not only are these summaries entertaining to read, they also give interesting insights to the unique feel of a particular drink. In addition, they have their own kitchen which cooks up delicious food items to complement its beers. The place is pretty dimly lit and rather small, but I’ve never not been able to find a seat. All in all, the hidden gem of the Northfield beer scene.
Cons: A little dark, a little small. Pros: Arguably the best brews in the Cannon River Valley, fun menu. Verdict: You probably haven’t been here much, but you really should.