Sunday, June 26, 2011

St. Paul Summer Beer Fest - 2011

I was finally able to attend my first beer fest this weekend.  Having never been to one before, I don't have anything to compare it to, so I will just give a few thoughts on it.  This was the third annual St. Paul Summer Beer Fest.  It was held at the International Bazaar at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  There were over 75 breweries represented.  The event lasted from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. (2 to 6 if you did not have a "VIP" ticket, ten dollars extra)  It was well attended, I would estimate several thousand people (3-4,000). 

The selection of brewers was big, there was no way to get even close to trying every beer you wanted, but I and many others sure gave it a try.  I have not seen such a large collection of extremely inebriated people in a long time.  However, I noticed only a handful of the brewers brought a firkin or other taste of a "rare" or "special" brew.  Also, for the size of the event, there were only two food vendors.  They could have done with a few more.  The weather did not really cooperate, it spit down light rain most of the event, but it was a great afternoon nonetheless.  I would certainly go again.  Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio won the People's Choice Award for the second year in a row, this year for their Engine 20 beer, a dark and smokey beer that is usually only available at their brewpub.

I forgot to cast my People's Choice Award vote, but had I remembered, I would have voted for the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery's Honey Storm beer, a version of their  Thunderstorm summer ale, brewed with orange blossom honey, lemon grass and orange peel, and then aged in oak honey wine barrels.  It tasted like a malty, honey tinged whiskey sour.  It was unique and delicious.

The Twin Cities are really becoming a beer mecca of sorts.  There are several breweries, from the old (Summit, Schell's), to the bold (Surly), to the new (Fulton, Harriet, Flat Earth, Vine Park, St. Croix, Theodore Fyten, Lift Bridge) to the brew, pub that is (Town Hall, Barley John's, Herkimer, Rock Bottom).  There are several really good beer stores (Ale Jail, Four Firkins, Zipp's - to name but a few).  There are also several really good beer bars with either large, varied or good local selections (Muddy Pig, Blue Nile, Longfellow Grill, Stub and Herbs, Buster's on 28th - to name but a few). 

I was able to visit the Muddy Pig at Selby and Dale in St. Paul, and try the Fulton Brewing Company Sweet Child O' Vine and Epic Brewing Company Hopulent.  At the Longfellow Grill overlooking the Mississippi River gorge in Minneapolis, I tried the Fulton Blonde, Lift Bridge Hop Prop IPA, and Flat Earth Belgian Pale.  I also tried the Handy's Lager and the Kolsch at Herkimer's.  I was terribly unimpressed with their beer and have heard the same thing from several others.

Store wise I was able to make it to Zipp's in Minneapolis and the Ale Jail in St. Paul.  The Ale Jail is my new favorite beer store.  It is large and roomy.  While it has that clean, bright "boutique" store look, it's prices are reasonable.  The selection was insanely large and basically everything is available as a single.  I will always be stopping here every time I get to the Twin Cities.

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