Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A visit to the Minnesota State Fair - Beer Edition 2014

Well, another Minnesota State Fair has come and gone. Like many of us here in Minnesota, our hearts are empty but our stomachs are uncomfortably full due to the delicious yet unhealthy, heart attack-inducing food that one eats while there.

In recent years, thanks to the the explosion of craft beer in Minnesota, beer has played an ever increasing role at the State Fair.  Of course there is the Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit, put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, which does an extraordinary job on highlighting Minnesota's brewing past, present, future and even offers flights (more on that later.)

However, I want to talk about the beer at the State Fair....but not in a way you might expect. You see, there are people (and brewers) out there that have, in State Fair tradition, taken their product and make it special in some way. Some even make beers & products exclusively for the State Fair. As a "writer" and seeker of all things craft beer, I feel it is my duty to inform those about what goes on here at the Great Minnesota Get-together.

Flat Earth Giggle's S'more Beer - Located at Giggle's Campfire Grill, this is an offering from Flat Earth Brewing. It's basically their Cygnus X-1 Porter with a cup rimmed with graham cracker sprinkles & melted chocolate along with a marshmallow thrown into the beer itself. The X-1 Porter actually makes for the S'mores beer. It's just got the right amount of roastiness and chocolate maltiness that makes this a good match for such an idea. At the same time, it is, admittedly, something best meant for the State Fair. Speaking of which.....

Lift Bridge Mini Donut Beer - How could I forget a beer that I stood an hour and a half in line for last year? Thankfully I only had to wait a couple minutes in line at The Ball Park Cafe as opposed last time. Unlike the S'more beer, this is a beer that was brewed by Lift Bridge Brewing exclusively for the State Fair and not based on any existing beer that's already in the brewery's lineup. It's very yeasty tasting on it's own and not much else, which explains the sugar and cinnamon that lines the rim of the glass. Like an actual bag of mini donuts, it's a very filling beer and when consumed with the cinnamon and sugar, it does taste like an actual mini donut in liquid form. A novelty beer to say the least, but worth trying out.

Land of 10,000 Beers Exhibit - I could spend hours talking about everything on display there. From the special events to the history behind Minnesota's brewing past along with the flights offered. Each flight ranged from Light and Pilsner to Dark and Hoppy, along with a mixed bag flight.

Each flight accurately represented it's respective style and was carefully picked. My only wish would be to see an Imperial Stout Flight, I would gladly pay an extra couple extra bucks for that. In the meantime, I'll stick with my IPA Flight.

Summit Oatmeal Stout Gelato - Believe it or not, I actually came upon this by accident as me and my brother-in-law were on our way to stock up on Sweet Martha's Cookies. However, I stumbled upon the Summit Brewing Oatmeal Stout Gelato at the Mancini's Booth. On the surface it doesn't look like too much. Upon first trying it out, it tastes a lot like Vanilla Ice Cream. However on the back of the palate is where the oatmeal stout starts to make itself known with it's roasty, oaty(?) and chocolate-like profile. My only suggestion would be to make the Oatmeal Stout flavor just a bit more prominent in the front, but I would still recommend checking this out!

Summit The Villain - It appears Summit is going to make their State Fair-exclusive beer offerings an annual tradition. Last year it was the State Fair IPA and now this year, it's The Villain: A sessionable Black Lager with an ABV of around 4.5%. Despite it's roasty flavor yet light berry fruitiness, it finishes rather clean. Given the atmosphere, it's a surprisingly good sessionable ale much like the ones I'll sometimes have at Thirsty Pagan.

Much to my disappointment, I was unable to check out the Grain Belt Blu due to the schedule we had set. My only hope is that it's available next year for me to try out. Overall though, it's nice to see the creativity at work when it comes to craft beer at the State Fair and I look forward to seeing what comes forth next year.

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