HOOPS ON HOPS: An All Pints North field guide

All Pints North Summer Brew Festival, happening this Saturday at Bayfront Festival Park is one of my favorite beer fests. It’s sponsored by The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, founded in 2000 with the goal of promoting Minnesota Craft beer and educating beer consumers. Now, 16 years later, it has nearly 100 brewery members.

The guild is all about support of local beer. Most of the brewers from Minnesota will be pouring their best brews here in Duluth — which, by Mayor’s Proclamation (Don Ness in February 2013) is the Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota.

t081115 --- Clint Austin --- austinHOOPS0812c1 --- Dave Hoops is the head brewer at Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Dave Hoops is the head brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth.

I’m going to offer a field guide for this awesome event, including what not to miss, tips and thoughts on how to get the best festival experience.

The event runs from 3-7 p.m. Arriving early allows you first access when the gates open. The event is usually sold out, and there are long lines. Check out the Guild’s website for tickets and more information: mncraftbrew.org.

This festival features food vendors and live music, as many do. One thing I really like is the education component. All-Pinters can attend seminars on beer styles, hop-growing, sensory tips, off-flavors, beer line and glass cleaning, beer tourism in Minnesota, and general industry chatter. There will also be some interesting beer-themed games and maybe even some booths giving away free stuff.

The fact that the backdrop is Lake Superior with our Aerial Lift Bridge pretty much makes this the most scenic beer fest in the state. There will be plenty of walking, so wear comfortable shoes and clothing that can handle weather changes.

Dave’s tips for getting the most out of your All Pints North experience:

• Take a look at the program online, and make a tasting plan. This could include certain styles you want to focus on, beers that jump out at you or new breweries you want to try.

• Start with lighter beers — lagers, some wheat beers, etc. Keep your palate sharp, don’t fatigue it by drinking a 10% abv Imperial IPA as your first beer at the fest. Ramp up slowly.

• Try to match water to beer, one for one. This will off-set dehydration and allow you to watch your intake rate. At the very least, remind yourself to drink water and carry some with you.

• Eat, ideally in the first hour of the event to provide a good base for the day, and make a point of sitting and getting off your feet for a bit to stay fresh.

• When you make your tasting list, try not to focus solely on “special release” beers. There will always be a big line. If you do too much of this, you’ll stand in line much more than you will sample.

• Move away from the pouring table when you get your sample to clear the area for the folks behind you.

• If you have a question or comment for the brewer, ask politely if they have a minute to chat. Most will be happy to engage.

• If you are really looking for new flavors and ideas, bring a small notebook and pencil and jot down tasting notes.

• Have a plan for the end of the event, a designated driver, pick up, taxi arranged or leaving on foot. Smarter and safer.

• Have fun.

There will be hundreds of great beers at this event, a few, including a couple of ciders, that I’m looking forward to sampling include (in no particular order):

• Indeed: Wooden Soul Sour Series 4 unique expressions will be available

• Blacklist: Rhubarb Imperial Wit

• Beaver Island: Sweet Mississippi Chocolate Oatmeal Milk Stout

• Surly: Rye Whisky Pentagram

• Bemidji: Mango Sour Golden

• Steel Toe: Sommer Vice Bavarian Hefeweizen

• Freehouse: Caramel Apple Pi Cider Beer

• Town Hall: Blood Orange Lager

• Lift Bridge: Citra Kellerbier

• Dangerous Man: Peanut Butter Porter

• Bent Paddle: Cubano Black (black ale infused with Duluth Coffee Company coffee and cinnamon)

• 12 Ciderhouse: Black Currant Dry

• White Winter Winery: Oakwood Oaked Cider

I hope you can make it to All Pints this year. If not, The Minnesota Brewers Guild throws three other great events where you can taste the best of the best of Minnesota craft beer. They include the Autumn Brew Review in Minneapolis in September, Winterfest in St. Paul in February, and the Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair.

If you go

What: All Pints North Summer Brew Fest

When: 3-7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bayfront Festival Park (rain or shine)

Tickets: $45 in advance at tempotickets.com; $55 the day of, if available.

More info: Must be 21, no pets allowed.

Written by Dave Hoops as published in the Duluth News Tribune