Most Minnesotans know about the State Fair. One of the largest in the U.S., the Great Minnesota Get-Together is loved by many and attended by millions.
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild sponsors the “Land of 10,000 Beers” Craft Beer Hall exhibit at the State Fair. The Guild is the primary organization that promotes craft beer, beer education and beer quality throughout the state.
The exhibit features more than 300 beers from over 75 Minnesota breweries and brewpubs. This is the second year brewpubs — not just production breweries — are invited to pour at the “Land of 10,000 Beers,” thanks to a Minnesota law passed in the 2015 legislative session allowing brewpubs to pour at the State Fair. This is awesome because now the exhibit features the most Minnesota beers poured anywhere in Minnesota at the same time including brewpubs like Canal Park Brewing and Fitger’s Brewhouse that are not allowed by state law to distribute.
I have the honor of being the only professional brewer in Minnesota to be a national beer judge, and I was asked to participate this year in the very first quality control program for the exhibit. Each beer poured at the fair will be tasted by me along with my colleagues and evaluated on 10 quality categories including appearance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste and finish, balance and drinkability and technical quality. Pretty good job, if you can get it, huh?
I am thrilled about this because one of my main goals as a brewer is beer education and quality brewing. So, here’s a highlight of the experience and a few beer recommendations to seek out when you’re at the fair.
“The Land of 10,000 Beers” exhibit is located in the agriculture building right across the street from the haunted house. You’ll see educational posters, presentations and live seminars from brewers all over the state. You can try “flights” of beer, which are four 5-ounce glasses, each in different style categories. The flights are available to purchase and are labeled Sweeter, Hoppier, Lighter, Darker, MN Mix and Cicerone Select. So you can try beers from breweries all over the state in each category, if you wish.
In case you’re wondering, a Cicerone is a beer expert that has passed some very tough tests to become knowledgeable in all things beer. The Cicerone select is a flight of beers that have been judged by my colleagues and I, as the best of the best from the many great beers on tap.
A few breweries to seek out that I enjoyed during Week One: Minneapolis Town Hall, Lift Bridge, Day Block, Insight, Surly, Summit, Mankato, Steel Toe, Lakes & Legends, Tin Whiskers, Schell’s, Badger Hill, Barley John’s, Bent Paddle, Dangerous Man, Fair State, Fulton, Indeed, Lupine, Modist, Northbound, Urban Growler, and so many more.
During the first few days at the fair, I evaluated nearly 100 beers from all over the state. I was very encouraged by the overall quality of the vast majority. There are brewers making great lagers, funky sours, unique fruit beers — you name it, someone is brewing a beer with imagination and creativity.
Some interesting ingredients I came across included coconut, ghost peppers, chocolate, mango, wild rice, pineapple, cranberry, bourbon, white wine, blackberry, blueberry, apricot and licorice. Another very cool part of my time working down here has been the questions from folks visiting the exhibit. From the simple “How is beer made?” to “Tell me how different hops can affect the flavor of a beer?” or “Explain malted barley.” The time spent chatting with beer lovers is fun and really is the reason for the whole exhibit.
I’ll be working Thursday and Friday during the day at the exhibit. If you’re down here, stop by for a sample and say “hi.”
The fair itself is so much fun and offers so many options, making sure you know about the “Land of 10,000 Beers” exhibit was my duty. Enjoy the fair and the last “official” weekend of summer.
Written by Dave Hoops as published in the Duluth News Tribune