The Minneapolis Convention Center was packed with craft beer-lovers proudly donning pretzel necklaces on Saturday, April 1 at the annual Minnesota Craft Beer Festival. Characterized on the event’s Facebook page as an “epic tasting session,” the festival more than lived up to its claim, with over 220 beers available to sample.
We were admittedly a bit overwhelmed as we first entered the giant maze of beers. It was our first beer festival, as evidenced by our lack of snack necklaces. Homemade necklaces ruled the show, from the simplistic pretzel and twine ones, to more extravagant ones which mixed pretzels with single serving beef jerky, string cheese and LifeSavers. We took pictures of the best necklaces we encountered — inspiration for our next festival.
We began with recognizable Twin Cities classics. Fair State Brewing Cooperative, whose director of operations is a Macalester alum, had a delicious but difficult to pronounce sour called Bricoleur. Another very local stop was the North Loop Brew Co., which had a nice citrus blonde, “Air.” We also tried Indeed Cherry Dust, Tin Whiskers Flip Switch IPA and Third Street Brewhouse Hunny Do, but these were not quite as memorable.
Our strategy beyond name recognition was selecting places with the longest lines. We may have not done our research, but we knew others had. This strategy worked well. WeldWerks Brewing Co. from Colorado had two outstanding brews, a double blackberry gose and a peach sour barrel aged for two years. Another memorable stop was Drekker Brewing Co., which won our award for most interesting flavors, a witbier with chamomile, “Pushing Daisies,” and a blueberry and basil tart sour, “People Eater.”
Since one of us doesn’t like beer all that much — Kate, though she tried, she really did — we confess to making an obligatory stop at the Angry Orchard tent, where we sampled three fruity ounces of “Crisp Apple.” Not to our surprise, the cider tasted exactly the same from the can it was poured from as the bottles we have bought at Park — hooray for consistency.
After a much needed fried chicken and french fry break, we returned for a final spin around the Center. Although our early-entry tickets granted us 30 extra minutes of access to the 80+ brewery tents lining the periphery of the Convention Center, by 4 p.m. lines crisscrossed the floor, making navigating from tent to tent a challenge.
With our bellies full of chicken and beer, we emerged from the Convention Center a full three-and-a-half hours later. If you are a fan of craft beer, festivals of these sorts are a great chance to try new brews. However, since the ticket prices are often quite steep, be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours on-site. Outdoor festivals may be a more pleasant experience than spending a spring afternoon under the purple fluorescent lights of the Convention Center. And above all else, don’t forget your pretzel necklace.