Monday, June 27, 2011

St Paul Summer Beerfest Wrap up

I really need to make an effort to write more in this space, and part of that is writing about the things I'm doing. I could write ad-naseum about my daughter and all the wonderful things she's doing these days, and I do that elsewhere anyway, also not as often as I should.

One of the things I did was to attend the St Paul Summer Beer festival last weekend. It was my first time attending this festival. It's been around for several years, and used to be held in the parking lot of Midway Stadium. This year, however, it moved to the newly-rennovated International Baazar at the State Fairgrounds.

The fest's new home was perfect. A stage for bands. Adequate space for vendors in an arrangement tailor made for this sort of thing. A grassy area in the back for more vendors and other stuff (VIP, entertainment, education tent). Adequate coverage from rain, which was sporadic during the first hour.

On the advice of Jumi, I bought a couple of VIP tickets. VIP's get access to the grounds an hour before the general admission, and have access to a tent area with its own porto-potties. Having access an hour early is crucial for an event like this because you can try whatever you want without crowds. Many brewers bring small batches to sample and they're gone quickly once the full-bore event gets going.

Highlights for me included Engine 20 by Great Lakes Brewing, a smoked Ale. It won the people's choice as well, though probably because they were campaigning harder than anybody else I saw and had ballots right there at the booth. It was still an interesting and good beer, it's a shame it's a limited deal and wont' be available here anywhere. I've liked what little Great Lakes I've had and I'll have to make a point to buy some more of it.

Other highlights - I really enjoyed Harriet Brewing's Saison Nourrice, a Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale. Perfect Summer beer. I think Harriet really hit it out of the park with this one. I've been a fan of theirs and have frequently stopped in to buy some growlers. Their West Side belgian-style IPA is probably the best of that style that I've ever had. Some of their seasonal beers have been hit or miss for me, but Saison Nourrice is a keeper. Growlers go on sale July 7th and I'll be over there to pick one up for sure.

I also enjoyed finally trying Ovalde's Auroch's Horn. I had heard about this beer from a few people, and I'll have to pick up a bottle next time I'm over at South Lyndale Liquors. It's a sipper for sure, and the sample glass size was perfect, but I wonder how a bigger "sample" would treat me.

Couple of other local things - Theodore Fyten's Fytenberg Grand Cru was good, apparently these guys are brewing out of the horse stables of the old Schmidt's brewery in St Paul. Very little online about them, but I was intrigued enough to try and find some more. Town Hall had a Macaroon beer that was fun, similar to Coconaut last winter. And Lift Bridge had a Strawberry-Rhubarb infused Farmgirl Saison that was fantastic. They really ought to get some of the infused Saisons into stores, they had a lemongrass one at Winterfest that was equally as delicious. I like this beer straight up too, though.

I didn't get to Fulton before they ran out of the Randall of Worthy Adversary with vanilla beans, coffee and cherry bark - it looked interesting from a tweet I saw during the event but I forgot to go there and all they had left was Lonely Blonde by the time I got over there.

There weren't many disappointments about the day overall. The beer selection from many vendors was very boring, nothing new, original or unique. I did try some things I've never had before though. I guess I wonder why they even bother, but they probably get some of the less-into-it people to try things they've never had.

Summit's a good example, they brought nothing but bottles of the same shit you can find at any liquor store in the metro area. As one of the first area craft breweries in the modern movement, and at a beer festival mere miles from their brewery in their hometown, you think they'd try to not mail it in if they are going to show up.

Surly also was a disappointment. I was hoping they'd have Schadenfrude as it was listed in the program, but they seem to have substituted Smoke, and didn't have anything else that wasn't readily available. I know that they are a different case than Summit in that they're probably still less drank, but at this point, they are the godfathers of the current resurgence, and don't most people that go to these things know them by now? I also realize that these guys probably prefer to pour everything they've got into the Minnesota Craft Guild events, but still, throw us a bone, will ya? Something not available elsewhere would have been nice. Just feels like it got mailed in.

Ultimately, it's an event I'd go to again, though I would probably be satisfied with just hitting up Winterfest if we can get tickets, and the Autumn Brew review, and maybe throw in a Beer Dabbler event as well.