Monday, September 15, 2014

Drinking at the 2014 State Fair

S'mores Beer from Giggle's
At a my little sister's wedding reception, I joked with my cousin Randy that I would love to see Joan Jett in concert but few have ever agreed to go with me and been available. But, now, I had a partner in crime for the state fair closing night concert of Journey with Joan Jett opening. So, I was going to the fair.

Don't get me wrong. I think the Minnesota Get Together is a pretty amazing spectacle. I just don't need to go every (or even every other) year. But living in Minnesota, events, family or fate (aka my mouth) will conspire to get me the fair occasionally. I decided to try to make the fair into a beer festival.

Based on the Growler's state fair guide, I had names of beers and their locations on a pdf.  However, I didn't include the map in the article for how to get to the places and had to download the state fair food finder app to get around. In the meantime, I walked by and recognized Mancini's al Fresco from my list. I was pessimistic about the beer gelato made with Summit's Oatmeal Stout. It was ok and the beery flavor was definitely there but it had too much of a acrid finish for me. Happy to get to the bottom of it.

Beer gelato with Summit Oatmeal Stout
Next was a bag of Tom Thumb donuts (my heart's true love and desire) to change the flavor in my mouth.  By this time I'd found my bearing and headed to the Ballpark Cafe, which was out of the minidonut beer. I settled for a Red's Apple Alea mistake. Clean apple flavor but without the fresh punch of a good cider. On the slightly warmish last day of the fair, it was more than refreshing for walking around. Should have tried the Burning Brothers on tap instead, but the gluten free scared me away since I hadn't heard of the brewery before.

In the middle of machinery row is Giggle's Campfire Grill. With very long lines, I jumped in and figured I would decide on the way.  When I got there, the S'mores beer was the only option in the line I had chosen, so gave it a try. Surprisingly, marshmallows don't soak up beer at all. I found the crusty rim to not be very tasty but the overall effect was fine, especially the comments from fair goers as I walked back down the street (it's so dark, that's that S'mores beer, etc). It's the kind of fun one expects at the state fair. Sadly, I was unable to return for the Walley Mac n Cheese on the menu. Oh well.

By this time, my nephew Josh (who is going along to the concert as well) arrives and we chat and take in the fair. After a malt break in the dairy barn and seeing the finishing touches on the butter sculpture of Princiss Kay of the Milky Way, we headed to the MN Brewer's Guild exhibit "Land of 10,000 Craft Brews."  My nephew and I opted to share the Flight 3 Hoppier, which include sample of Surly Furious, 612 Rated R, Schell's Arminius and Fulton Lonely Blonde. The Arminius was the only new brew in the flight for me, but it was worth hunting down. While the exhibit isn't going to blow the minds of any beer geeks, it was extremely popular and there were a tremendous amount of chatter about beer by fair goers around me. Sadly, the exhibit was robbed of $10,000 in cash, the first such robbery in the history of the fair.

Overall, beer hunting at the fair wasn't terribly successful.  The main reason was the each of the beers listed at locations can run out (like the minidonut beer) or they aren't all on tap at the same time. Trying this on the last day of the fair also wasn't a great idea. As we settled into our seats at the concert, we each hand a Summit EPA in hand, for which I was perfectly happy sipping this iconic Minnesota beer while the stage speakers thumped through my chest. While I didn't find much new, it was fun. Plus, the fact that I walked by so many craft beer taps at the fair is a comfort all by itself—a day at the fair is no longer hot dry walk for craft beer drinkers.

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