Saturday, October 24, 2015

Harvest Beer Festival @ Bachman's on Lyndale

Hibiscus Sour by Fair State
I was lounging around on a Saturday watching a KARE 11 news segment on the Harvest Beer Festival to be put on by MSP Magazine over MEA break.  Usually travelling for the fall break, I decided to try the new festival.  If I had seen it earlier, I would have likely gotten tickets to the fresh hop festival at Town Hall Lanes with other beer geeks, so I had a little buyers remorse going into the day.

Showing up a half hour early, I wandered around the massive Bachman's on Lyndale hoping I was in the right place because my ride was gone and not coming back until after the fest. All the way in the back, the breweries were set up under an empty green house.  Nice gig, really.  Bachman's gets a lot of foot traffic for using a space that's empty this time of year, and host MSP Magazine likely doesn't pay a lot for the space.
Kathleen serving her brew for Sidhe

I got the VIP ticket to start drinking at hour early, but there were so few of us that I was unclear if anyone was pouring when it started.  I've met the folks at Sidhe before, so started there by talking to Kathleen and Rosemary. Their fall beer was Non-Kin Apple Cream, which had a bright apple taste and the beer was very refreshinga potential big seller for them.

A harvest fest, most brewers had a fresh hop or dry hopped offering. While not the popular winner, my best fresh hop of the fest was Lucid's Foto Fresh.  Clean and bright, it was everything you'd want in a fresh hop beer.  Unfortunately, not all of the fresh hop beers were as good, though some of it was presentation. Surly Wet was just poured out of a can, leaving it flat and not the spectacular beer that I've been drinking at home for the last week. Others were pouring out of growlers, which were also a bit flat after a few pours. For me the best beer of the day was Lactobac 2, a hibiscus sour from Fair State Cooperative. Fruity and floral with a singular sour base, this beautiful beer was a treat, serving to confirm my positive recent visit to Fair State.

Curried Mushroom Fries from
The Moral Omnivore food truck
While I had only a few top notch beers, there were plenty to try. I logged 33 new beers and two new breweries on the dayimpressive for a small festival. I showed without lunch because I under the impression that I was getting a complimentary Lotzza Motzza pizza from the VIP ticket. Turns out the pizza was all meat samples, so I had to buy a slice of cheese from the truck. Basic cheap pizza, but it did the trick. The curried mushroom fries (portobello mushrooms sliced and deep fried) by the The Moral Omnivore were a much better for my mid festival respite on a nearby bench.

And I was supposed to get a free T-shirt on the way out, but I forgot after a day of samples and walked out the wrong way. Oh well. Overall, I had a very pleasant day at the festival tasting in solitude. From overheard discussions, many of the patrons were learning beer and more than a few basic questions were answered by those pouring. At first, I felt like I was in the wrong place and that I had too easily fallen for the pitch of fresh hop beers on KARE 11. While not exactly Great American Beer Festival, the Harvest Beer Festival cheered a lot of locals on a bright fall day with some very good beer, including me.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Quaint Drinking Village: Waconia Brewing (Waconia, MN)

After an excellent stop at Excelsior Brewing, I headed out to Waconia to try another brewery named after a town. Waconia Brewing sits snugly in the corner of a mall. A food truck was outside on the street, inconveniently not in the parking lot, and it specialized in big, meaty burgers without a veggie option so I passed. 

I ordered a rack of samples rather than a pint to be conservative. Of the group, I liked the Lake Town Brown the best: dark brown with ruby highlights and a thick tan head; full nose with malt, minerals and chocolate; roasted nut and chocolate sweetness on the tongue; not a chewy beer, but just enough body to support the taste. Well done, but mind blowing. Wactown Wheat, Pontoon Pale Ale, and the 255 Amber Ale were all thin bodied, but the lightest ale, the Carver Co. Kolsch was well brewed, clean and had a nice flavor that may be popular in town. The final sample, the 90K IPA, was a reasonable IPA with good balance and a lingering hop that settled with pine and grass on the tongue.

A sign over bar says Waconia, Minnesota: A quaint drinking village with a fishing problem. And the beauty of the surrounding lakes and the friendly feel of the full bar makes the appeal of the area clear. If I lived nearby, I would happily stop in at Waconia Brewing for a pint, likely ordering the newest beer on tap and drinking the brown as a back up. For my trip, the beer wasn't good enough to spend the time for a full pint, but the locals crowding the bar seemed to be having a great time as I walked out the door.