By now, everyone who attended the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild Autumn Brew Review should be feeling (more or less) completely recovered. But if not, we can’t blame you. As with every year at ABR, a nearly endless treasure trove of must-have beers were on display, and you could be forgiven for trying to sample just a few too many of the best brews the state has to offer.
There’s something a little strange about writing up the ABR experience, as I’ve done many years in a row for various outlets. I’ve never had anything short of a great time at the Guild’s flagship event, and this year was no different. However, veterans of ABR may have noticed a few differences this year. The layout was different, with Minnesota breweries claiming the outer ring of the event space at the historic Grain Belt brewery, and the national brands more tightly clustered together in the center rows. This was the reverse of the historical layout, and illustrated how large the local brewing scene has grown. The ratio of local to national brands has definitely tipped in favor of the hometown breweries, with many previous national exhibitors nowhere to be seen this year. And finally, perhaps because of a slightly expanded space, or perhaps because there are more beer festivals than ever, the event didn’t seem as completely packed as year’s past. Once an event that reliably sold out in minutes, there were tickets for ABR still available the day before the event.
Of course, the turnout was still very strong, and many of the most popular booths still had impressively long lines for their timed releases. I chose to wait in few of those lines, and still had no trouble sampling impressive beers from all around the event grounds. A few of my standouts:
- August Schell Lunar Interference: I’m a sucker for the Schell’s Berliner Weiss series, and this was one of the richest, most layered releases yet. Rich, chocolatey, fruity, and complex. The best beer I tried at the event, and I can’t wait to grab a bottle.
- Badger Hill Tripel Abbey Ale: Belgians are typically not my jam, but this one really worked for me. Smooth, rich, and drinkable. Badger Hill always zigs when you expect them to zag.
- Barrel Theory DDH Rain Drops: I haven’t tried the standard version of Rain Drops yet, but this double dry hopped version was the best NE IPA I had at ABR, easily.
- Foxhole Old Snaggletooth: A lovely, drinkable old ale. This was the first beer I’ve tried from Foxhole, and it suggested that a road trip to Willmar may be in order.
I did not have a chance to check out 10K Brewing, who took home the audience choices for both Best Brewery and Best Beer with Loonar Uprising. I guess I’ll have to make a point to check them out next year, when they return as reigning champions. I’m already looking forward to it.