12th Annual Autumn Brew Review: A review

More than 100 brewers came to show off their best
More than 100 brewers came to show off their best
Austin Fassino

With clear, perfect skies and a hint of hops in the air, the 12th Annual Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild Autumn Brew Review brought nearly 3,000 to the old Grain Belt Brewery site in northeast Minneapolis over the weekend to sample craft brews from across the country. Over 100 brewers were on site to share their offerings, most of which had between three to five varieties to choose from. That, of course, adds up to a lot of alcohol consumption and some scrupulous note-taking.

Sponsored by the Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild, the event gave center stage to local brews, with an outer ring of booths from across the nation, including national favorites like Samuel Adams, Bell's, and Rogue, and the inner ring reserved for the Minnesota brewers. Of course, established brews like Summit, Surly, and Schell's had prominent tables, but so did recent additions such as Mankato Brewing, Harriet, and the just opened brewpub Pour Decisions.

As attendees lined up for samples, quick bonds were struck among beer drinkers talking hops varieties, brewing techniques, and recipe flourishes. Common within the crowd were homemade pretzel necklaces for palate cleansing. As the afternoon progressed, it moved from small groups taking in their samples to more friendly interactions across the whole crowd.

What stood out the most, however, were the varied limited-edition beers in plentiful supply. Casks aged in raspberries, smoked peppers (chipotle and habanero), and bourbon or whiskey barrels were common, and it was hard to choose a familiar style or something one can pick up at the liquor store when such one-time offers were available. Highlights from the day included the Double Dead Guy Ale (Rogue Brewery), Stony Brook Red (Sam Adams), Barrel Aged Gonzo (Flying Dog Brewery), and West Side (Harriet Brewing Co.), though several others were outstanding as well. What truly stood out at the event was the overall quality of each the brewers. Everyone invited to participate takes their craft seriously, and there weren't many clunkers to be found. Many brewers, owners, and knowledgeable reps were available to discuss the trade, and all it took was asking a few questions to get their attention.

Another item of note is how smoothly the operation functioned. With 3,000 in attendance, so much alcohol, and a big, open space, it's hard to keep lines moving and toilets available, but the festival did both with great success. The only gripe is that I'd like to see more water fountains for rinsing the sampling cups and, in general, offering a few palate cleansers and a bit more seating would be make the event even better. That said, it's a festival for beer lovers to enjoy, even if its size does make it hard to try everything you'd like to get your hands on in just four hours. That, and sampling in moderation can be extremely difficult given the set-up, though I doubt many in attendance had such a goal in the first place.

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