The Minnesota State Fair is upon us. And Minnesota beer enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to.
What a difference six years make. It wasn’t until 2007 that The State Fair “ditch[ed] the long tradition of wimpy 3.2-percent-alcohol beer [to] allow vendors to sell stronger beer.” That development opened the door for more craft beer and Minnesotans continue to demonstrate that it was a popular change. Every year since strong beer has been allowed it seems our options for “good beer” at the Fair seem to multiply. According to State Fair officials, there were at least 75 different types of beer sold at the Fair in 2012, compared to just 28 in 2002, and 13 in 1992 – with even more offerings available to thirsty fair-goers in 2013.
Here we’ll cover a few of the craft beer destinations at this year’s MN State Fair.
Food & Beer
Ball Park Cafe
One of the pioneers of expanded craft beer at the fair, Dan Theisen, who runs the Ball Park Café, said last year, “It’s an entirely different culture and it’s great to be able to support people you know. It makes it very easy to support these guys and promote their product.” Putting his money where his mouth is, Theisen continues to add more craft beer to The Ball Park Cafe every year.
In addition to these great craft beer offerings, Dan and David Theisen, co-owners of Ball Park Café, are teaming up with Lift Bridge Brewmaster Matt Hall to create a special, state fair beer that will pay tribute to a State Fair favorite — the Mini donut. As far as we can tell, this is the first ever Mini-Donut-inspired beer. According to Lift Bridge Brewing Co., the Mini-Donut Beer “has a warm tan color, like the exterior of a mini donut. A malty base and natural flavors that will give this sweet sipper enough rich flavor without overwhelming the palate.” Mini-Donut will be served in a glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar.
More than 15 lines of craft beer including Surly Furious, Surly Bitter, Surly Hell, Lift Bridge Farm Girl, Lift Bridge Hop Dish, Lift Bridge Mini Donut, Lucid Dyno, Mankato Original, Indeed Daytripper, Indeed Midnight Ryder, Excelsior Bitteschlappe, Badger Hill White IPA, Third Street Jack’ed Up, Steel Toe Size Seven, Bent Paddle Black, Stone Arrogant Bastard.
Food: Hamburgers, cheeseburgers with barbecue, salsa or bleu cheese sauces, ball park franks, chicken strips, jalapeño poppers, apple bratwurst, chef salad, garden salad, grilled chicken sandwich, craft beer battered onion rings, french fries, and garlic fries.
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (S-25)
Directions: Located on Underwood St. outside The Garden
Giggles’ Campfire Grill
Presenting an expanded log cabin, local food favorites, and more craft beer this year is Giggles’ Campfire Grill.
On Tap: Clown Shoes Clementine, Hoppy Feet, and Galactica; Keweenaw Widow Maker Black Ale; Millstream German Pils and Oktoberfest; Flat Earth Angry Planet, Cygnus X-1, and Element 115; Fulton Sweet Child O’ Vine; Brooklyn Lager; Finnegans Blonde Ale; Summit EPA and Saga IPA; Brau Brother’s Moo Joos Oatmeal Stout; Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss; Big Wood Morning Wood; Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison; and Lucid Air.
Food: Elk burgers, salmon wrap, salmon on-a-stick, walleye fries, hickory pork, sunfish, walleye cakes, foot-long walleye sandwich, porcupine meatballs on-a-stick (wild rice and ground pork), steak fries, chicken-fried bacon (thick cut bacon battered and breaded fried and served with apple-maple-cinnamon sauce), Northwoods salad on-a-stick (mozzarella cheese, grape tomatoes, dressing served over chilled wild rice), Canoe brand wild rice, kid’s chicken strip meal, walleye roll (cold walleye salad served in a wrap) all accompanying an expanded craft beer selection.
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (V-12)
Directions: Located at Cooper St. & Lee Ave. in The North Woods
O’Gara’s at the Fair
Looking for an Irish flair? Be sure to stop by O’Gara’s for live music and Irish brews throughout the fair. From rock to acoustic to classic Irish music, they’ve got something for everyone (provided you like Irish music).
On draft at O’Gara’s you’ll find FINNEGANS Irish Amber, Guinness Stout, Harp, Smithwick’s Extra Pale Ale, Leinie’s Honey Weiss, Grain Belt Premium, Grain Belt Nordeast, Miller Lite, and Michelob Golden Light plus a separate list of bottled beer.
Food: Burgers, sandwiches, breakfast, Irish entrees, and Grab & Go favorites that include the Reuben Bites and Blarney Beans. New this year are the “Stuck Pig,” also known as pork belly sliders and Deep Fried Bread Pudding.
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (W-24)
Directions: Located on the southeast corner of Dan Patch Ave. and Cosgrove
Food: Tacos, taco salad, nachos, nachos supreme, jalapeño cream cheese poppers with chipotle raspberry sauce, buffalo chicken wings with bleu cheese dressing and celery, bacon-wrapped turkey tenderloin on-a-stick, pizza (pepperoni, sausage, cheese), crispy crowns with chipotle mayo sauce, sushi (California roll or shrimp tempura sushi made of crab meat or fried shrimp, spicy sauce, seaweed and sushi rice).
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (U-30)
Directions: Located in International Bazaar, north side
Beer & More
With an impressive series of regional and national acts and regional and national brews from Liftbridge, Summit , Fulton, Odell, Stone, 21st Amendment, Brooklyn, Rogue and many more, you are sure to find something you love in both of the Grandstands’ lineups.
What’s more Minnesotan than sipping on a Summit (Saga or EPA), Lift Bridge (Hopdish or Farmgirl), or a Fulton Sweet Child of Vine while taking in “MN Music On A Stick” (featuring Trampled by Turtles, The Suburbs, Mason Jennings, P.O.S, and The Chalice)? Or perhaps you’re up for a ‘black celebration’ with a 21st Amendment Back in Black and the ‘dark wave’ sounds of Depeche Mode. More of a hip-hop fan? We recommenced pairing a pint of Blooklyn’s Sorachi Ace with Talib Kweli when he takes the stage with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on Saturday, August 31st – that is, if you got this hot ticket already. Tickets for the Saturday show are SOLD OUT.
Grandstand Ticket Info
To purchase Grandstand tickets day of show, go to the box office in Grandstand Plaza, just east of the Grandstand, P23 on the State Fair map. The Grandstand Plaza box office opens at 10 a.m.
Heritage Square sponsored by August Schell Brewing Company
Visit the Heritage Square Variety Showcase this year and sip on several offerings from Minnesota’s oldest brewery while taking in Vaudeville family fun on the Heritage Square Stage each night at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy the unique talents of a ventriloquist, juggler, comedians, musicians and magicians performing on different nights throughout the fair. For a complete schedule of this free entertainment lineup, click here.
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (G-23)
Directions: Located in Heritage Square
Leinie Lodge Bandshell
In addition to the Leinenkugel family of beers, the Leinie Lodge will also feature tons of great live music. The evening entertainment for the Leinie Lodge Bandshell will include Sunny Sweeney, Blue Oyster Cult, Hanson, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, and Sheila E.
The Leinie Lodge Bandshell’s daytime entertainment includes Mountain Heart, Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp Band, Dale Watson, The Stellas featuring Lennon and Maisy, Alex Meixner Polka Band, Jason D. Williams, The 34th Infantry Division “Red Bull” Band, Tonic Sol-fa, Bill Kirchen’s Texicalli, Neal Zunker and The Music Connection, Maggie Rose, Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, Home Free, Rosie Flores and The Rivetors, Kenny Neal, The Quebe Sisters Band, Eric Paslay, Michael Salgado and SongBlast – Dueling Guitars
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (V-26)
Directions: Located on Cooper St. near the Space Tower.
Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s Land of 10,000 Beers
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is back for its second year with The Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit. The Guild has expanded this year and will be offering many of the same favorites from last year, including different style flights of Minnesota craft beer from more than 30 Minnesota craft brewers, educational stations showcasing the history, agriculture, and industry that supports Minnesota craft beer, a map outlining the various Guild members around the state, and interactive stage programs. Daily 9am-9pm (8pm Labor Day)
What’s bigger and better in 2013:
- More craft beer flights on offer, with 24 total taps (plus firkins) and rotating selections from nearly 30 Minnesota breweries
- Additional speaker program guests and topics
- An expanded exhibit space to cater to the growing craft beer buzz at the Fair
- A “Craft Beer Art” wall
- Legislative/craft beer laws FAQs
- Guild merchandise available for purchase
- Bigger focus on farming and the ingredients that make craft beer
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (T-28)
Directions: In the Agriculture Horticulture Building West Hall
Minnesota State Fair Home Brew Competition
This popular home brew contest organized by Primary Fermenters Brewers And Vintners closed registration on Saturday, August 3, 2013 with more than 700 entries. Though it appears it is too late to enter a beer in the competition, judging opportunities are still available. If you are willing to be a judge or steward, please register here.
Summit Brewing Company and “State Fair IPA”
A fixture at the fair for years and years, this year Summit Brewing Company is even brewing a special beer just for the occasion. State Fair IPA is a recipe created by Summit brewer Jeff Williamson. This highly-hopped red-colored IPA features Magnum, Chinook, Amarillo and Centennial hops. It also highlights Minnesota ingredients including corn, wild rice from Minnestalgia Foods, raw wildflower honey from Bare Honey, and Cascade hops from Hippity Hops Farms. The beer is approximately 5.5% ABV with about 95 IBU.
Summit will tap ONE ½ barrel keg each day of the fair. The beer will be tapped at 1pm each day and served until that keg is empty.
On the map: View on the State Fair Map (U-30)
Directions: Located in International Bazaar
*** By no means is this a complete list of beer at the Minnesota State Fair.
We intend this to be an evolving guide to your craft beer experience at the Fair. If you own or operate a beer-related business at the fair or are familiar with one we missed here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with information to be included here and in our handy State Fair Beer Finder to be released next week. Or tweet your favorite State Fair beer places, activities, or rituals to @growlermag.
ESPN 1500 will be broadcasting The Beer Show live from the fair on Thursday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm from the 1500 ESPN broadcast booth. The Growler will join The Beer Show at the Fair to talk everything beer at The Great Minnesota Get-Together.