Four years since first appearing on the Minnesota beer festival scene, the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s All Pints North Summer Brew Fest has grown from the most laid-back and relaxing beer fest in the state to an almost required pilgrimage for local brewers and beer fans.
Like in years past, the 2015 All Pints North was held at Duluth’s lovely Bayfront Festival Park and attracted a mix of breweries from around the state and the country (as well as at least one brewery that crossed the border from Canada). A huge influx of visitors traveled up from the Twin Cities for the festival as well as the unofficial All Pints North events and parties held around the city before and after the event. In a tweet, beer apparel company The 16 Oz. Society described it as a “craft beer frat party weekend.”
That is a pretty apt description of this year’s event, which felt more like a standard beer festival than ever before. The four long tents were jam-packed with merry festivalgoers hunting down rare beers from the beginning of the day until the very end. Some breweries told us they blew through their most hard-to-find beers in under an hour. A keg of Surly’s whiskey barrel-aged Pentagram was drained within five minutes. A few breweries even packed up and left an hour before the show ended, their beer supplies depleted.
Despite increased competition from attendees making it a little more difficult to sample this year’s rare beers, the traditional laid-back vibe of All Pints North remained. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be having a great time, sampling beer, playing games, enjoying food, and ducking into the shade tents to escape the uncharacteristically hot Duluth day. Duluth Mayor Don Ness roamed the festival mostly unnoticed by the crowd, as did some of our state’s most renowned brew masters.
One of the major benefits to any beer festival is the opportunity to sample beers from new breweries, and this year’s All Pints North seemed to boast a higher-than-average percentage of young breweries. Newer Minnesota breweries included the likes of 56 Brewing, Beaver Island Brewing, Grand Rounds Brewpub, Gull Dam Brewing, Lionheart Cider, Lupine Brewing, Sídhe Brewing, Take 16 Brewing, Voyageur Brewing, Wabasha Brewing and Waconia Brewing. Out-of-staters included Oregon’s Base Camp Brewing and Wisconsin’s Door County Brewing.
Matching the variety of breweries on hand were the number of beers on tap. As expected, most breweries offered up one or more takes on an IPA, but a large number of sour ales were also available. Similarly, there was a surprising amount of stout available among the kölsch, wit, lager, and other summer-friendly beer styles.
With so many beers available it’s hard to pick standouts, but some that jumped out include the Apparent Horizon Rye Berliner Weisse (Schell’s Brewery), Quinannan Falls Special Lager (Bell’s Brewery), Gustav Mauler Double IPA (Eastlake Craft Brewery), Sour Peach Farm Girl Saison (Lift Bridge), and the Murder of Cranberries Stout (Lupine Brewing). A member of the crowd also stopped us randomly to sing the praises of Dangerous Man’s Peanut Butter Porter.
Even as All Pints North grows bigger and more popular, it still retains the same vibe as the early years: everyone in attendance is just there to have a good time and talk with fellow beer lovers about their love of beer.