There is a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin that reads, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” While the evidence suggests the original quote was about wine and not beer, craft beer fans will never argue with the sentiment. Nor would anyone argue with the phrase, “Autumn Brew Review is proof that the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild (MCBG) loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Indeed, it felt as if some divine power was looking out for the attendees of the 15th annual festival. Friday, September 18, was rainy, gray, and cool. Sunday, September 20, was dotted with unpredictable showers. But Saturday, September 19, the day of Autumn Brew Review, had clear blue skies and a perfectly comfortable 72 degrees.
The largest craft beer festival organized by the MCBG, Autumn Brew Review has always been a chance for Minnesota breweries to showcase both their standard releases and their most interesting specialties. As the number of Minnesota breweries has ballooned, the chance to stand out at ABR has become more difficult, and breweries took different approaches to the event. Some, like Insight Brewing and Lake Monster, focused on introducing attendees to their standard lineup of brews.
Others, like Lift Bridge and Surly, took another approach. Lift Bridge offered a staggering amount of special releases and brought over 25 beers to the event, including their State Fair mini-donut beer and a vertical of their Commander Barleywine from 2011 through 2014. Local heavyweight Surly offered up three beers from their sought-after anniversary series as well as barrel-aged Darkness and other rarities. Their flagship brews were nowhere to be seen.
With large local breweries offering up their most sought-after special releases, it’s no wonder that younger, smaller breweries stuck closer to their standard offerings. While one of the show’s Best Beer awards went to Lupulin Brewing for their Tropical Orgasm chocolate porter, the rest of the awards went to more established breweries. Bent Paddle took home the other Best Beer award for its Double Shot Double Black coffee ale and also tied with Surly for the Best Brewery award. Lift Bridge and its massive amount of beers won the Best Display award.
Minnesota beers were not the only ones on display. ABR features many national breweries as well, and some brought an amazing amount of rare releases. Alaskan Brewing Company brought beers from as far back as 2010, Brewery Ommegang poured its hugely popular Game of Thrones beer, and New Belgium offered two versions of Love, the base beer to its famous La Folie sour ale.
For many in attendance, it was their first exposure to national breweries that recently arrived in Minnesota, including 3 Sheeps, Alesmith Brewing Company, Base Camp, Japan’s Coedo Brewery, sour experts Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Paradox, and Iowa’s Toppling Goliath, which is a long-anticipated addition to the local scene.
As with every year, there were far too many remarkable beers on tap to try them all. The upside to the huge number of offerings: one never had to wait in line too long. With great beer, solid organization by the MCBG, and wonderful weather, it was a great day that was enjoyed by all. Someone up there does indeed want us all to be happy.
Below photo gallery courtesy of MCBG, all photos by Stephanie Dunn Photography.