Insider’s Guide to the 2016 Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival

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Dabblers at the 2015 Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Snow is falling, Rice Park is filled with ice sculptures, and darker beers are dominating local tap lines. Winter is here, friends, and with it comes our favorite cold-weather festival—The Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival.

As a sister company to The Beer Dabbler and after seven years of sipping beers in every weather condition that Minnesota’s longest season throws our way, we at The Growler consider ourselves well-versed in the art of winter dabbling. And so, in preparation for the fest Saturday, we want to share our best tips and tricks with you, our favorite festival-goers.

First thing’s first: Get your ticket

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Photo by Aaron Davidson

If you don’t already have your ticket in mitten, it’s time to take care of business. Get one online or head to one of these fine establishments with $40 (cash only at retail locations) and purchase your entry to the Dabbler. Stock up on a six-pack or two while you’re at the liquor store for good measure.

To make the most of Dabbler day, you can still snag a Very Important Dabbler (VID) ticket. For just $99, you’ll get early pours starting at 3pm in the Fulton Brewing Company VID heated tent plus exclusive beers from Fulton, catered food, music by DJ LASTWORD, a limited-edition Dabbler knit hat, and VID-only porta potties. Did we mention the heated tent?

Plan your ride

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Metro Transit is offering free rides to and from the Dabbler // Photo via flickr.com/metrotransitmn/

Option One: Shuttle It

Hop on one of the shuttles leaving from Fulton, Stout’s Pub, O’Gara’s, Tiffany’s, and Joe Senser’s Roseville. Not only will this allow you to pregame from 12–3pm, but you’ll also receive your wristband prior to arriving at the Dabbler, which means less time standing in line. (*Note: Tickets will NOT be sold at shuttle locations. You need to have your ticket in hand in order receive a wristband and ride the shuttle.)

Option Two: Mass Transit It

Like free stuff? Us, too. Which is why we’re pretty pumped that Metro Transit is once again offering free bus and light rail rides to and from the Dabbler (passes are valid starting two hours before and ending two hours after the festival). All you have to do is take a short survey and print or take a screenshot of the confirmation sheet to show to your bus driver.

Option Three: Bring a DD

Designated driver tickets are available for $10 online and at the Beer Dabbler Store in St. Paul.

Option Four: Schedule a DDi ride

If you choose to shuttle or drive yourself, remember to arrange for Drink and Drive Intelligently to meet you after the Dabbler so you get home safely.

Take care of the basics

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Snack-laces // Photo by Aaron Davidson

We know you want to save room for beer, but sipping samples of hundreds of beers with nothing to soak it up is a recipe for—well, you know. Avoid being “that” guy or gal by grabbing a bite at one of the pre-wristbanding/shuttle locations, eating before you leave home, or grabbing something from one of the restaurants near the fairgrounds.

While there are a few food options at the Dabbler—namely ribs and chili from Aesop’s Table, meat and cheese samples from Lunds and Byerly’s, and a few concessions stands in the Coliseum—you don’t want to waste precious sampling time standing in line for grub. Get creative and deck out your neck with a show-stopping snack-lace. Show off your threading skills and load that baby up with pretzels, beef sticks, cheese, popcorn, and anything else your beer-drinking heart desires.

Another friendly reminder: Drink some water between beers. You’re welcome and encouraged to bring in empty or sealed water bottles to the fest, and Culligan will be supplying free water in the Coliseum. Remember, without water there would be no beer, so it deserves a little love, too.

Dress for Success

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Illustration by DWITT

We know you’re tough and have survived far colder, snowier, icier, and windier winter days. But we don’t want to see frostbitten fingers any more than you want to lose all feeling in your extremities for the rest of forever, so take a look at our infographic above, layer up, then get your drink on.

It’s dabbling time


To make sure you don’t miss anything exciting beer-wise, here are a few suggestions:

New breweries

There are almost 20 new breweries and cideries at the Dabbler this year. Included in that lineup are Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., from Decorah, Iowa, and Sixpoint Brewery, from Brooklyn, New York—both new to the Minnesota market. Also of note are AleSmith Brewing Company, from San Diego, and Birch’s on the Lake Brewhouse, from Long Lake, Minnesota. Check them out while hunting down your must-visit breweries and you might just walk away with a new favorite beer.

Must-try beers

With more than 140 breweries and cideries dishing out multiple samples each, it’s impossible to list all the beers we’re looking forward to trying. That said, here are a few we’ll be staking out early.

  • Fulton is introducing a new session IPA at the fest. The beer, with a pilsner base, is bittered with Apollo hops and dry-hopped with Cascade, Hallertau Blanc, and Hallertau Mandarina Bavaria.
  • Bent Paddle will have a couple iterations of their black ale on hand, including their new Barrel-aged Double Shot Double Black with vanilla and coffee.
  • Summit is bringing a couple firkins—Oatmeal Stout with chai tea and Saga with Citra hops.
  • Bell’s will be tapping some Hopslam at some point in the day (Hopslam season is finally here!).
  • The premiere of Rush River Brewing’s hard cider.
  • Keep an eye on @BeerDabbler’s Twitter feed for more announcements.

Lord Dabbler’s Cup

Dangerous Man Brewing Company took home the cup at the 2015 Summer Dabbler and are bringing two totally rad beers to the Winter Dabbler from their 2015 series of barrel-aged releases—a tequila-barrel-aged Imperial Kristalweizen and a cabernet barrel-aged Belgian dark strong.

Once you’ve sampled Dangerous Man’s creations, it’s time to vote for a new Lord Dabbler. Just look for the text code on each brewery’s booth and, when you find what you believe to be the best beer of the bunch, text that code to the phone number listed in your program or at the brewery booth. One text vote per person, so make it count!

Beyond the beer: what to do, see, hear, and experience

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Heiruspecs at the Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival 2013 // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Beer Dabblers are about more than just the beer. They’re about the experience—and believe us when we say there will be a lot to experience on Saturday.

Kicking things off at 3:30pm are The Brass Messengers, an 11-piece band playing funky, jazzy, and highly danceable street music.

After their set, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman will read a proclamation naming February 6, 2016, “Beer Dabbler Day” in the city of St. Paul, and he’ll be joined by this year’s Winter Carnival royalty. Then the whole crew will take the party off stage and into the crowd for a Mardi Gras-style parade, complete with puppets from Heart of the Beast Theatre (think 20-foot masks and puppets), music from Brass Messengers, and an open invitation for anyone and everyone to join in.

Music will continue throughout the day both inside the Coliseum and outside on the main stage. Inside, Dan Israel and Gin Strings will set the tone between educational sessions by Dakota County Technical College (on European brewing styles), TEAM Systems (on packaging), and Eric Sannerud of Mighty Axe Hops (on, what else, growing hops). Outside, the stage will be rocking with BdotCroc, Viva Knievel, Chris Koza, and PHO. See the full lineup here.

We’re suckers for a good challenge, especially when people-watching is involved. Exercise those eagle eyes with our #GrowlerInstaBingo game: grab a card at the Growler booth, then take photos of each thing you find and post it on Instagram with #GrowlerInstaBingo. When you get five in a row, head back to the booth, show off your pics, and be entered to win an $85 prize pack of Growler swag. Even if you don’t win, you will get a koozie—and the satisfaction of successfully creeping on your fellow Dabblers.

A word about lines

You’re at a beer festival. There are thousands of people here. Everyone wants beer—and everyone likely wants the same beer you want. These are all facts. Also a fact: you don’t need to stand in the longest line just because everyone else is. A long line does not necessarily lead to the best beer. Most likely, a long line just indicates that your fellow dabblers are succumbing to FOMO. We get not wanting to miss out, but think of all the other beers you could be trying instead of standing in line forever to try just one beer. Instead of joining in the long-line fun, why not circulate around the fairgrounds and try beer from all the breweries without lines, then make your way back to that initial long line? Or divide and conquer: have one person wait in the line while the other makes the rounds and brings back their discoveries, then share the goods. Remember, you only have four hours: use them wisely.

Most importantly, Dabblers: have fun. Embrace winter in all her glory, build up that interior coat to stay cozy warm, and enjoy the day. Cheers!

 

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