The 14th annual Autumn Brew Review will be held this Saturday, September 27th at the Historic Grain Belt Brewery. For many Minnesota beer fans, Autumn Brew Review (ABR) is one of the most exciting days of the year. If you’re attending this year, the following ten questions will get you primed for the weekend. If you’re not, consider this a guide to why you need to attend in the future.
1. What is Autumn Brew Review?
Autumn Brew Review is the largest and oldest craft beer festival organized by the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild. The non-profit outdoor festival features unlimited beer from local and national craft breweries, as well as non-alcoholic samples, a commemorative tasting glass, live music, food vendors on-site, beer educational sessions, and more.
2. What is the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild?
The Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild is an industry organization to which many of Minnesota’s breweries belong. Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild Executive Director Clint Roberts explained the organization’s goals: “The Guild’s goal is to promote Minnesota craft beer. We are proud to engage consumers and educate them about the great beer in our state. It’s always about the beer, and the experience that goes with it. There are still many people who don’t enjoy Minnesota craft beer regularly, so we set out to inform and empower with the ultimate goal of helping people connect to a local brewery, appreciate the experience of a local brewery, and enjoy local craft beer.”
3. What does the Guild do, aside from events?
“Our organization reinvests in its membership regularly and in many ways helps our members connect to consumers,” said Roberts. “From our festivals to the State Fair exhibit to a scholarship program to a marketing campaign to educational platforms, our focus is on quality beer and getting that quality beer to the consumer.”
4. Why is ABR such a big deal?
Here’s what Clint Robert has to say about it: “Autumn Brew Review is one of the largest and longest-running beer events in the Midwest. Most importantly, we’ve continued to keep the focus on the beer, and the brewers really bring it. Literally. Our Guild member brewers and their regional and national peers tend to really roll out the specialty barrels for this festival, and ultimately the consumer wins. We will have almost 110 breweries and 50 or so Minnesota breweries. It’s an enjoyable and delicious way to spend a fall afternoon in Minneapolis.”
The brewers we spoke to agreed. “We look at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild events as a way to truly showcase our beers, so rather than bringing a standard line up, we wanted to bring out the stuff that doesn’t make it to most festivals or even restaurants, for that matter,” said Robert Kasak of 612Brew. “Bringing out our limited releases like Shere Khan, which is the smallest batch of beer we brew each year, or bringing out our taproom only beer, Zero Hour, gives people an opportunity to try some of the fun stuff that we do at 612Brew.”
“We love ABR for several reasons,” said Brent Krekelberg of Badger Hill Brewing. “It occurs in fall (the best season in Minnesota), and more so than other festivals it is a beer fest that is filled with people who love craft beer (just like us), and it has been the annual launch of our Foundation Stout the past three years!”
5. Are tickets to ABR still available?
Oh, heck no. Tickets typically sell out with a few minutes of going on sale. That said, there are probably a few folks out there who bought tickets and can’t go, so there’s a small chance you can find someone selling tickets online or at the door.
6. What kinds of beers will be there?
Tons! To get the lowdown on what will be available, we spoke to a variety of local brewers about what they’re bringing to the event. “We like to ‘Randall’ our flagship beers and bring out cool and exciting firkins,” said Kasak of 612Brew. “Our head brewer Adam Schill doesn’t like to showcase our firkins full of hops, but instead he looks for unique ingredients to add different elements and depth to the beer. That’s why you see Zero Hour on peppermint and cocoa nibs this year. We bring Rated R to every event, considering that it’s our IPA and people just love their hops, so of course it will be at ABR. Lastly, we’re bringing our Oktoberfest, because its Oktoberfest season and not many breweries our size brew that style. We’re bringing many of these beers out to GABF as well because we are so proud of them and think they will do great on a national stage.”
“We are bringing four core beers to the festival—MSB, Traitor IPA, High Road (which are all year round) and Foundation Stout (fall to spring),” said Badger Hill’s Krekelberg. “We are excited to be pouring Traitor IPA for the first time at the festival. Foundation Stout will be also be extremely fresh as it’s getting packaged less than a week before the festival. Additionally, we are planning on crafting something fun for the fest with one of those four beers. Last year we did a cold press stout served via coffee carafe and a super Citra-hopped High Road […] we are still working on the plan so it will be a surprise the day of the fest!”
7. Are there any new breweries at ABR this year?
Yes! ABR is a great place to try some of the most recent arrivals in the Minnesota beer scene. “We are so excited to have been accepted into the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild,” said Jeff Moriarty, co-founder of St. Paul’s recently launched Tin Whiskers. “Being at the Autumn Beer Review for the first time is surreal. Throughout the past four years of making our dream of Tin Whiskers Brewery into a reality, we would always think that someday we too will be able to drink a Tin Whiskers Beer at the ABR. It’s amazing that it is actually happening for us this year! We will be pouring our four core beers at ABR: Wheatstone Bridge (our honey-chamomile wheat), Ampere Amber, Flipswitch IPA, and Short Circuit Stout. We will also have a special firkin of our highly-anticipated fall seasonal pumpkin pie beer, the Schottky Pumpkin.”
8. How has ABR changed over the years?
“It’s really become a destination, both for fans and for the types of breweries that attend,” said Pete Rifakes of Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. “When it first started, there was more walk-up tickets sold than advance tickets sold. And now it sells out very quickly, so obviously there is a lot more interest in craft beer now. The venue is considerably different. It was at Peavey Plaza, which for the size of it was a great venue. There was a lot of foot traffic, but if it rained we knew we were going to have a pretty small turnout. If there was nice weather, we would at least double the amount of tickets we sold at the door.”
Rifakes also said that ABR serves as a sort of local preview of what Town Hall submits to the prestigious Great American Beer Fest. The brewery’s ABR offerings include Key Lime Pie Nitro, a rendition of the favorite dessert made with all natural ingredients and no flavorings; the Town Hall house IPA aged on a bed of natural mango fruit; Hop N’ Cents, a strong pale ale single hopped with Centennial hops; Poor Ben’s Ale, which is based on homebrewer Ben Adair’s award winning recipe and draws on the writings of Ben Franklin; the classic English milk stout 3 Hour Tour, and the barrel-aged Russian imperial stout Czar Jack. Poor Ben’s, Czar Jack and 3 Hour Tour will all be submitted to this year’s Great American Beer Fest.
9. How should I prep for ABR?
Two words: Pretzel Necklace. Add preztels to a string to wear around your neck so you can cleanse your palate between tastings with a little snack. Pretzel necklaces are the only outside food that’s allowed into the festival. Water is also allowed, although it’s also available for free.
10. Sounds awesome. Is it gonna be awesome?
Yes. Yes it will.