Hoops on Hops: An insider’s tips to enjoy Minnesota’s beer festivals
Beer festivals are back, and one of the best is this weekend in Duluth.
As far as beer festivals go, it has been silent the past two years. We will see our first major festival this weekend at Bayfront Festival Park. All Pints North is arguably the most beautiful beer fest in the state, and post-COVID-19, it's gearing up to be a coming out, shout-out to folks!
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild was founded in 2000 with the goal of promoting Minnesota craft beer and educating beer consumers. Twenty-two years later and now featuring 130 brewery members, the guild throws four great events each year, including three huge, super-fun beer festivals: All Pints North in Duluth in July, Autumn Brew Review in Minneapolis in September, and Winterfest in St. Paul in February. This wonderful organization also sponsors the Land of 10,000 beers exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair.
The guild is all about supporting local beer, which is great because the state of hockey will become the state of beer this Saturday, July 31, at Bayfront Festival Park. Most of the brewers from Minnesota will pour their best here in Duluth. I’m going to offer up a guidebook of sorts with some tips and thoughts on how to get the best out of your festival experience.
The event runs from 3-7 p.m. Arriving early will allow you first access when the gates open. There is usually a lengthy line, and the event almost always sells out. Tickets and other information can be found on the guild’s website, mncraftbrew.org .
The festival will feature local shops, food vendors and live music. A feature of this fest I really like is an education component. All-Pinters can attend seminars on beer styles, off-flavors, beer line and glass cleaning, hop growing, sensory tips, beer tourism in Minnesota, and general industry chatter. There will also be some interesting beer-themed games and maybe even some booths giving away free stuff.
The fact that the backdrop for All Pints North is the bay, lake and lift bridge makes it the most scenic beer festival in the state. It also means that there will be plenty of walking, so wear comfortable shoes and clothing that can handle weather changes. Also make a point of sitting down a bit — get off your feet once an hour or so to stay fresh.
Dave’s tips to get the most out of your beer festival experience:
- Take a look at the program online or the app and make a tasting plan. This could be certain styles you want to focus on, certain beers that jump out at you, or new breweries you want to try.
- Start with lighter beers, such as lagers or wheat beers. This will keep your palate sharp so you don't fatigue it by drinking a 10% ABV Imperial IPA as your first beer at the fest. Ramp up slowly.
- Try to match water to beer 1:1. This will offset dehydration and allow you to watch your intake flow rate. If that seems hard, just remind yourself to drink water and carry some with you.
- Eat, ideally in the first hour of the event, to provide a base at the start, and then more throughout the day.
- When you make your tasting list, try not to focus solely on “special release” beers, where there will always be a big line. If you do too much of this, you will stand in line much more than you will sample.
- Move away from the pouring table when you get your sample and clear the area for the folks behind you.
- If you have a question of comment for the brewer, ask politely if they have a minute to chat — most will be happy to engage.
- If you’re looking for new flavors and ideas to research, bring a small notebook and jot down notes.
- Have a plan for the end of the event so you're not driving home after drinking: a designated driver, pickup or leaving on foot. Smarter and safer for sure.
There will be hundreds of great beers at this event. Enjoy and have fun.
Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.