too much fun

Not, I should note, Too Much Fun, which could be problematic.

I had tickets to Autumn Brew Review last year.  It sounded like fun and I had looked forward to it, but then there was a LAN party (in a frikking hangar!) and nerding out with friends won out over drinking with strangers, that year.

This year, things got planned a little better.  I invited more friends, and got my nerding quotient for the weekend filled on Friday night. So, early on Saturday afternoon (after realizing that I am apparently the only person living north of the 610 who possesses a working alarm clock, I headed out to the show).

Autumn Brew Review is a craft beer festival/tasting event that for the past couple or three years has been held on the grounds of the Historic Grain Belt Brewery in NE Minneapolis. Unlike Winterfest, which is an all-local event, ABR features brewers from across the US – chillin’ under a tent on a warm late summer afternoon, serving up their best to the appreciative throngs.

Now, I didn’t make it to anywhere near all 60 breweries — and likely would have died if I had tried for 200+ different samples, here are some of the standouts:

  • Barley John’s – Rosie’s Old Ale – Old Ales/Barleywines are one of my go-to styles of beer. Malty, high-gravity, over-the-top beers that should almost be something else.  I intend to drink many of them, so as to weather the MN winter.  If Rosie’s wasn’t $75/growler, I probably would add it to my rotation.  It’s a really good balance between the sweet (that can by overpowering in more naive beers of this style), and a nice hop bitterness (with a touch of citrus aroma).
  • Founder’s Brewing Company – Breakfast Stout – I like coffee, I like beer, I generally dislike it when they are put together (which a lot of brewers do, as the flavour profiles should be complimentary, but in fact when combined they make fail). But this beer managed to make it work — the coffee tasted like coffee (and not the sweepings from a Dunn Bros floor), and the chocolate malt really sang through.
  • Furthermore Beer – Thermo Refur – Brewed from beets of all things. With a description that includes words like “grammy’s purse”, and “horse barn”. I expected to hate it, but it was actually pretty good.  Complex, not something I’d drink everyday, and I’d want to be careful about what I paired it with… but good.
  • Horny Goat Brewing Company – Hopped Up ‘N Horny – because this list needs a session beer (I’m realizing that everything else on here is upwards of 8% ABV… oops).  Your standard American Pale Ale. Hops rule on this one, but not so much as a Furious, or Summit Extra Pale. Something to drink on a summer afternoon.
  • Southern Tier Brewing Company – Creme Brulee Stout – My (increasingly incoherent over the course of the afternoon) tasting notes include the phase “Amber likey”. I’m usually not a fan of “gimmick” beers like this (and the coffee beers, discussed above), but this works.  Really well.  The provided notes don’t explain how exactly they managed to capture everything that is good about creme brulee in a beer without it being too sweet/too burnt/fake syrupy tasting, but there it is.  This isn’t a beer to serve with dessert.  This is a beer to serve instead of dessert.
  • I could go on… there were lots of others that I liked (and lots that were just boring, and some that were just awful) — I think, now, I’ll devote some energy to finding out where I can even buy all these beers, locally… Alvey?

Notes for next year:

  • The Early Access Tickets were worth every penny.  It may be only an extra hour, but actually being able to hit Surly and Lift Bridge and the other really popular tables before the proles arrived.  To be honest, as much as I like Surly’s beers, no brewery is worth waiting 20+ minutes in line for a 2oz sample of (though, I did like the 2009 Darkness much more than the 2008 version last year).
  • Preztel Necklaces – I’m surprised none of the food vendors were selling these.  While I ate a decent breakfast, and knew that we would likely be doing an early supper someone in NE, I was definitely coveting something salty about 20 samples in.  While the food available (burgers, pizza, etc) looked good, I didn’t want anything so heavy, really.
  • Pedal Pub – I’m happy that the pedal pub seminars worked based on a sign-up list, as opposed to having to wait in line all afternoon to take a ride.  We were able to sign up relatively early for the seminar that we wanted (Tyranena Brewery + Legacy Chocolates discussed pairing the best things in the universe), and then do the tasting thing and take a break in the shade for a while when before we loaded up.
  • Take Notes – however illegible, the notes that I took in the program are the only thing that I have to help me remember all of the different beers I had.  Even when they are simple like a plus sign, or a DO NOT WANT, I can use them, combined with the notes from the brewers as a reference on my next shopping trip.
  • Plan Ahead – Some of the breweries posted their line-ups on MN Beer ahead of time.  I wish I had read them (or new someone who could get me an advance PDF of the program).  I would have loved to have a more detailed plan of attack for what I wanted to try during that first, precious hour, or to have a checklist of things that I wanted to get to (despite the crowds) before I called it a day.

All in all, it was a great time.  Thanks Amber, Jen, and Picasso for coming with.  See you at Winterfest?