How to Enjoy a Beer Festival:

Step 1 – Create a good base.
Saturday morning, just a few hours before the Twin Cities’ annual Autumn Brew Review. I woke up, and made myself a solid breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast (toast being the most important aspect of the meal, as it’ll sop up liquids). Shortly thereafter, I followed it up with an early lunch of chicken parmesan leftovers from the other night. Lots of pasta, lots of carbs. Good stuff.

Twin Cities Autumn Brew Review, held at the old Grain Belt Brewery in Northeast Mpls

Twin Cities Autumn Brew Review, held at the old Grain Belt Brewery in northeast Mpls.

Step 2 – Get there early to scope out the scene.
I arrived about an hour early, and with a VIP pass was able to enter the drinking grounds before nearly everyone else (thanks to my brewing industry hook up). And it definitely paid off. Because the first thing I did was sprint to the Surly booth where they had Darkness on tap for all to enjoy. I drank about four glasses of the stuff, and passed out in a fit of pure ecstasy. I can’t even begin to explain how heavenly that beer is. Once I came to, I wandered around the area and plotted out a strategic game plan of drinking…brewers I wanted to try for the first time, brewers I wanted to try for the second time, and brewers I wanted to try for the sheer joy of drinking. I was like a kid in a candy store.

The line at Surly was fucking 500 deep. Unbelievable cult following. I love their beer.

The line at the Surly booth was literally 500 deep. Crazy cult following. Gotta love it.

Step 3 – Take your time. The beer isn’t going anywhere. Well, this isn’t exactly true. Within the first 30 minutes, several of the brewers had poured out of their initial offerings, moving to secondary brews. So in fear of losing out on trying some fantastic brews, I took it upon myself to try just about every damn beer that was there in case I wouldn’t see it again for many years. Following is a comprehensive list of everything I imbibed, in relatively accurate order:

Surly Darkness (fucking A)
Surly Oak Aged Cranberry Cynic Ale (not sold retail, only available at this event, orgasmic)
Fitger’s Starfire Pale Ale (not bad)
Two Brothers Ebel Weiss (ehhh)
Saint Somewhere Saison Athene (not bad)
North Coast La Merle Saison (respectable)
Brau Brothers Oatmeal Stout (weak)
Brau Brothers Double Nut Braun Ale (also not great)
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale (pretty smooth)
New Holland Mad Hatter IPA (good)
Bell’s Porter (not good)
Bell’s Amber Ale (ehhh)
Furthermore Knot Stock IPA (fan-fucking-tastic)
Furthermore 3 Foot Deep
Furthermore Oscura (cross between Anchor Steam and an espresso, pretty unique and good)  
Minneapolis Town Hall Scottish Wee Heavy Ale (too sweet for me, also smelled like a pet store)
Minneapolis Town Hall Anniversary Triple (pretty solid)
Lefthand Milkstout (good)
Abita English Brown
Flat Earth Belgian Ale
Surly Furious (fantastic as usual)
Ommegang Hennepin (also astronomical)
Rush River Bubblejack Ale (good shit)
Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA (as the name implies…)
Southern Tier Imperial Hefe (ehhh)
Butte Creek Pilsner (watery)

Me and my sis

Step 4 – Talk to the brewers. You might learn something.
The most amazing thing about the Autumn Brew Review was the fact that most of the breweries had their actual head brewers there to talk with the common folks about their products. And because this was a true beer geek festival, most brewers were offering things that they didn’t sell through retail channels. For example, Surly Oak Casked Cranberry Cynic? Jimminy Crickets. I’d drive 500 miles just to have a chance to try that beer. Phenomenal. And Omar and Todd at Surly (owner and head brewer) were cool enough to chat about their process and how they arrived at some of these beers. I look forward to visiting their brewery and having a tour of the facilities.

Left Hand Brewery...is that a right hand? Or imprint of a left?

Lefthand Brewery...isn't that a right hand? Or imprint of a left? Not sure.

Step 5 – Mix it up.
You can’t survive a beer festival without drinking some water in between ales, or downing some greasy food. In my case, I took advantage of the nearby hotdog vendors to supplement my already established base. It worked, for the most part. But it’s tough to equalize things when you’re drinking 9% ABV triples.

Step 6 – Take side roads home.
Look, I’m not into drunk driving, but I’m also not into getting a DWI for getting caught right at the legal limit. So I took some less traveled back roads home.

Overall Rating: Absolutely, positively, the best damn beer event I’ve ever been to. Love it. Can’t wait to get back next year.

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