ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – An awakening giant industry is making a strong first showing at the Minnesota State Fair.
The Land of 10,000 Beers, an exhibit put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild, is washing away even the guild’s aggressive expectations after the fair’s opening weekend.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Dan Justesen, the guild’s vice president. “We had our game plan, and this has just blown the roof right off the top.”
Justesen described Minnesota’s craft beer scene as a giant waking up after decades of hibernation.
“People — for hundreds, thousands of years — enjoyed good beer. And for about 25-30 years, they’ve been exposed to bad beer,” he said. “And all of a sudden, a whole new generation (and past generations) are being exposed to good beer again.”
At the exhibit, which is located in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building, fair-goers can buy flights of Minnesota-made beers from more than 20 breweries, arranged by taste. The flights come with four different 5-ounce beers, grouped as either dark, light, Belgian-style or hoppy. The exhibit also displays old-school Minnesota beer memorabilia, posters that explain the brewing process and barrels containing beer ingredients, such as hops and barley.
“It’s going back to what all of us really liked hundreds of years ago,” Justesen said. “Are you man enough [to drink] what your grandpa drank?”
Minnesota had a number of beers before Prohibition put them out of business, Justesen said. After Prohibition, Minnesota breweries popped up again, but they fizzled out as three mega-breweries dominated the market.
“But underneath that, craft brewing [was] created and has been percolating up,” Justesen said. “And now we are about six percent of the market.”
Six percent might not seem like much, but Minnesota consumers seem to, at least, be familiar with craft beer. (It was hard to find a beer drinker who had no idea about the craft brew scene).
Joann Barbour, of Roseville, visited the exhibit Monday, and was no stranger to the beers on display. She said one of her favorites was Surly Furious, and was quick to offer her thoughts on what would make the display better.
“They kind of just say what the flights are and pour them,” she said. “But it doesn’t say what each sample is (on the cup).”
But information overload is what the guild is trying to avoid. It wanted to emphasize the flavors craft beers offer and that beer is (in a social sense) a family thing and part of Minnesota’s agricultural process.
“Beer is culture,” Justesen said. “What we want to do is say: Beer is for adults, but it’s nothing evil. It’s fun.”
For kids and those not interested in drinking alcohol, the exhibit offers Minnesota-made craft root beer.
The Land of 10,000 Beers is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offers brochures that detail breweries and brewpubs around the state. The beers at the exhibit change from day to day and there are daily presentations on topics ranging from Minnesota beer tourism to home brewing.
“It’s about enjoying a quality of life, having good food, good flavors, good feelings,” Justesen said.