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Checking out the new State Fair-exclusive beers: Gimmicky, but good

There’s only a few days left to try those gimmicky Minnesota State Fair-inspired beers – at least until next year.

Ever since Lift Bridge Brewery introduced us to their Mini Donut Beer a few years ago, Minnesota State Fair-inspired beers have become an annual tradition.

“[There’s] something to be said with having something super special that you can only get one time a year,” Zac Carpenter, co-founder of Bad Weather Brewing, said. “Everyone can always get everything – that’s just how our world works with shopping on Amazon – so it’s kind of cool just having those few things in life that you still have to wait for, that are seasonal. It builds extra excitement around it.”

Plus it gives brewers a chance to get a little creative.

“I think there’s some criticism among craft beer purists about the gimmicky beer at the State Fair, but the State Fair is kind of gimmicky. That’s what’s fun about it,” said Jim Watkins, the co-founder of Sociable Cider Werks.. “I think this year – of the gimmick beers – there are some really well-executed examples.”

In addition to some returning favorites, this year’s tap list at the fair includes 11 new beverages. We talked to some of the people behind these exclusive brews about the beer, and if people will ever be able to get them again.

Hop Merger White IPA

Summit Brewing‘s Hop Merger White IPA (served exclusively at Shanheid Henri’s and the Summit on a Stick booth at the International Bazaar) is one of the beers you won’t see ever again.

“No gimmicks – it’s just a good beer,” Hank Hanten, the owner of Shanheid Henri’s, told us. “It’s got legs that could stand on its own as a year-round beer.”

But it won’t. Summit has been making State Fair-exclusive beers for the past three years, and once the fair ends so does the beer’s existence, Hanten said.

Funnel Cloud

Funnel Cloud is Bad Weather Brewing’s first State Fair-exclusive beer, Zac Carpenter, who co-founded the St. Paul brewery, explained. It’s also the first year any Bad Weather beer has been featured at the fair.

And there’s a good chance it’ll be there again next year – perhaps with something fun around the rim, Carpenter says.

Bad Weather Brewing came up with the funnel cake-inspired beer after being approached by Mancini’s (where you can buy the beer). Carpenter said they looked at the ingredients of a funnel cake to come up with the flavors (toasty bread, caramel, toffee and vanilla bean), but made sure not to overdo the sweetness so people could have more than one.

Amarillo IPA

The Amarillo IPA is Fulton’s first State Fair-exclusive beer – the brewery came up with it after being approached by Frontier Bar about doing something just for them.

Instead of doing a food-inspired beer, Fulton decided to make one using hops that have southwestern-sounding names, including Amarillo and El Dorado – which makes sense for a beer made for the Frontier Bar, said Ryan Petz, the president and co-founder of Fulton.

He doesn’t foresee the Amarillo IPA being sold outside of the fair, but they do hope to bring it back again next year, noting they’ve gotten some pretty positive feedback.

Sweat Together IPA

Bent Brewstillery’s Sweat Together IPA (you can get it at the Ball Park Cafe) is one of the beers that we could see again – but probably not at the State Fair.

Bartley Blume, owner of Bent Brewstillery, said he was surprised by the popularity of the west coast-style IPA, crediting a few things: The name of the beer (Blume says it’s “just stupid enough”); the “sexy style” of beer; and that the fact that it’s good.

The plan was to only have the beer at the fair this year, but now that it’s going so well, Blume may rethink his original plan.

“We’re considering all our options, and who knows, it may end up being a year-round beer for us,” Blume said. “It might come out, it might come out under a different name, and it might just not be seen again, ever.”

Blume added: “This one is going so well, it wouldn’t be stupid to make it again.”

Hopmosa

Field trip today! #cheers from the @mnstatefair

A photo posted by Bent Paddle Brewing Co. (@bentpaddlebeer) on

Bent Paddle’s Hopmosa is one of the beers that will be available outside the State Fair.

The Bent Hop Golden IPA is infused with orange peel zest (it took 1,700 oranges to make the beer for the State Fair) and has gotten mixed reviews, but is selling pretty well – the brewery had to make a second batch because it was running out, Sarah Meyer, the Twin Cities sales ambassador for Bent Paddle, told us.

Meyer says “with almost certainty” they’ll make something like Hopmosa again for next year’s fair, and the beer itself will be making appearances from “time to time” otherwise, including Sept. 14 at the Happy Gnome in St. Paul.

Candy Apple Cider

candy-apple-cider

(Photo: Melissa Turtinen)

Giggle’s Campfire Grill approached Sociable Cider Werks to make a cider for them with caramel in it – and that’s what led to the Candy Apple Cider, Jim Watkins, co-founder of Sociable, said.

“This was a really fun opportunity to do something that’s a little out of the norm for us, and then do something that’s in the spirit of the Minnesota State Fair,” Watkins said.

Right now, the plan for the Candy Apple Cider is to be “our version of the Minnesota State Fair,” Watkins says, and hopefully do it again next year.

Red Sangria Lager

Schell’s Brewery’s Red Sangria Lager – which can be served by itself or with Red Sangria Lager frozen foam floated on top – has been a hit at this year’s fair (in fact, it was named the best new State Fair beer by Growler Magazine).

Mike Lewis, the distributor sales manager at Schell’s Beer, said the Red Sangria Lager and the Grain Belt Blu (also popular this year) will both be available next year.

Sweet Corn Summer Ale

The Sweet Corn Summer Ale, from Lakes & Legends Brewing, has been going quickly at the State Fair. Very quickly, CEO Ethan Applen said.

“We’d anticipated going through four or five kegs a day, but went through eight on day one,” he said.

In total O’Gara’s went through 51 kegs during the fair’s first week, meaning Lakes & Legends plans to bring it back next year (though in larger quantities, Applen said).

“We intentionally made it a more subtle, easy drinking summer beer, so I think if people were expecting a more over-the-top beer like the Chocolate Chip beer, they were a bit disappointed,” Applen said. “That said, I think the popularity came from the fact that it was a beer you could easily drink all day, particularly on those hot summer fair days.”

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