Have you ever wanted to brew but didn’t want to clean up the mess? If this is the case then you will want to head over to Vine Park Brewery in St. Paul and make sure to bring an entourage. One would think that there would be more places like this around but Vine Park Brewery is the only place in our area that offers the exciting experience of brewing on premise and they have been doing so since 1995. This is a great way to entertain business clients, spend time with friends and family, or even bond with your wedding party by creating your own stash of brews to be shared with your favorite people on the big day.
Here’s how it works: You will need to schedule a time and date to assure that there are kettles open. On the scheduled date you will meet a brewing coach who will help your group choose the recipe that you will be making and help measure all the ingredients prior to brewing. Expect this process to take about 2 hours.
The fermentation process takes a couple of weeks so the bottling date for your group will be exactly two weeks from brewing date. Here you will fill and cap the bottles of beer that your troupe will soon be taking home. There is nothing quite like tasting a beer that you have made with your own hands and it’s even better when this experience is shared with others.
Below are the prices and keep in mind that part of the cost is the convenience of not having to buy the instruments or clean it up like you would if you were at home:
Batch of Beer: $145 to $195 makes 72 bottles (22oz bottles)
Beer Bottles: (22 oz) 80 cents each or about 58 dollars per batch
Growlers: $5 (one-time fee) for the empty container and $12 to fill it with beer
Logo Glass: $5
T- Shirt/Logo Cap: $18 each
You will want to be sure to check the hours of the brewery and keep in mind that nights and weekends are the hardest time to schedule your big brew day. Brewing is a fine balance between science and art so express yourself and enjoy the camaraderie. Cheers!
The best way to sample a variety of beers is to attend a craft beer event. At these events, the brewers tend to bring their latest creation and will often bring a “special” or “rare” batch of beer for sampling. Luckily, in the Twin Cities there are events planned for every season and they are well attended.
In the fall the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild puts on the Autumn Brew Review, an event that is held near the old Grain Belt brewery in Minneapolis. This is often one of the most popular events because it is held outdoors and the lineup of breweries is stellar. The next Autumn Brew Review is scheduled for September 17th, 2011 and tickets will go on sale July 15th. Tickets will cost you $30 in advance and $40 at the door.
In February the Guild also hosts Winterfest at the Minnesota Historical Society. This event is a bit chummier in that it is held indoors and food is a part of the experience. This event sells out quickly (last year it only took a minute!) so you will need to jump right on this when details emerge regarding ticketing. Ticket prices are a bit higher for this event but when you consider that food is included it’s not so bad.
Firkin Fest is held in March at The Happy Gnome. This event is special because the brewers serve their beer from a firkin. A firkin is a British unit of measurement, equivalent to about 9 gallons of beer. Music is always a part of this event with local bands playing throughout the day and the annual Golden Firkin is awarded to the winner for best beer as voted on by you the attendee. Tickets are usually around $35 but you will want to get them ahead of time before they sell out. The 2012 date has not yet been announced.
The St. Paul Summer Beer Fest is held at the State Fairgrounds in June, just in time for you to get that summer tan going. The beer flows all day from the 70 or more breweries at this gathering and you can expect to hear some great music in the sun. Ticket prices are around $40 dollars and will go on sale in April 2012.
Coming up next weekend (July 16th, 2011) is the Beer Dabbler Showcase at Highland Fest in St. Paul. Online tickets will cost $30 dollars plus a service fee but this fest will not disappoint. 65 breweries will be in attendance and the food line-up features the beloved food trucks such as Chef Shack, Fork in the Road, and The Magic Bus Café! What sets this event apart are the homebrew contest and the beer education portion featuring a lesson in beer tasting from Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew owner of the blog A Perfect Pint.
Here are some tips for attending one of these events:
· Don’t forget the sunscreen. This is a mistake that many are guilty of especially during the summer months. The only thing worse than being hung over is waking up with wicked sunburn and a pounding headache.
· Drink plenty of water. Start early in the morning and drink water all day. Drinking alcoholic beverages will dehydrate your body, especially since these events tend to last for extended periods of time. You will thank yourself the next morning.
· Eat a hearty breakfast and make sure to eat at the event. While one could argue that beer is technically food, it does not provide the adequate nutrition that your body needs to sustain itself.
· Make sure that you have a sober ride home. Live to enjoy beer another day and remember that even though the portion sizes are small, they will catch up to you later on in the day. This is the most important tip that anyone will give you regarding these events.
These events are a great way to become acquainted with different varieties of beer and they are also a great place to meet new friends. You will discover that the breweries that show up to these events are just as happy to meet you as you are to meet them. Remember to bring your friends and have a great time hanging out with your fellow Craft Beer lovers.