We’re just going to come out and say it: Most of the somethings-on-a-stick you’re going to try at the Minnesota State Fair this year will taste like breaded compost. The Great Minnesota Eat Together has spawned a wealth of artery-clogging innovation resulting in Cocoa Puff cheese curds and new places to put bacon.

It’s disgusting. And we love it.

But why should chefs have all the fun? The best part about the fair is walking around with a beer, gawking at the other 100,000-plus weirdos stuffing their faces (well, that and the Giant Slide). It’s only fitting that that beer be as eccentric as the corn-dog pizza you’re eating.

Alas, Minnesota breweries are still catching up to their batter-dipping counterparts. But we’ve compiled a mini-guide to beer at the fair based on three categories: weird beers, specialties and blue-ribbon brews. Most are subject to availability, but cruise by the Ball Park Cafe anytime and they should have something for you.


Weird beers

612Brew: Rated R on Sour Patch Kids

– Agriculture/Horticulture building

It sounds goofy. But this isn’t the first time 612Brew has made this candy-laced version of its standout rye IPA. Its hop profile is dialed down, and the beer rests with a pound of the puckering chewable treats for two to three weeks in a 10-gallon firkin. Look for it during the Guild’s “firkin Fridays.”


Lift Bridge: Mini Donut Beer

Where to get it: Ball Park Cafe

Pioneers in State Fair beer gimmicks, this Stillwater brewery dreamed up a doozy last year when it launched this mini doughnut-inspired ale. As advertised, the sweet microbrew served with a cinnamon and sugar rim tastes like the micro pastries in liquid form. With any luck, it will pave the way for a deep-fried chocolate ice cream stout (patent pending).


Grain Belt Blu

Where: Schell’s pavilion in the West End Market

OK, maybe this one’s not that weird. It’s often been said that Grain Belt Premium has hints of blueberry, and Schell’s — the modern-day maker of the sugary lager — is releasing a bona fide blueberry version of this iconic beer for the State Fair. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love (with the beer or a toothless carny after having one too many).



Schell’s Black Forest Cherry

– Agriculture/Horticulture building

The only thing better than sharing good beer with good friends is drinking that beer before your IBU-counting buddies can. Black Forest Cherry — essentially North Country Brunette aged with cherries — is the latest in Schell’s stellar Berliner weisse series due for release late next week. But get a first taste at the fair and be the first in your home-brew club to rate it on Beer Advocate. Or just drink it without being a jerk about it.


Brau Brothers: Mint MooJoos firkin

– Agriculture/Horticulture building

Local beer fans know this Marshall, Minn., suds factory’s creamy oatmeal milk stout well. In honor of the annual gorge fest, the Brau bros whipped up a minty firkin of their supreme stout. Start planning those dessert pairings now, although nitro ice cream seems the obvious choice.


Summit: the Villain

– International Bazaar

For the second year in a row, the St. Paul beer bastion made a unique brew specifically for the fair. Following last year’s State Fair IPA, Summit’s unleashing the Villain — a supposedly sinister black lager created by brewer Gabe Smoley.

Blue ribbons

Surly: Hell

– Agriculture/Horticulture building

It’s appropriate that a beer named Hell would be suited for hot weather. Surly’s bigger beers might get all the glory, but you’ll be singing this crisp lager’s praises when you’re sweatier than a prize hog from traversing the fairgrounds.


Steel Toe: Size 7

– Agriculture/Horticulture building

Widely regarded among the nerdiest of beer nerds as one of the best IPAs (if not the best) in the state — a big compliment in the Land of 10,000 IPAs — this St. Louis Park brewery’s year-round hoppy offering can go toe-to-toe (no pun intended) with highly touted nationals.


Bent Paddle: Cold Press Black

– Agriculture/Horticulture building

Twin Citians typically have to drive to the Duluth taproom for this coffee-spiked beer. But the Bent Paddlers are bringing their acclaimed black ale infused with Duluth Coffee Co. cold press to the cheese-curd extravaganza for the whole state to enjoy. Minnesota nice, indeed.


Michael Rietmulder writes about beer, cocktails and nightlife.