By Ashley Williams
Despite the extremely cold temperatures, Minnesotans came out in full force to drink beer and party at the 5th Annual Winter Carnival Beer Dabbler, held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on Saturday, January 25.
If you have never been to a beer festival before, or to Minnesota during an unusually cold January courtesy of the Polar Vortex, you probably would have thought the gathering was some kind of cruel hazing process.
Upon entering the festival you, would see thousands of people standing outside the gates dressed in orange and camouflage hunting jackets, 1980s-style snowmobile suits and winter hats made out of dead animals. You also would learn that people willingly paid to put themselves in such a situation.
After the initial shock wore off, you would notice the smells of more than a dozen of the Twin Cities’ most popular food trucks, the warmth of a few bonfires, and the sounds and songs of popular bands. More than that, though, you would get to taste over 150 local and national craft brews in a shot glass-sized sampler cup.
You would then begin to think that this is not hazing, but rather a hidden gem.
Craft beer has gained a lot of attention and excitement over the past several years. In fact, according to the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, Minnesota is home to over 40 craft breweries to date.
Unrelated to the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, the Beer Dabbler is hosted by a group of individuals who are in the business of promoting craft beer. Along with hosting events throughout the year, they also publish a regional publication focusing on craft beer and the community surrounding it, and have a retail store that sells craft beer gifts and apparel in St. Paul.
“I love how craft brewing has expanded in Minnesota,” said one beer dabbler in attendance at this year’s event. This was her fourth year attending the event, and this year she and her designated driver donned special matching shirts that included a “If lost…please return to” message on the back.
The lost and found shirt was only one of the many clever and quirky sights seen at the event. Other unique additions to the festival included:
- Giant hot air balloon baskets (sans balloon) that would shoot off large streams of heat every 10 minutes in attempt to keep dabblers warm
- A silent disco which featured dabblers dancing to music only they could hear played through headphones, proving to be a comedic sight
- A chance for attendees/dabblers to enter their own homebrew into a contest
- Voting for the best brewery vendor
- An attempt at setting a new world record for the world’s largest snowball fight to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records.
And, in an effort of safety, the event partnered with the Metro Transit who offered free rides to and from the Beer Dabbler, offered special pricing for designated driver’s tickets to the event, and promoted sober ride phone numbers on event admission bracelets.
This year’s Dabbler was significantly colder than it has been in years past, producing exploding beer bottles and frozen draft lines. Yet, the sold-out event proved Minnesotan’s are instilled with a unique mixture of fearlessness and fun to get through any weather condition or undesirable circumstance for the purpose of supporting community causes and innovation.