The Minnesota State Fair-exclusive beers are an annual draw for those who spend time sweating and stumbling along Dan Patch Avenue—but there are a whopping 35 new beers at the Fairgrounds for 2022, far more than you can down in a single trip. (That’s not a challenge.) So we’ve endeavored to streamline the situation, directing you to the beers that are the most gosh-darn Minnesotan thing you’ll drink this year.
Using our infallible, proprietary system, we’ve awarded each new beer with points based on its bona fides in essential categories including professional sports references, local ingredients, incorporation of State Fair foods, pandering, and more, ranking them from least to most Minnesotan. (And if anything, as you’ll see below, these breweries could stand to do a little more pandering come 2023. The people are ready for “Ope Uff Da Pronto Pup Walleye Cabin Hockey Lager.”)
Ope, What’s that Got ta Do with Minnesota?
35. Chili Pineapple Express Sour (Pryes Brewing)
The description promises that this sour ale, rimmed with Tajin chili-lime seasoning, is only “Minnesota spicy.” Nice try, Satan. Ketchup is Minnesota spicy. Potatoes Au Gratin are Minnesota spicy. If it has the word “chili” in it, it gets no points. Gosh.
34. Mango Coaster (Toppling Goliath Brewing)
Now, maybe this should sit among the next-most-Minnesotan grouping of beers. It’s a mango wheat ale, and we cultivate wheat here… but we’re docking the Mango Coaster to let others pass by because this one wasn’t even made by a Minnesota brewery. Take your dinosaur-themed brews elsewhere, Iowa-based Toppling Goliath! (Like any bar I’m going to on any other day of the year.)
33-28. Hangar Honey (Third Street Brewhouse), Trippple Orange (Modist Brewing), Epic Yuzu (Surly Brewing), Walking on Sunshine Watermelon Blonde Ale (Bald Man Brewing), Olive Lager (Insight Brewing), and Mango Miraculum (Pryes Brewing)
A melon wheat beer? Yuzu? Watermelon blonde ale? Ope, you get no points.
27. Tootsie Hop (Lakes & Legends Brewing)
Yeah, this dessert ale isn’t any more Minnesotan than the beers that preceded it. Just wanted to be sure you’re paying attention. Honestly, from 33 to 25, you might as well be dealing in negative points. If you’re drinking anything appearing before this one, we’ll call you Kenny Loggins, because you’re in the Danger Zone.
26-21. Crowd Control (BlackStack Brewing), Cucumber Summer (Indeed Brewing), Tumbleweed Hazy IPA (Fulton Brewing), Hay-Z (Freehouse Brewery and Lift Bridge Brewing), Sip Hop (Dual Citizen Brewing), & LuLunatic (Surly Brewing)
These not-so-State-Fair-ish beers include a New England Double IPA, a cucumber IPA, “a New England-style juicy pale ale with a hint of passion fruit,” and a double dry-hopped IPA that takes inspiration from the West Coast. The West Coast! There’s so little Minnesota in these that the next beer is an IPA too, but it got bonus points for having the word “cold” in it.
20. Cold IPA (Bent Paddle Brewing)
This? This is a beer. Cold IPA is a style, so no points for dropping in a climate descriptor everyone else associates with us here Minnesotans—that’d be like giving points to a beer for having the word “beer” in it. At the same time, whatever, you’ve been wondering what the deal is with those cold IPAs. Isn’t it up to you whether or not your IPA is cold? Does it ever get warm? Wait. Does it never get warm? Is it, at a molecular level, incapable of becoming warm?!
19. Pitt Boss (Bauhaus Brew Labs and Animales BBQ)
A blonde ale infused with smoked peaches isn’t inherently Minnesotan, but we’re getting a collaboration between an in-state brewery and restaurant. Isn’t that just Minnesota nice? And it earns something close to a point. (The grading system is proprietary. Sorry I can’t be more specific.)
Admittedly, It’s a Stretch
18-17. Hideaway (Bent Brewstillery) and Piña Colager (Bauhaus Brew Labs)
Here we have a tequila sunrise-inspired beer. Minnesota isn’t a tequila hotbed, but heck if you haven’t seen someone’s aunt or uncle sipping a tequila sunrise by the lake. Same goes for the piña colada-inspired Piña Colager.
16. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake’d Up (Mankato Brewery)
Something something cake eaters. [Assorted cheering.]
15-14. Baklava Cream Ale (Bent Brewstillery) and Lemon Razzicle Cream Ale (Indeed Brewing)
You could convince some out-of-state rube that cream ale is a style Minnesotan breweries do well, and there’s some truth there. (Where are you at the fair, Castle Danger?) But an unmentionable brewery over the state line boasts a legendary cream ale. It’s a stretch. Baklava and razzicles don’t get us any closer to making the case.
13. Strawberry Rhubarb Cider (Sociable Cider Werks)
Rhubarb? Strawberries? Not uniquely Minnesotan, but who doesn’t like picking strawberries and wondering how rhubarb manages to taste so good in a pie when it was so awful that time you ate it right out of the garden?
12. Green Apple Caramel Sour (Mankato Brewery)
Alright. This is on the fringe of two groups. You could say it’s a State Fair thing, but it’s a bit like saying French fries are a State Fair thing. They’re here, but they’re also in a lot of other places.
Well, It’s Got a State Fair Vibe and This is the Best State Fair, so…
11. Electrik Empress (August Schell Brewing)
This mixed-culture fermentation sounds kind of delightful. It’s loaded with plums, and comes out a “cotton candy pink” in color. Which, you know, even if you hate cotton candy, it’s easy to love seeing kids eating that brightly colored sugar-air.
10. Cherry Limeade Blonde (Lupulin Brewing)
While Cherry Limeade might evoke summery nostalgia or just memories of your last trip to the Dari-Ette Drive-In, it also has a little bit of a State Fair feel, and that’s what this list is all about. Still, Cherry Limeade isn’t the most State Fair flavor around. That would be a cheese curd burger that is somehow also a Juicy Lucy. Still, points.
9. All Day A-Fair (Summit Brewing)
This non-alcoholic IPA managed to shoehorn “Fair” into its name, and that’s all it takes. Those are the low standards by which this game is judged. Points.
8. Fair Mullet (Lupulin Brewing)
Cousin of the Fashion Mullet—all good mullets are cousin to something—Fair Mullet is just something you see strolling down Dan Patch. “Ope, there’s another fair mullet.” Count it.
Seems More Like a Sconnie Thing, Ta Be Honest
7. MN Honey Chamomile Mead (Sociable Cider Werks)
Mead and elderflower aren’t landing you those luscious Minnesota points. But the honey used in the mead is from the “Upper Midwest,” according to Sociable. Not entirely Minnesotan, but not entirely un-Minnesotan. That’s the kind of regional pride that this near-tier is all about.
6. Cold IPA (Bent Paddle Brewing)
You know what? We’ve reconsidered. We’re moving this up. We hate that it’s cold here, and we don’t want to talk about it, right? Wrong! We love talking about the weather. I mean, this beer was already on here once and we came back to it just to talk about the weather. Reminds me, you ever hear about the Halloween blizzard of ’91?
So Minnesotan They Won’t Talk About Bob Dylan’s Feelings Regarding Minnesota
5. Kirby Pucker #34 Preserved Lemon (Eastlake Craft Brewery)
The beer may be new to the fair, but the name isn’t. Eastlake has had other versions of Kirby Pucker, but, you know, there it is.
4. MN Brew Together – Blue Macaroon (Modist Brewing and Forager Brewery)
That’s the spirit. A great Minnesota get together of brewers with a slightly pandering name. It’s made with pilsner malt, almonds, milk sugar, marshmallows, vanilla bean, lemon, coconut, and blue spirulina—not super Minnesotan ingredients. But it’s blue, and that’s got some State Fair vibes… I don’t know, lotta blue on the beer cup design? Winners get blue ribbons? And that name resonates around St. Paul like a loon wail echoing across the lake.
3. Grain Belt Lim’ (August Schell Brewing)
It’s Grain Belt. It’s part of the skyline-of-your-heart. You know you’d take one of these on a hot day no matter what time it is.
2. ENCORE! (BlackStack Brewing)
Another cold IPA, but this one is brewed with “a touch” of wild rice. There’s a nod toward the home team there. Points, even though it’s only available in the Grandstand. Seems a little uppity.
1. Ron Gant Was Out (Surly Brewing)
Fuck me. There’s a lot of pandering to the crowd here, but you don’t go see Journey at the State Fair to find out if they’ve got new jams. You go to see the baby animals in the barn, look at the butter busts, and hear “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Anyhow, Ron Gant Was Out. That’s some Minnesotan stuff right there. Plus the description says it’s a pale ale “as crisp, clean and legal as Hrbek’s tag in Game 2 of the 1991 World Series.” The rules won’t let me deny it any points even if I wanted to. (And I kind of do want to.)
Hall of Fame Status
1. Mini Donut Beer (Lift Bridge Brewing)
It’s not new this year, but of the returning brews, Mini Donut Beer has earned special status. More than any other Fair beer, it marries the sticky-sweet chaos of the Minnesota State Fair with fermented beverages. Sure, you might max out at half a Mini Donut Beer per year, but you can’t argue with those Minnesota bonafides. It’s like a Fargo accent. You want to deny it’s Minnesotan, but you’ve walked around Target before. You know there’s some truth to it.