THE GREAT MINNESOTA DRINK TOGETHER: A COMPLETE REVIEW OF 2021 STATE FAIR BEERS

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The Minnesota State Fair

Lets be real, the main reason I go to the Minnesota State Fair is to sample all of the beer! The Minnesota State Fair is really well known across the entire country. The State Fair in Minnesota is second according to attendance following the state fair of Texas. In comparison, the State Fair in Minnesota is only 12 days, running from the last Thursday in August through Labor Day. In comparison where Texas’ state fair is almost an entire month usually at the end of September through October in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. So I’ll let you be the judge which State Fair is probably the best (wink, wink!)

Beer at the Minnesota State Fair

Every year (well except for 2020 but we really don’t even want to go there!) there are many mainstay beers that return to the Minnesota State Fair as well as new fun beers to try. Many local breweries come up with state fair exclusive beers that definitely entices me to come to the fair every year.

However, there wasn’t always beer at the state fair. This is a newer update for the local craft beers to be offered at the state fair only as of 2015. Prior to this, the fair was only licensed due to liquor laws to only serve 3.2% beer. I’m so grateful for the progress because heading to the state fair to try the new beers every year is one of my favorite things to end the summer with. Below I’ve listed out a few key historic milestones achieved in regard to serving alcoholic beverages at the Minnesota State Fair.

A historic timeline of alcoholic beverages at the state fair:

2003: Minnesota made wine is available for sale at the Minnesota State Fair

2007: The legalization of non 3.2 beer at the Minnesota State Fair

2010: The Minnesota State Fair assumes responsibility of the liquor, beer & wine licenses at the fair.

2015: Brew pubs (or my beloved craft breweries) are allowed to serve their beers at the Minnesota State Fair. Woooo Hoo!

Present: All of the amazing new drinks and returning delicious beers offered at the state fair are communicated to the public prior to the state fair months in advance. Giving people (like me) a chance to plan ahead and make a list of all the beers we want to try! Cheers!

*Disclaimer: Most of the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) % and IBU information was found via the app Untapp’d. I’m unsure of it’s accuracy, however it will give you a rough idea of how heavy the beer is so you can plan ahead for your trip(s) to the fair. Some of the information per communications from the state fair was different compared to Untapp’d and I listed the differing details below if that was the case.

2021 Beers

The beers I tried this year wasn’t exhaustive of the new beers for 2021. Usually, I visit only one day during the fair and try all of the new beers that sound appealing to me & the new food items. There are many more new beers and drinks that are available each year. If you’re like me, you make a list of the ones you want to try! Here are all of the beers I tried as well as my thoughts on all of them.

August Schell Brewing: Grain Belt Blu, Schell’s Sangria & frozen toppers

Although not a new beer to the Minnesota State Fair for 2021, this is a classic. Grain Belt & August Schell are OG’s in the beer scene for Minnesota and getting a combo beer with a frozen topper has become a tradition at the state fair. There are way more Grain Belt and Schell’s brews available here but I usually gravitate to Blu & Sangria.

Beer Style:

I chose the Blueberry Lager (Grain Belt Blu) but there are more options (as shown in the photo below.)

ABV:

4.7% ABV

IBU:

0 IBU’s

Color:

A deep purple to blue color, much like a blueberry. It always reminds me of when the girl turns into a blueberry on the Willy Wonka movie, I don’t know why?

Location:

Grain Belt Blu is located many different places throughout the Minnesota State Fair, however, only one location offers the frozen beer slushie toppers. This is only offered at the Schell’s Pavillion. A light refreshing drinker with a sweetness. The slush top is absolutely perfect when enjoying it at the State Fair if the weather is hot and humid like it was when we were there this year. My husband tried the new slush top offered this year, Choc’d up on the Cream Ale offered.

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

A seasonal offering from Grain Belt brewed in New Ulm. You can get this in cans outside of the Minnesota State Fair Beers from May to September. It’s one of my favorite easy drinking summer beers while out on the golf course or on the lake. A true Minnesota summer beer staple in my opinion!

Cheers of two beers one blue blueberry beer with a cream ale with frozen beer slush tops under a sign showing all of the available beers at the minnesota state fair in 2021
2021 Minnesota State Fair Beers from Grain Belt & Schells

Schells Brewery- The Starkeller: Cherry Go Round

Beer Style:

Sour-Fruited Berliner Weisse cherry beer

ABV:

6.4% ABV

IBU:

5 IBU’S

Color:

A hazy brownish pink/red

Location:

At the State Fair in 2021 you can find this beer right by the Schell’s pavilion kind of tucked into the corner on the side of the Lulu’s public house building. We posted up at a table by the Schell’s tap station, drank those beers then it was really convenient to grab this sour beer and take a walk to find something delicious to eat.

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

Brewed in New Ulm, Minnesota. This brewery is the experimental series for sour beers affiliated with Schells Brewery. I like sour style beers but this was very puckering. I got a short pour and it was a little too much for me. Although, it was right after having a very sweet Grain Belt Blu so there’s that to consider as well.

Holding a dark red hazy looking beer up to the bar in cheers at the Minnesota State Fair in 2021
New 2021 Beer: Cherry Go Round

Bauhaus Brew Labs: The Shandlot Golden Tea Edition

Beer Style:

Shandy/Radler

ABV:

4.5%

IBU:

15 IBU’s

Color:

Golden Yellow

Location:

Located at the Ball Park Cafe

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

Overall, I was really impressed with this beer! It was light and truly captured the essence of iced tea and lemon but not being overly flavorful on either side making it a really great balance of what an Arnold Palmer should taste like, just in beer form! I feel like every other beer that has tried to mimic an Arnie Palmer has fallen short. This truly hits the mark while also being light and refreshing!

Liftbridge: Mini Donut Beer

Beer Style:

English Brown Ale (with the most delicious brown sugar cinnamon rim)

ABV:

4.7% ABV (Per Untapp’d) yet on the list of beers from the Minnesota State Fair it stated 5%.

IBU:

18 IBU’s

Color:

Light browinish tan in color

Location:

Located at the Ball Park Cafe

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

An exclusive Minnesota State Fair Beer staple! Not overly sweet as it’s a brown ale. It has almost a bready flavor and is complimented with the perfect sweet cinnamon & sugar rim. This is one of the beers every year that my husband and I each get our own pour as we’re unwilling to share! It really is THAT good.

Liftbridge Mini Donut beer with the cinnamon sugar rim

Modist & Dangerous Man: MN Brew Together Peaches & Cream Milkshake IPA

Beer Style:

Fruity Milkshake IPA

ABV:

6.5%

IBU:

0 is what Untapp’d states, however I disagree since this in an IPA. But, it’s definitely more fruit forward than smack you in the mouth with hops. I mean that’s a way more scientific description anyway, right?

Color:

A dense golden orange color

Location:

Ball Park Cafe

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

Super thick, fruity, yet sweet with some creaminess and a little bit of hops. Literally all of the things that make a great beer in my opinion. Modist & Dangerous Man are two local Minneapolis breweries that are my absolute favorite. Some of their Minnesota State Fair beers in the past haven’t really met my high expectations. But, this 2021 beer was absolutely amazing! So. dang. good! This would be one of my top recommendations to try. It was definitely in my top two for the new brews I tried this year. I love milkshake IPA’s that are creamy sweet and fruit with just the right amount of hops, this beer truly KNOCKS it out of the park! (See what I did there, Ball Park Cafe, wink, wink.)

The Ball Park Cafe at the Minnesota State Fair: always amazing beers here!

Mankato Brewery: Triple Berry Cheesecake Lager

Beer Style:

American Lager

ABV:

5%

IBU:

10 IBU’s

Color:

A translucent pink color

Location:

The Hangar

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

A lighter option yet full of flavor! An easier drinker yet I really had all of the berries come through as well as the sweetness of the cheesecake without it being overwhelming or heavy. A perfect state fair beer when the weather is hot!

Insight Brewing: Waffle Dog Breakfast Ale

Beer Style:

American Brown Ale

ABV:

5.7% ABV (per Untapp’d) yet on the publication of new beers from the state fair it lists it at 7%

IBU:

0 per Untapp’d

Color:

a lighter but hazy brown color

Location:

The Hangar

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

More of a roasty flavor vs. maple. I was expecting more maple and was a little disappointed that flavor didn’t come through as much for me. It was a little more bitter than I would have hoped. This beer had more of a malt forward flavor but the sweetness of the cinnamon and maple does come through although very slightly. Untapp’d listed the IBU’s at 0 but I’m not sure that’s accurate. (Insert shrug emoji here.)

Both beers at the Hangar

Big Wood Brewery: Cotton Candy Milkshake IPA

Beer Style:

Milkshake IPA

ABV:

5.1% ABV

IBU:

15 IBU’s

Color:

a light pastel hazy pink color with a brighter pink candy rim

Location:

Located in the Hideaway Speakeasy within the Minnesota State Fair’s Upper Grandstand you will find both a cocktail and beer dedicated to the sweet pink cotton candy that reminds so many of us of our childhood. The cocktail Cotton Candy Bubble Trouble was delicious, albeit very sweet.

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

This beer was a repeat from the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. (It was actually my favorite new brew that year!) I really loved the cotton candy milkshake IPA brewed by Big Wood Brewery. So, of course I had to have it again in 2021 as it’s a State Fair exclusive beer. When in Rome, or rather St. Paul, Minnesota.

Lupulin Brewing: Blue Razzamatazz

Beer Style:

Fruit beer

ABV:

5% ABV

IBU:

10 IBU

Color:

A hazy darker pink magenta color

Location:

Coasters

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

This was a little more tart than I was anticipating. I was expecting more of a sweet beer but was definitely caught off guard. We didn’t try it at the State Fair, however the prior week another Lupulin beer was offered in their taproom and now is available at the state fair, the Key Lime Hypezig. In comparison of the two (blue razzamatazz and the Key Lime Hypezig) I preferred the razzamatazz.

Waconia Brewing Company: Golden Cookies & Cream Ale

Beer Style:

Golden Ale

ABV:

5.6% ABV

IBU:

20 IBU’s

Color:

a light yellow (it looked like a standard light beer/lager)

Location:

Coasters

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

I really enjoyed this beer! It was in my top three favorites of the new state fair brews for 2021. It was sweet but not overwhelmingly sweet and definitely crushable. It reminded me of almost a white stout since it was more dessert-esque.

The two beers we tried at Coasters while sitting in a “tilt a whirl” booth

Big Wood Brewery: Caramel Apple Craft Seltzer

Beer Style:

Not a beer, it’s a hard seltzer

ABV:

5 %

IBU:

Unsure, Untapp’d lists it at 0

Color:

Electric bright green

Location:

Andy’s Grille

My thoughts on this state fair beer:

I was so surprised how much I loved this! It was super light (despite the shocking green color!) and the caramel rim was a great touch. It wasn’t overly sweet! This also surprised me. I was expecting a really sweet drink but was very pleasantly surprised. It was a very drinkable, light, crushable drink.

New “Beer” at the Minnesota State Fair: Caramel Apple Craft Seltzer

Recap on 2021 New Beer at the Minnesota State Fair

Of the beers I tried this year, overall not one of them was a huge disappointment. In years past, there have been some beers that I was anticipating really loving and they were a total flop! But, honestly that happens you truly can’t like them all and that’s the fun in seeking out and trying new brews and new breweries. There definitely were favorites over others but I was pleased with most that I sampled. But, the standout favorites for 2021 would have to be the Triple Berry Cheesecake Lager & the MN Brew Together Peaches and Cream Milkshake IPA.

One that I missed: I would have liked to have also tried the Tropical Berry Smoothie Sour by Modist located at the Ball Park Cafe. Hopefully that’s a repeat for next year!

Read More about Craft Beer:

The Best Breweries in the Twin Cities

The Best Breweries in Duluth, MN

Craft Beer & Travel (Coming soon!)

Beyond the MN State Fair

Comprehensive MN Travel Guide (Coming soon!)

Published by WanderLust in Real Life

I'm a 30 something living in the Midwest of the United States that loves every aspect of travel. Researching, planning, & of course actually going on adventures whether near or far.

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