WinterfestThe tickets are sold out and the Winterfest app is live for Apple and Android users.  This Friday, over 90 Minnesota breweries will descend on the Union Depot in Saint Paul from 7-10pm to wow beer geeks from near and far with some of the best that the Land of 10,000 Beers has to offer.  If you are among the lucky folks to have tickets, you will be treated to wonderful beers and bites in a classy setting.  So, please, leave the pretzel necklaces and sweatshirts at home, this is a classy affair.

This year’s format is going to be a bit different than Winterfests of the past.  There will be four breweries that share a booth and a culinary companion.  The emphasis for Winterfest 2018 is definitely pairing food with beer.  I love that the MN Craft Brewers Guild is shining the spotlight on pairing beer and food because it is so much fun.  We are in the golden age of beer and there is literally a beer style that can elevate any dish. Winterfest 2018 is not just giving us some Micky Mouse hot dogs and hot pretzel operation.  Your titillated tastes buds will be transcended to new heights with heavy hitters like Red Stag Supperclub, Spoon and Stable, and Travail Kitchen and Amusements.

The Bites

Because Winterfest is less of a beer fest and more of a soiree, the eats are more elegant and sophisticated.  However, the beer crowd is also one that favors substance over style, so you know that the foods will pack a taste punch to accentuate the beers poured alongside them.  Below are the five bites I am most excited to try, in no particular order.

Spoon and Stable Walleye Slider

At first glance, this offering seems cliché and a bit pedestrian.  However, the more I think about it, the more I am sure that this will not be an ordinary slider.  Foodies rave about Spoon and Stable and this will be my first encounter with their food, to say I am excited is an understatement.  I imagine that the walleye slider will pair quite well with the Urban Growler Big Dill Cream Ale.

Travail Kitchen and Amusements Hamachi with Sticky Rice and Citrus

I am sure that this will be the biggest line of the night seeing as how they are the booth with Dangerous Man, Indeed, Wicket Wort, and Wild Mind Artisan Ales.  I am so excited to enjoy this fantastic marriage of delicate flavors.  Hamachi is a fish that is rich in oils, so it will hold up to some of the bigger flavored and high alcohol beers being poured at booth 16.

Curious Goat Molé Goat Tostada

Besides making a great name for a Luchador, this bite sounds absolutely amazing.  Hell, put molé sauce on an Amazon delivery box and I will eat it for lunch.  You add goat into the mix and put it in a tostada and you can have my firstborn child.  If the goat is nice and tender, the crunch from the tostada shell will be the perfect bite.

Pajarito Octopus Terrine “Cochinita Pibil Style”

This bite epitomizes why Winterfest is the crown jewel of beer festivals in Minnesota.  Cochinita Pibil Style is a term for a slow-roasted pork dish that is popular in the Yucatan.  I have had several different terrines and I love the smooth texture and bold flavors of that dish.  I have never had octopus featured in a terrine, but I love octopus when it is cooked to perfection.

Zen Box Izakaya Kakuni Pork Belly Steam Bun

A well-executed steam bun is perfect for this time of year.  It is akin to eating a hug.  Pork belly, with its fatty, smokey, and savory goodness is always a winner.  The sweetness of the bun should provide a perfect balance for the pork belly.  It will be interesting to see how the beers pair with this bite.

WinterfestThe Beers

Looking over beer list for Winterfest 2018 ahead of time is almost like torture.  When I first heard that each brewery would only be bringing two beers, I was a bit crestfallen.  I have turned that frown upside-down after perusing the drinking options.  There will be a bevy of beers to get your palate going, but I have highlighted 5 that I am really looking forward to below.  You will notice that most of them are bigger beers and that is just what Winterfest is about.  There are plenty of times when I seek out lower ABV beers, but Winterfest is not that time for me.

Lupulin Brewing Company Brunch Stout

A luscious, decadent stout with flavors of coffee, maple syrup, and bourbon barrel.  What is not to like?  The body of this beer would make Sophia Vergara a wallflower.  I sampled this a few weeks ago up at the brewery and it is fantastic.  You are going to want to seek this out because it will remind you that Lupulin Brewing Company does more than just that haze, bro.

Castle Danger Brewing Company Chipotle George Hunter Stout

Nothing tickles my tongue better than a little chipotle in a stout.  George Hunter Stout is wonderful on its own and I cannot wait to see what a little chipotle does to it.  I am excited to pair this beer with food.

Spilled Grain Emancipator Doppelbock

This might be one of the best Minnesota breweries that you haven’t been to.  This award-winning Doppelbock is one of the better examples of the style that I have ever had.  The body supports the flavorful barrage of caramel and toffee in this beer.  Be careful, though, if you have too much, you will want to headbutt things that aren’t really there.

Forager Brewery Funky Dangerfield

When it comes to beers brewed the hard way, Bud can go suck a Dilly Dilly bar.  If this is anything like any of the other sours that Forager makes, it will be a memorable treat.  This particular beer is a sour red ale that was hit with lactobacillus and then aged on raspberries.  If you don’t try this beer, you will get no respect and be referred to my doctor Vinny Boombatz.

Dangerous Man Barrel-Aged Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout

This is about as close to perfect as a beer can get in my opinion.  The barrel presence is right-on and the body is velvety and smooth.  If you did not get it on tap at the brewery or try a bottle of it, you have to try this beer.  Be prepared to be wowed.

I love Winterfest.  I hope that you will, too.  It is the best beer showcase that Minnesota has to offer in a festival.  My hope is that the new concept of pairing a restaurant with a foursome of breweries works and moves smoothly.