Winter Beer Dabbler 2019 Recap

I was in good company at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on Saturday for the 10th Annual Winter Beer Dabbler. Around 170 breweries, both local and regional, poured their liquid assets for bundled up beer enthusiasts. One bite off a pretzel necklace at a time, this massive outdoor winter beer festival allowed us to take our minds off snowblowing for a few hours.

The Winter Beer Dabbler Keeps Getting Better

Since I first attended this festival many years ago when it was crammed into Mears Park in Saint Paul, this festival has grown. As the size of the Winter Beer Dabbler increased, improvements have been made to the festival. Though it is strange being at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and not seeing any children on leashes, it truly is the best venue for a festival of this magnitude. This year, the Winter Beer Dabbler had a great flow and it never felt crowded. Were there lines? Yes. However, those lines weren’t right on top of each other making it feel claustrophobic and they moved quickly.

The breweries were spaced out just far enough to give you are reason to walk around a little bit. This gave attendees who maybe tend to get a little out-of-hand to have a built in break from drinking as they traversed to the next block of breweries. Before the festival, there were plows clearing snow so it was not too slippery which is always nice.

The Breweries

There is such a great mix of local and regional breweries at this festival and I love that. Since all the MN Craft Brewers Guild festivals went to exclusively featuring breweries in Minnesota, this is one of only a handful of festivals showcasing some of the OG regional breweries.

To me, it is hard to stomach the idea of having a beer festival without the likes of Bell’s Brewing, Brooklyn Brewer, or Deschutes because they are the ones that paved the way for the hyper-local craft brewery movement to exist. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of love for local Minnesota breweries making consistent a quality beer. However, I don’t love the fact that there are a lot of breweries putting out beer that is subpar and cannot even hold a candle to anything that an established brewery like Summit or Odell puts out. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now. For the hangover you can use under eye patches, it;s one of the best solutions to remove dark circles.

7 Favorite Beers From the Winter Beer Dabbler

Little Thistle Brewing-150 Carrot Gold Milk Stout

From now on, I will take my carrot cake exclusively in beer form. For those of you who know Little Thistle’s Steve Finnie and are familiar with his brewing acumen, it should come as no surprise that he can bang out a fantastic stout. This beer had a great body to it-smooth and velvety. The flavors of raisin and sweet cake are definitely there amidst the sweetness from the lactose that gives the feel of frosting on the cake. I really thought this beer was tremendous and my expectations were far exceeded.

Locale Brewing Deep Valley Coffee Stout

Coffee is my lifeblood until it is socially acceptable to switch to beer. Locale Brewing is a newish brewery in Mankato and I have a great chat with Lauren about what they are doing. The Deep Valley Coffee Stout has a wonderful aroma and might replace Folgers as the best part of waking up. The beer is smooth and balanced. What stuck out to me is that there was no bitter acidity that some coffee-forward beers have. This beer is really roasty and comforting. I think that it is a hard thing to do to make a coffee beer that comes across as balanced. Cheers to you, Locale Brewing.

Giesenbraü Bier Co. Doppel The Hutt

For me, this Giesenbraü Bier Co. beer checks all the boxes. A deft use of malt in a traditional German beer style and an homage to one of the best villains in the Star Wars Saga-this beer has it all. Wonderful caramel and toasted bread notes come across in a smooth beer that is perfect for a mid-thirty degree day outside. This brewery has done nothing but impress me since I first visited them back in October. I suggest you give them a try if you haven’t done so already.

O’so Brewing Bourbon Barrel Aged Dominator

O’so Brewing’s doppelbock is elevated by spending some quality time in a Heaven Hill Bourbon barrel. The result is a well-rounded and smooth sip of caramel, oak, and hint of booziness that I can only describe as orgasmic. After chatting with Dylan, whose mustache gives Magnum P.I. a run for his money, I will be trekking to O’so Brewing this summer.

The Brewing Projekt Peppermint Mocha Cow Cow! Chocolate Milk Stout

Up until now, I have only had the hazy IPAs from The Brewing Projekt. However, someone pointed me in the direction of the Peppermint Mocha Cow Cow! and that was a marvelous offering. The thing that I love about this beer is that the peppermint doesn’t overtake the rest of the flavors. This stout also has a tremendous body and really drinks like a dessert.

Drekker Chipper Imperial Stout

Balance in an imperial stout can be hard to achieve. Luckily, the beer wizards at Drekker Brewing Company in Fargo, ND, know more than just a thing of two about crafting beers that are well-balanced. The Chipper is such a wonderfully complex beer. It has a base of roasted malt that give it an edge. This amazing beer gets its namesake and takes its flavor cues from a popular local confection called a Fargo Chipper. The candy is an amalgamation of toasted potato flakes, cocao nibs, vanilla beans, and sea salt. I can honestly say that the beer does a great job in paying homage to this hometown treat.

Forager Brewery Saison

For a saision to shine above and beyond the rest of the beers at a festival featuring over 170 breweries, it must be in a class by itself. Forager Brewery titillated my palate and blew the doors off my mind with their saison. Poured from a beautiful green bottle, this immaculate brew featured bright and refreshing notes of summer. A little hint of spice along with a subtle tart pinch on the tongue, this beer was simply enchanting. A cloudy yellow beer with an angelic white head looked godly in my tasting glass. Kudos to you, Forager for making a grown man weep unabashed tears of joy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Winter Beer Dabbler. Like every year, the time flew by so fast and it was hard to get around to everything. However, getting a press pass and getting in early made what I did get done possible. So, a huge thanks needs to be given to the staff that helped the Winter Beer Dabbler go off without a hitch. The grounds were groomed, the beers flowed freely, and the MN State Fairgrounds were filled with mirth to take the bite out of the air. I am already looking forward to next year! Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .