Winterfest 2020 Wrap-Up

The MN Craft Brewers Guild put on a fantastic Winterfest on Friday night in the Polaris Club at US Bank Stadium. Despite blizzard warnings and weather terrorists trying to scare people into staying home, the event went off swimmingly.

The Polaris Club

After the Target Field Legends Club debacle of a few years ago, I was skeptical about the Polaris Club. Would it be big enough? Is it easy to move around? Do they have drainage? All these concerns were assuaged once I got in and saw a large room that had a perfect layout for a beer festival. The food was located in the middle and that was really the only place where there was ever a line.

I liked that they took advantage of all the space and really kept people moving around. Unlike years past, there were plenty of places to sit and set down your stuff at a table to chat or relax. The water stations were plentiful and easy to spot.

The Best Beers of Winterfest

The brewery that won best beer of the fest was Barrel Theory for their Pistachio Melange. However, there were quite a few other eye-opening beers that I came across at Winterfest. Here are five beers that I thought were tremendously worth drinking, in no particular order.

Urban Growler Imperial Chipotle Porter

One reason I love chipotle peppers is that they have incredible depth of flavor. Urban Growler harnessed the positive culinary elements of the pepper with the flavors and aromas in this beer. The beer had some smoke, some dark fruit raisin flavor, and a balanced amount of heat. The body of the beer carried these flavors admirably. The aroma of the beer was quite enticing. Overall, a big hit.

Indeed Brewing Company Key Lime Pie Sour

This beer smelled like the green suckers I remember getting when I was little at Bremer Bank while accompanying my dad on his Saturday morning errands. So, instantly a sensory memory was conjured by the aroma of this beer. What struck me about this aroma is how bright the lime was. Was it going to taste like candy or would it taste like one of my favorite desserts? I took a sip and instantly was blown away. So much happening in this beer! The lime comes across as bright and refreshing. A little bit of tartness, but not so much that you reach for the Tums. Then, you get the vanilla and graham cracker nature of the pie crust. This Indeed Brewing Company beer was tremendous and definitely stuck out to me as a highlight.

Little Thistle Brewing Never Mind the Baltics

This Little Thistle Brewing beer was referenced in my preview article and lived up to the hype. Flavorful and complex, this big lager delivered on flavor and texture. Flavors of coconut, coffee, licorice, and chocolate each shined in the sip. The texture of the beer was chewy and able to support a lot of flavor. I love that this beer had so much going on, but nothing seemed out of balance. I kept telling anyone who would listen and many people mentioned it to me as a favorite of the night.

Modist 2018 Barrel Aged Lord Humungus

This Modist Brewing beer drank viscous and perfect. The flavors of coconut, macadamia nut, bourbon, and vanilla harmonized with each other to make my palate happy. If anything, with a lot of stouts that fell quite short of expectations regarding body and texture, this stood tall for me. I love how balanced this beer is. Thankfully, the base beer had a lot of complex roast to allow for a mixing of vanilla and coconut.

Lakeville Brewing Knee High Cream Ale

One surprising element of this year’s Winterfest was the ample array of lighter, yet flavorful beers. With all the high ABV options, it was nice to be able to resent the palate and drink something crisp and refreshing. Lakeville Brewing brought the Knee High Cream Ale and it was fantastic. Light, crisp, with just a hint of sweetness in the malt. This cream ale is simple in nature, but quite memorable in execution. I thought that it was quite evident that I kept circling back to Lakeville Brewing for more of that refreshing beer as the night progressed.

Room For Improvement

While most of Winterfest went off without a hitch, I thought that the food left a little to be desired. For the last two years, Winterfest showcased amazing culinary experiences from the finest eateries in Minnesota. I am sure that whatever food service company that US Bank uses is capable of putting out bites of food that create a wow-factor. However, the food in my opinion missed the mark a bit. I was hoping for more fresh food on the plates, rather than fried appetizers. Some decent charcuterie would go a long way in jazzing up the event for next year. Was the food good? Sure, but it lacked the elevation befitting a beer festival of Winterfest’s caliber.

My Hope For Future Winterfests

I liked the venue and strongly recommend that the MN Craft Brewers Guild will consider using the Polaris Club as a site next year. I also enjoyed how breweries brought a mix of heavy and light options when it came to ABV. The event felt intimate and special, so whatever the number of ticket sold was this year, I wouldn’t push it much more for next year. I am thankful that the MN Craft Brewers Guild allowed me the access that they did so I could fully experience the enjoyment of the fest and chat with all the industry people who were there. It truly was a celebration of all that is good in the Minnesota craft beer scene. Prost!

Urban Growler & Tin Whiskers were dressed up and ready to party. Also, Kabel may have been trying to summon a hazy IPA drinking demon from the beyond. . .

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 .

All things considered, Winterfest 2020 was a wonderful time. People have fun, many folks used public transit and ride sharing to ensure that they were responsible, and I am already looking forward to next year.