Autumn Brew Review Will Make Northeast Minneapolis Center of Minnesota's Craft Beer World

The 2017 Autumn Brew Review. Photo: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild
The 2017 Autumn Brew Review.

September 28, 2018 10:47 AM

Northeast Minneapolis will be the hub of the Minnesota craft beer scene this weekend – even more so than usual.

The Autumn Brew Review comes to Hall’s Island Saturday. More than 3,500 people are expected to attend what organizers said is one of the oldest beer festivals in the country.


About 100 breweries will be on-site pouring flagship and specialty brews. The site, though, is different than in years past. Previously, the Autumn Brew Review was held at the Grain Belt bottling complex.

Because that building is now under construction, the festival has been moved downriver to Hall’s Island.

"It’s going to be a little bit different than in the past, it’s going to be much more wide-open," Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Lauren Bennett McGinty said.

"It will allow people to mingle differently than they have in the past."

And while they mingle, attendees will have more to do than just drink beer. Local food vendors will provide the eats, and two musical acts – Heart of a Tinman and Matt Beachey – will wander the grounds, wafting tunes into the ears of thirsty patrons.

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But the big draw is obviously the beer. Every brewery on-site is a Minnesota brewery and member of the Craft Brewers Guild.

"It’s an exciting time that we can make that happen, because previously there might not have been enough breweries to make that happen," Bennett McGinty said.

In addition to flagship beers and other samplings from brewers, this year’s event features 17 collaborations. But it’s not just breweries collaborating – beer makers have teamed up with local food producers and other businesses to create specialty brews for the festival.

Bennett McGinty said a lot of breweries already work with those producers and businesses.

"We wanted to highlight that and really encourage them to reach out to those local people that they might have a brewery nearby," she said.

One of those breweries collaborating with a local business is Unmapped Brewing Company, which opened in June 2017 in Minnetonka.

Unmapped is bringing their Wicked Pumpkin Ale, which the website describes as "an imperial strength amber ale brewed with pumpkin, vanilla and flat pan maple syrup."

The beer is also aged with smoked pumpkin and spiced with pie spices.

"It’s an 8.5 percent alcohol, so it’s going to warm you up a little bit," head brewer Derek Allmendinger said. "Even though it’s supposed to be in the 80s."

Unmapped’s collaborators on the Wicked Pumpkin Ale are Triton Chemical and Oxxion Consulting, which handle the brewery’s sanitation and cleaning.

But Allmendinger said the relationship goes beyond that.

"These guys are more than just vendors, they’re friends," he said.

In fact, the Wicked Pumpkin Ale was born of a recipe by one of the guys at Triton, which took second place at the Master Brewers Association of the Americas meeting three years ago.

"I want to make that beer professionally sometime," Allmendinger remembers saying after trying the beer.

Despite opening just three months before last year’s Autumn Brew Review, Unmapped joined the guild and had a presence at the event. Allmendinger said the guild is crucial to a young brewery’s success.

"The guild is the be-all, end-all of Minnesota craft beers," he said.

Last year, Unmapped just brought some of their flagships – the brewery specializes in Belgian beers. The event draws a wide range of beer drinkers, so Allmendinger said it’s important to appeal to all tastes.

"The whole gamut of people come out to these events," he said.

In addition to the Wicked Pumpkin Ale, Unmapped will bring other beers this year, including their Purgatory pilsner, which Allmendinger called an "occasional" that’s offered off and on throughout the year.

"It’s going to be something that even experienced craft beer drinkers can enjoy," he said.

Bennett McGinty also said the event appeals to beer drinkers of all levels, and brewers make an effort to draw in all types.

"They really want to make the festival appearance as welcoming for everybody," she said.

"There are some gateways into different parts of beer that you can try that might be a good fit for your taste buds."

While drinkers are sampling different flavor profiles, the breweries involved are trying to raise their profiles.  

For Unmapped, a relatively new brewery that’s also located in the suburbs, away from the locus of the craft beer scene, events like the Autumn Brew Review can mean a huge boost.

"We have an opportunity to introduce beers to people that they’ve never had before because they’ve never been out to Minnetonka," Allmendinger said.

And the festival draws people from all over – even Minnetonka. Bennett McGinty said the biggest change over the years – the 2018 festival is the 18th iteration – is seen in participation levels.

In past years, "there were not nearly as many people that were interested," she said.

"Just generally it has become kind of that staple festival that a lot of people get really excited about and wait all year for."

The Autumn Brew Review goes from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are still available and cost $45. That cost includes unlimited beer samples and a commemorative tasting glass. Sober driver tickets are also available for $10.

And it’s not just beer drinkers who are excited – the brewers look forward to the annual event, too.

"It’s always fun when you go to an event and empty a keg," Allmendinger said.


Anthony Brousseau

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