The 2017 National Homebrewers Conference was held in Minneapolis on June 15-17. I'd never been to Minneapolis, so as I'd done several times before, I used the conference as an excuse to visit new breweries.
Tuesday June 13. After fellow CRABSter Rob F. and I boarded the plane, we were told that there was an issue with an electrical gauge, so we had to exit the plane and wait while they flew the replacement part in on another flight. God forbid Delta should have spare parts on hand. The result was a 3½-hour delay. Instead of landing in the morning, we landed in the middle of the afternoon. We had planned on visiting the Mall of America before hitting breweries, but due to our late arrival, we skipped that in order to keep the destruction of our livers on schedule.
After landing, we hopped on the Metro. We had purchased Go-To Cards, but we didn't know how to use them, and it didn't seem to matter because every train just opened its doors for us.
First stop: Surly Brewing. It's a big brewery with a good sized beer hall and outdoor seating. The grounds had a few sculptures and efforts were underway to grow grass. We schlepped our bags inside where there were 20 beers on tap. They didn't have small tasters but they sold half-pints for $3 each. We sampled:
Rob's son Sean, who lives in the area, joined us. Then he drove us to Clockwerks Brewing, which has an industrial vibe and the boil/mash kettles right behind the bar. A young couple who we had met at Surly joined us. We sampled all 7 beers, most of which were just okay:
We got a tour of the basement, which houses the fermenters, bright tanks, and a Ruby Street pilot system. They opened in November 2016. On Saturdays they do "detox/retox", where people do yoga, then drink. I do yoga and drink all the time, except for the yoga part.
Afterward I checked in at the Hampton while Rob went with Sean to visit his daughter-in-law (Sean's wife). Later the three of us met for dinner at the Butcher & the Boar, a high-class (so what were we doing there?), expensive restaurant with good ambience, food, and tap list. The place was packed. We sat outside and ate pork, veggies, potatoes, sausages, and peanut butter poppers; and drank:
Wednesday June 14. After breakfast we walked to Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese Shop, which we'd heard was the only good bottle shop in the area. There was some decent scenery along the way as we crossed over the Mississippi River.
Surdyk's has a fairly good selection. We then Lyfted back to the hotel, checked out, and walked to the Hyatt, where we would be staying for the rest of the trip. We'd planned on just dropping our bags there because check-in wasn't until 3 PM, but luckily our room was ready so we checked in.
We walked about 2½ miles to Town Hall Brewery. The walk was supposed to be shorter but some sidewalks were closed due to construction and that got us discombobulated. Town Hall does flights but only with select beers (i.e., you can't choose which ones). We sampled:
We walked down the street to Day Block Brewing, where we ran into my friends Keith (head brewer at Grail Point Brewery) and Steve (member of the Midnight Homebrewers' League), as well as Keith's girlfriend Caitlin and his mother Suzy. In addition to beer the place makes great pizza. I had their Greek Goddess Pizza, which was wonderful. We sampled all of their beers:
We walked along the Mississippi River, which has a number of spillways:
Then we took a bus (where we used our Go-To Cards for the first time) to Indeed Brewing. We got there 15 minutes before it opened. There was a beer tour bus outside, one of several that we would see throughout our trip. We met a guy named Mark who was also in town for the conference, and he would tag along with us to other breweries later in the day. Other folks got in line behind us. Eventually the doors opened. There were more than a dozen beers on tap. They don't do samples; the smallest pour is 10 ounces. The place opened in 2012. Keith, Caitlin, Suzy, and Steve caught up with us, as did Sean, and we all shared a table and beers:
Less than an hour after the place opened it was packed. Other Marylanders arrived after us, including CRABSter Zach and his wife; and Kevin, Marge, and Mark from Wootown Brewers.
About 10 of us went two blocks down the road to Able Seedhouse + Brewery. It had gotten very good online reviews, but didn't quite live up to them. The beers were pedestrian and the ambience was lacking. They only had 6 beers on tap, 5 of which I tried:
We all drove/Ubered to Dangerous Man Brewing, which was crowded and had some interesting beers on tap. We tried:
Then we drove/Ubered to Fair State Brewing Cooperative. Their emphasis is on sour/funky beers. The smallest size they sold was 8 ounces. We tried:
Rob and I parted ways with everyone because we'd been invited by our friend Chris, who runs Maryland Homebrew, to Collabrewcon, a pre-conference party sponsored by Brewcraft USA at Lakes & Legends Brewing. We took a bus down there. We consumed free beer and pizza. There was also a taco bar and cake, which I partook of until a woman informed me that those were for a wedding that had taken place there that day and were not part of Collabrewcon. Turns out she was the bride. Hey, there was no sign, so how was I to know? Anyway, we sampled several Lakes & Legends beers:
Unfortunately Chris's connecting flight had been delayed in Chicago due to weather, so she and her boyfriend Mike didn't arrive until after the event ended. We saved them some beer though. When we left someone was playing a piano on the sidewalk and singing the blues. He was amazing.
We learned later that this piano was part of Pianos on Parade, where 25 pianos, all painted by local artists, were placed around town that month.
We walked back to the Hyatt, where Mike and Chris hit the bar and Rob and I hit the hay.
Thursday June 15. A gorgeous sunny day, which was kind of a waste because we would be inside for most of it, but we were drinking, which totally made it okay. We walked to the Nicollet Diner for a nice breakfast, then checked in at the conference and got our swag bags. As usual there was a Homebrew Expo with lots of vendors, and the Social Club with various homebrew clubs serving their brews. Commercial breweries such as Surly, Bent Paddle, Ballast Point, Indeed, August Schell, and Samuel Adams served free beer.
One guy rigged a hat with a working airlock:
That night was the kickoff party featuring beers from lots of breweries, including Alaskan, Bald Man, Samuel Adams, Indeed, Summit, Lakefront, Ballast Point, Surly, Bent Padle, Pour Decisions, Northbound Smokehouse, Lake Monster, Tin Whiskers, Excelsior, Fair State, Day Block, Nutmeg, Dangerous Man, Bauhaus, Lupulin, Funkwerks, Castle Danger, Roets Jordan (whose gose was my favorite beer of the night), Inbound, Boom Island, Modist, Bent Brewstillery, East Lake, Wabasha, Town Hall, Headflyer, Tall Grass, Hailstorm, August Schell, Rock Bottom, Bell's, Stone, and probably others that I missed. There was live music from a bluegrass band called Gated Community.
Friday June 16. We met a couple of Marylanders, John and Mark, at the Nicollet diner for breakfast. Afterward I went to a supermarket to pick up snacks for the room, then went to the Homebrew Expo and Social club. The Free State Homebrew Club Guild poured beer in the afternoon (but I didn't get a photo).
That night was the best event of the conference: Club Night, where clubs from all over the nation served beer and wore costumes and had theme decorations for their tables.
Off in the corner a woman from Jester King was pouring some nice beers (this brewery didn't have a table at the kickoff party).
There was a heavy metal band that was good but a bit out of place for a homebrew event:
Saturday June 17. I didn't feel too bad considering how incoherent I'd been the night before. We had breakfast at the same place with the same guys as the day before, then went to the Homebrew Expo for more free beer and hops. YCH Hops was giving away both regular hops and their latest product, Cryo Hops, which uses a cryogenic process to separate lupulin from plant matter and produce LupuLN2, a concentrated hop powder with twice the lupulin of regular hops. Later in the afternoon was the knockout party, where they served food and the leftover beers from the national homebrew competition. Additionally, many people brought bottles and cans to share.
After that about 10 of us went to the hotel room where a friend of Kevin B., named Mike, was staying. He shared a bunch of premium commercial beers, including 3 Floyds Dark Lord, Surly Darkness, New Glarus Serendipity, and others. We ordered pizza and had a great time.
Sunday June 18. Rob and I were partied out, so what did we do? We hit breweries! After checking out we schlepped our stuff, including beers we had bought, to four breweries. All of them are located close to Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins play. First was The Freehouse, a restaurant/brewery that opens at 6:30 AM every day. We walked through a rather seedy area of town to get there. The food was quite good. Lots of people were there. The beer was pretty good but we were so saturated with beer that we couldn't fully enjoy them. We sampled:
Next we went to Inbound BrewCo. We got there right when it opened. It's been there since April 2016. It is a subsidiary of North Loop BrewCo in Minnetonka, which started in 2011 as Lucid Brewing, but changed its name in 2015 to North Loop BrewCo due to copyright issues with Lucid Absinthe. Inbound does some experimental brews that are not available at North Loop. They had about a dozen beers on tap. As with The Freehouse, the beers were good but we weren't able to enjoy them as much as we'd have liked.
A few blocks away is Fulton Brewing. It had one of the Pianos on Parade pianos out front. Inside the ambience was festive. Just minutes after arriving it got crowded because the Twins would be playing in a little over an hour. We drank:
The final brewery of the trip was Modist Brewing. It had a very lively atmosphere with adults, kids, games, live music, and food from a food truck. We ordered:
We lugged our stuff to the Metro and rode the train to the airport. Several other Marylanders were on our flight: Les from CRABS, Chris and Kate from CSI, and Allen from BADASS. We flew on Spirit Airlines, which we'd heard is not the most pleasant carrier. When we got there, the place smelled like jet fuel, the bathroom smelled like shit, and only half the check-in kiosks worked. Also our flight was delayed an hour and a half. When we finally boarded, the seating area was the smallest I'd ever seen on a plane, and the seats didn't recline. But other than that it was a great flight.
So that's it folks. Thanks for reading. Next year's conference will be in Portland Oregon, and I plan to go if my liver ever forgives me.