Autumn Brew Review: Recapping the Year's Best Local Beer Event

I snagged a press ticket to last weekend’s Autumn Brew Review, held outside the historic Grain Belt Brewery complex in northeast Minneapolis. Now in its 12th year, the annual festival has really come into its own, its growth and evolution keeping in lockstep with the exploding local craft brew scene.

The event included a craft beer education tent, food-and-beer pairing seminars, walking tours of the Grain Belt complex, food trucks, and music. But the heart of ABR is, of course, the sampling. There were a whopping 108 breweries represented—every single regional brewer I’d ever heard of (from established folks, such as Surly and Town Hall and brand-new brewers, including Brainerd Lakes and Pour Decisions) alongside some of the biggest names in craft brewing from around the country (Sam Adams, Magic Hat, Lagunitas, Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium among them). All brewers were pouring multiple samples, though Left Hand was the only vendor I saw whose taps came out of the back of a P.T. Cruiser!

The weather was gorgeous. Hilarious t-shirts abounded (one featuring a chalkboard with the sentence “I will not come home drunk” scrawled on it over and over). Drunk people played four square. And I finally got a chance to sample beer from a couple of regional breweries I’ve been meaning to try that I haven’t seen distributed in the metro, Castle Danger and Leech Lake. There were a few beers I poured out, but most were fantastic. Produce-infused brews (raspberries! jalapenos!) continue to be popular, as does mixing beers (Sawtooth + Milk Stout = MooTooth, akin to a Black and Tan). My only disappointment was not arriving early enough to sample Furthermore’s 2012 batch of Fallen Apple, a delicious blend of cider and a Cream Ale.

Attendees received a super-comprehensive, perfect-bound pocket-sized guide that listed every brewery with tasting notes and stats (ABV, IBU, etc.) on every single beverage poured, which I suspect will come in handy for beer shopping and tasting year round.

If you’ve never been to an Autumn Brew Review, watch for its return next summer. If you can’t wait that long, the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild also sponsors ABR’s smaller, indoor counterpart, Winterfest. (Tickets go on sale December 1 at noon and always seem to sell out instantly.)

If you want to hit the Grain Belt Brewery this Saturday, the first-annual Northeast Riverfeast is taking place in its warehouse lot, where several local restaurants will be serving exclusive ‘Nordeast foods’ alongside new catering operations from Jax Cafe and the Bulldog NE (called “Stray Dog Catering” and it’s making Grain Belt beer cupcakes?!). For more info/tickets,  visit

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few tips for attending next year’s Autumn Brew Review:

BYO Pretzel Necklace
Attendees make ’em beforehand and use the snacks to cleanse palates and mitigate alcohol intake.

BYO Water
Presumably the food trucks were selling bottled water, but I didn’t see any other on site, except for the stuff dripping from what appeared to be an animal watering trough, which was used for rinsing glasses, but I wasn’t certain if it was potable.

Pace Yourself
Being an adult in a beer festival is a little like being a kid in a candy store: it’s easy to overindulge, so make sure to stay fed and hydrated!