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Food & Drink

The New State Fair Beers of 2023, Ranked by Their Minnesota-ness

Dan Patch’N Fruit IPA, Babe’s Blueberry & Maple Golden Ale, Duck Duck Blue Duck... which beer local-angled the best?

Minnesota State Fair, Facebook

This month, 65 new beverages will debut on the world’s biggest stage. Of course, we’re talking about the Minnesota State Fair. And even more importantly, many of them will receive the high honor of being ranked by their Minnesota-ness.

Not every beer was deemed worthy by the proprietary algorithm that conducts the ranking. They can’t all keep up with past classics like Ron Gant Was Out, which took the top spot last year. In the end, only 25 made the cut. The infallible algorithm that ranks these beers has been updated for 2023 and is somehow even more infallible than in years past.

While details about the algorithm cannot be publicly disclosed, we can reveal that it takes into account categories such as local ingredients, incorporation of State Fair foods, local sports references, and “it’s a biopic of a beloved singer, set in WWII, starring Sandra Bullock” levels of award-bait pandering.

If further details were disclosed, brewers would slip in a toppled puddle of hemp extract and fall straight into a tower of locally sourced cans as they raced to make a beer that could earn them the prestigious honor of appearing here. (A little hint for brewers: MN Sushi Lager. Add a touch of ham water and a cream cheese rim to that pickle beer you’ve been testing. Boom. Your trophy is already being fashioned.)

Here are the most Minnesotan new drinks at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. 

As Minnesotan as Joe Keery (Not Minnesotan but welcome)

25. Birramisu (Indeed Brewing Company) 

Like other beers in this first section, the algorithm gave Birramisu the bare minimum number of points. Where it hit was simply this: We’d absolutely order one. A cream ale that’s a play on tiramisu’s combination of coffee, chocolate, and vanilla? That could be good, right?

24-23. Ahhnold Palmer Style Hard Seltzer (Sociable Cider Werks) / Bases Juiced (Surly Brewing) 

An Arnold Palmer that’s also a hard seltzer will go well with a Crispy Lutefisk Steam Bun. The same goes for Bases Juiced, a strawberry lemonade ale, which could be a pleasant way to wet your whistle between bites of a burn-your-mouth-hot Pronto Pup.

22. Blood Orange Cream Ale (Castle Danger Brewing)

Yet another tempting cream ale. Not many Minnesota breweries do cream ales better than Castle Danger, so if they add some summery flavors, who are we to say no? (Are we playing favorites with styles? Never—the judging process is impartial. But also, give us all your cream ales.)

20-21. Cucumber Lemon Lager (Indeed Brewing) / Sun Seared Grilled Lemon Blonde Ale (Bauhaus Brew Labs and Animales BBQ)

Ope. These cucumbers and lemons were trying to slide right past ya onta the list. The ingredients aren’t particularly Minnesotan. On the other hand, our mouths are watering at the thought of having something lemony while sweating our asses off in a three-hour line for a bucket of Fresh French Fries.

19. Beergarita Ale (Lupulin Brewing)

It’s a beer that tastes like a margarita. It’s summer. We’re done here. 

As Minnesotan as Bill Murray (Knows a good state when he sees it)

18. Peach-E-Keen (August Schell Brewing) 

In a place where pipin’ hot cookies, deep-fried cookies, and cookie-flavored beers reign supreme, we dig that Schell’s is bringing a Berliner Weiss to the show. Plus, a small number of points were awarded for its graham cracker notes, which evoke pie and the State Fair baking competition.  

17. Apple Pie Cider (Wild State Cider) 

Apple pie isn’t quite a classic state fair food, but it’s got that wholesome, summery feel. The system demands points. 

16. Rhubarb Shandy (Mankato Brewery) 

Summer and rhubarb may exist elsewhere, but if you’re in Minnesota, you only experience it here. That’s the logic we’re going with on Rhubarb Shandy and only Rhubarb Shandy. Plus, rhubarb is done best in the Midwest. (The algorithm does not accept comments.)

15. PB&J Hard Honey (Round Lake Vineyards & Winery) 

While this is made with Minnesota grapes and, the description adds proudly, Minnesota water, it’s not ingredients alone that excite the algorithm. The joy here is in that State Fair spirit of mixing up beloved foods. State Fair-ifying it, if you will. We will. And we did. 

14. Mascot Race (Barrel Theory Beer Company) 

Do other states have mascot races? Oh, sure. Do we care? Not really. Not when this hazy IPA is doing its damndest to remind us of heading to a Saints game

As Minnesotan as the Coen Brothers and Chris Pratt (We know you’d leave us, but we’ll never let you go)

13. State Fair Amber Ale (Leinenkugel’s Brewing)

This pandering could not be more straightforward. Good work. Good… hold on. This was brewed in Wisconsin? Well, now all this pandering has left a bad taste in our mouths. We’ll have to wash it away with a… well, you’ve really backed us into a corner now, haven’t you, State Fair Amber Ale?

12. B.F.F. (Bauhaus Brew Labs, Forgotten Star Brewing, and The Freehouse) 

We call it the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Some breweries got together in the spirit of Midwest-based chumminess and saw the immense potential of turning their names into an acronym. Doesn’t matter what kind of beer it is, really. Respect. 

11. Minnesota Mule Cider (Sweetland Orchard) 

This is one of two beverages on the list available in previous years. But there are always a couple of returning drinks that transcend the definitely not made-up rules guiding decisions here. It’s a Moscow mule made with cider from a Minnesota orchard. Points. 

As Minnesotan as Joe Mauer and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Give 'em a statue)

10. Kirby Pucker Lemon Blueberry (EastLake Brewing) 

Look, is Kirby Pucker a real solid name for a sour ale? Absolutely. Variations on the EastLake staple have ranked well in years past. But like the Twins have shown us for generations, you can’t win every year.

9. Vacation Mullet (Lupulin Brewing)

Vacations and mullets. Vacations aren’t exclusive to Minnesota. Neither are mullets. Nonetheless, they paint a picture. It’s a picture taken up at the lake. 

8. Duck Duck Blue Duck (Surly Brewing) 

Minnesota loves to do Duck Duck Goose wrong. It’s an integral part of Minnesota-ness. So, the fact that this is wrong is a win. But is it wrong enough? No. No, it is not. However, the blueberry twist on Surly Lemonade comes with salted foam and a tiny, plastic blue duck. That’s just random enough to give it that jovial, confusing State Fair vibe. You know, like how you win a giant stuffed animal too early in the day and hours later wonder what the hell you’ll even do with it when you get home. What are you going to do, walk around with a rubber duck in your pocket all day? It’s ridiculous. But you know you want to get one. They’re jaunty!

7. Chocolate Chip Cookie Beer (Big Wood Brewery)

You can’t talk about food at the state fair without talking about Sweet Martha’s cookies. Chocolate Chip Cookie Beer isn’t making its debut at the fair, but we said there’d be a second returning beer making the cut. This is the Sweet Martha’s of beers. 

6. MN Brew Together (Modist Brewing and Fair State Brewing) 

That warm, fuzzy “get together” feeling has been expressed in other beers. Others have done it well. Modist and Fair State did it better.

5. Dan Patch’N Fruit IPA (Summit Brewing) 

We’re getting into that gray area where some might question the integrity of the proprietary points system. A tropical IPA doesn’t sound like it represents The North™. However, the proprietary points algorithm absolutely rewards pandering. Mentioning Dan Patch—who, we don’t need to remind you, was a horse—is the noblest of pandering techniques. Points. 

4. The Funnel Never End (Elm Creek Brewing) 

This blonde ale adds in strawberries and vanilla in an effort to evoke a strawberry funnel cake. Combining a state fair staple with an A+ pun is a sure path to points. The algorithm loves it. 

As Minnesotan as a Fucking Loon (Put it on the state seal already)

3. Babe’s Blueberry & Maple Golden Ale (Spiral Brewery) 

Paul Bunyan probably isn’t from Minnesota. (There’s debate.) But Minnesota can lay claim to his blueberry blue friend. Sure, there might be statues of the plaid-clad tall boy in other states, but Bemidji houses the one true Bunyan statue. Just ask the Coen brothers.

2. Butter Together (The Freehouse) 

MN Brew Together is a nice sentiment, but Butter Together does it butter. It evokes the togetherness of the Great Minnesota Get-Together while simultaneously evoking butter sculptures. It’s a golden ale that uses the phrase “sessionable butter-beer” in the description. Sounds a little wizardy, but let’s focus on the butter busts. 

1. Superior Shiver Cold IPA (Bent Paddle Brewing) 

Bent Paddle takes the top spot this year. It’s a departure for the infallible algorithm. It awarded Superior Shiver the top spot despite a dearth of pandering. There are no Twins player names involved. No loons. No—I don’t know—uff das. This is just a real nice Minnesotan image you feel in your bones. 

As Minnesotan as Prince (Hall of Fame)

Dill Pickle Kolsch (Blacklist Brewing) 

The latest culinary additions at the fair have a distinct love for pickles. That makes it a perfect year to induct Dill Pickle Kolsch into the Hall of Fame, where it joins the only previous Hall of Fame inductee: Lift Bridge Brewing’s Mini Donut Beer. May they be served into sweaty, wristbanded hands forever. 

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