Saturday, January 19, 2013
Inaugural Mankato Craft Beer Expo was a good time
But, as circumstances would have it, I was allowed to go. And I wasn't the only one. There were hundreds of people at this thing.
As a beer lover, it was a beautiful sight to walk into the arena at Verizon Wireless Center and see a sea of people, all holding tasting glasses, all smiling, all drinking like discerning beer connoisseurs. If you're into guzzling as much Milwaukee's Best or Bud Light as possible, this wasn't your event. Now, there's nothing wrong with those beers, per se ... I'm just saying, this was a setting for a different kind of beverage, the kind you don't purchase by the case for $6.99. But I digress.
My tasting experience was splendid. For my first beer event, I wasn't really sure what to do. And I went by myself. So I grabbed my tasting glass and just ... drank. I started with a Scottish ale called Burning Skye from Empyrean Brewing in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was outstanding. From there I hit Kona Brewing and tried their Longboard, a lighter beer.
After that, I abandoned my little star system I'd started in my Craft Beer Expo program guide. From there it was pour and drink, pour and drink. I should clarify something. We're not talking about tipping back a full beer at each stop. In fact, in a lot of cases, I took one sip of something and immediately dumped it out. And the samples I did finish were usually a few ounces per sample. So when I say "pour and drink," don't think I was on my way to a DWI. The grand total of my beer consumption, I would say, was about 2 beers.
But after a while, I learned a few things about my beer drinking palate. The first is that, after five, six, or seven (or 15 or 16 or 17) different tastes, my mouth is done. Eventually, my mouth wants me to make up my mind and choose. From darks and lights and ambers to porters and stouts and IPAs, there's a lot of variety out there. And while it's all beer, the span of flavors is vast when you bring 40 brewers and their brews together.
The other thing I learned is that, with a few notable exceptions, I'm going to be staying away from the really thick, dark beers. Actually, that's the kind of beer I tried most, not because I'm not smart enough to avoid beer I know I won't like, but because I really wanted to give every beer a chance.
One of the breweries I was most intrigued by was Surly. I've heard a lot about this Minneapolis-based brewer, and was happy to hear they'd be coming. The line was long. When I got there, they'd just tapped a keg of their most popular beer, appropriately called Darkness. It was OK, but I'd never buy a 6-pack. It was the beginning of the end for me at the beer expo. I was getting to the point where I was tired of trying new beers.
Weird? I know. But it is what it is, I guess. If I go next year, my strategy will be different. I won't insist on giving so many dark beers a chance.
And I think there's some room for improvement on this event. It was a great success, but as I sat in the gallery for a talk by the author of the book "Land of Amber Waters," it was difficult to hear him because the sound system was, well, less than ideal. Plus, it seemed like the guy was thinking he'd be able to show some slides, which was impossible given the set up.
The star of the show, though, came through big. The BEER. If you didn't go this year and you're a lover of beer, consider going next year. I know it was $40, which is more than you'd probably spend on beer on a night out with your buddies. But this was worth it.