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  • Writer's picturePaige Latham Didora

horseshoes, hand grenades, and Hopkins beer fest [soapbox sunday]

Hopkins Crowd

My dad always says, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”. He usually says this while playing cards…it’s such a dad thing to say.

Well if that is true, then there is no such thing as almost throwing a good beer festival. Even if there was, I’m not sure I would say that the Hopkins Tavern Beer Fest was really that close, anyway.

So…you may have seen the deal on tickets for Hopkins Beer Fest on Living Social, that overbearing deal-promoting website that acts like unrelenting Herpes for your email inbox. I saw it too and thought, Hey! That’s my birthday! And…beer!

And while every other craft-beer-worshiping person was in Duluth for the weekend’s festivities, I gave the Hopkins Beer Festival an open-minded shot.


When we arrived, there was certainly a crowd, but nothing overwhelming. The beer selection was wide, from Miller Lite to Odell, with much in between. The beers were not local by any means, although Summit and Lift Bridge did make an appearance.

Lift Bridge MN Tan

Now, I’m not one to complain about the opportunity to stand around on a nice day and drink mediocre beer, but it didn’t take long for the obvious pitfalls of the festival to present themselves.

The pouring staff and volunteers were unreasonably ignorant about the beer, even the ones they were pouring. Representatives knew very little about Rolling Rock, Fox Barrell, and Odell, among others.


I didn’t expect each person pouring beer to be a BJCP certified judge, but it would have been nice to have simple answers to questions, otherwise, why go to a beer festival?

Rolling Rock sample

The most significant problem with the Hopkins Beer Festival was that many, many booths ran out of beer, some with over an hour left to go in the festival. I was very disappointed that I did not get to try Fat Tire, Brooklyn, or even Summit. I got the second to last pour from Odell (“which Odell beer is this?” Not a clue.)

Cider Boys

One advantage of attending was that I got the chance to try a lot of beers that I otherwise would never order, like Redd’s Apple Ale (not really beer) to Cider Boys overwhelmingly sweet cider.

Shock Top

I learned that Shock Top Raspberry Wheat tastes like a wine cooler and was reminded that London Pride is still one of my favorite European beers. And there were some other good finds!

Best beer of the day goes to Alaskan, for the Freeride American Pale Ale.

Alaskan Freeride

It’s a great beer that displays balance and stands out among pale ales. Big floral and citrus is underscored by slightly sweet malt and medium body. It is such a refreshing brew!

Most unique beer goes to Lift Bridge for their Minnesota Tan [pictured third]. I don’t really know what to say about this one, but do try it if given the chance. It’s not tan at all, it’s pink, and while classified as a Trippel, it is distinctly tart and floral.

Best Pourer Lucette

Without a doubt, the best pourer goes to the woman from Lucette, who told us all about The Farmer’s Daughter and encouraged us to come back for more!

All in all, a day of beer drinking can’t be given a bad review. But, a poorly run beer festival can.

Empty booths

Is that bad? No, but as my dad also says, let’s call a spade a spade.


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