Prepping for the Minnesota State Fair can be so intimidating. You have your faithful standbys like Sweet Martha’s Cookies and Turkey To Go – and then they drop a massive list of 56 new foods on you. As if food wasn’t enough to worry about, there’s an equally impressive and daunting list of Minnesota State Fair-exclusive beers and beverages.
There are endless ways to approach foods at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, so I wanted to offer a new one: pairing the new State Fair foods with complementary beers. Besides, why would you want to wash down one of these creations with a glass of water?
I will warn you that these pairings are conceptual and not personally tested – yet. Still, I’m pretty confident based on my research and past experiences with the different beers and vendors that they’ll be a hit.
Pi + Cowboy Dave’s Cluck & Moo
At the Blue Barn, the Blue Plate Restaurant Co.’s outpost at the fair now in its second year, you’ll find Pi – a caramel apple cider beer brewed by the Freehouse. While you could go the sweet route with this one and grab Grandma Deb’s Snicker Bar Salad, I decided to go for the whole Sunday supper. This stick-to-your-ribs dish, also at the Blue Barn, is a pile of smashed potatoes topped with roasted beef and grilled chicken complete with beef gravy and a mustard BBQ sauce. A real Minnesota dinner isn’t complete without dessert – that’s where the beer comes in. Though I haven’t tried this particular dish from the Blue Barn, I trust it because their inventive Chicken in A Waffle Cone was outstanding last year.
Maple Bacon Brown Ale + Minnesota Wild Rice Benedict Muffin
No need to wait ‘til noon to enjoy the State Fair or a beer for that matter. Excelsior Brewing’s Maple Bacon Brown Ale is topped with a slice of bacon so it actually counts as breakfast right? It’s easy to be drawn to lighter, fruit infused beers during the waning days of summer, but there are plenty of darker options available at the fair. This beer, available at Giggles’ Campfire Grill, is made with local maple syrup, which adds sweetness to the smoky malt. Since one slice of bacon doesn’t really count as a Minnesota State Fair breakfast, pair this beer with a convenient eggs benedict muffin from LuLu’s Public House. While it’s not on a stick, the muffin will make for easy on-the-go eating and the wild rice is a proper nod to the state.
Grain Belt Blu + Hot Tail
This blueberry-infused version of the Schell’s classic was a hit for me last summer. It comes with a frozen blueberry foam topper. The frozen head is a perfect addition for hot summer nights and the State Fair is all about it this year. You can also top a Summit Pilsner with a frozen Bud Light Lime-A-Rita foam or add a frozen Grain Belt/Bloody Mary head to any beer. I thought the refreshingly cool blueberries would be a nice companion to the Rabbit Hole’s ginger and scallion spiced pig tail, available at the Taste of the Global Market Sept. 2-7. Nervous about pig tail? Don’t be. This dish is on Food + Wine’s list of must-try new state fair foods across the country. Note: It’s quite a hike between the West End and the International Bazaar, so grab a beer or two first.
And this last one isn’t a pairing, but I would definitely urge you to drink Lift Bridge Brewery’s Mini Donut Beer at every chance you get. Why eat mini donuts when you could just drink this beer?
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild has also put together some great flights which will give you an opportunity to taste a curated sample of Minnesota’s finest brews.
The Minnesota State Fair opens this Thursday and will run through Sept. 7.