Brewpubs gain entry to State Fair's 'Land of 10,000 Beers'

New beer at the Minnesota State Fair
Last year, Schell's Octoberfest and blueberry beers, topped with frozen beer foam, made their debut at the Minnesota State Fair. Local beer enthusiasts can find selections like these at State Fair vendors and at the fair's "Land of 10,000 Beers" exhibit, which offers beer flights.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Brewpubs will be getting into the beer game at the Minnesota State Fair for the first time this year.

A law passed during the last legislative session gives brewpubs the right to sell their beers at the fair's "Land of 10,000 Beers" exhibit, which features dozens of craft brewers from across the state. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild expects to add 10 brewpubs to the exhibit.

Brewpubs have been legal in Minnesota since well before the so-called Surly Bill passed, which allowed breweries to open taprooms on their sites. The brewpubs, which had previously been limited to selling beer out of their restaurants, have missed out on some of the hype as the state's craft brewery industry has taken off in recent years.

Peter Rifakes, founder and owner of Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis, said brewpubs are always looking for new markets for their products.

"We get calls monthly from people looking for our beer, and the law still doesn't allow us to distribute them," Rifakes said. "This is one small step in the evolution of our laws that allows everyone to fulfill the demand that's out there."

The craft beer industry has boomed in the state since the passage of the Surly Bill in 2011. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety estimated that the number of breweries will reach 111 by the end of the year. The number of brewers participating in the craft beer hall exhibit at the fair has nearly tripled since it debuted in 2012, according to the guild. It drew an estimated 100,000 visitors last year.

Guild members like Rifakes said they hope that lawmakers will continue to adjust the state's liquor laws to give brewers the opportunity to offer other breweries' beers — or even wine — in taprooms like California and other states do.

"The people of Minnesota and the legislators of Minnesota have seen what small changes in the law can do to our industry," Rifakes said. "It's really helped Minnesota's economy."

The "Land of 10,000 Beers" exhibit lets visitors choose among flights of local beers based on styles like "darker" or "hoppier." Among the beers on tap will be wild rice brown ale from Barley John's Brew Pub, a jalapeno cream ale from Voyageur Brewing Company and a chocolate milk stout infused with coconut from Town Hall Brewery.

If you go: Beers at the State Fair

The "Land of 10,000 Beers" exhibit includes offerings from 54 breweries and brewpubs and will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the fair, which runs from Aug. 27 through Sept. 7.