All last week I anticipated spending pleasant Saturday evening drinking outside at the City Pages Beer Fest in Uptown. Saturday dawned with the weather forecasters predicting a chance of rain but saying most, if not all of it, would be North and East of the Twin Cities. Foolishly we trusted them, although as we were driving towards Uptown the skies to the East began looking quite ominous. At that point there wasn’t much to be done so we kept our fingers crossed that any rain would be light and short lived. We couldn’t have been more wrong! Standing in the very slow moving line, waiting to get in, it started raining. At first it wasn’t coming down too hard but after making it in and getting the first few beers down it began to come down in earnest. Still we were hopeful, and thirsty, so we started making the rounds.
Much to my disappointment Town Hall, Great Waters and Barley John’s were nowhere to be found. Local turnout consisted of Summit, Herkimer, McCoy’s, Finnegans, Flat Earth and Surly. I have to admit that of those, Surly was the only one I visited and could be found there enjoying glass after glass of Furious, progressively getting wetter and wetter.
After about 2 hours of being soaked to the bone and there appearing to be no end in sight to the rain, we decided it was time to warm up and get some grub. We downed our last samples, dumped the plastic glasses and headed down the block to Passage to India. The first good sign upon walking in was that they did not have the air conditioning on and the second was that they didn’t appear to bat an eye at the four drowned rats asking for a table. Much to my relief, the chairs were not upholstered in fabric. We sloshed down into our chairs and took our first steps to warming up by ordering some hot tea. With some tea in our tummies and my fingers starting to return to a healthier color, it was on to a fantastic dinner. Each of us ordered one of their meals that included appetizer, main course and dessert. My beef curry was amazing and the reviews on the tandori chicken and vegetarian dishes were equally complimentary. With full bellies and lots of leftovers to be enjoyed later on we hurried to our car where the heat was cranked up for the entire ride home.
I can’t say the outing was a complete bust since there was some good beer to be had and a great dinner afterward but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience either. The rain and our lack of rain gear, prompted by our misguided faith in the weathermen, certainly made a significant contribution to the misery. But beyond that the quality of the beers and breweries still leaves much to be desired. I don’t know if the organizers aren’t asking certain places to participate or if those breweries are deciding not to waste their time and brews on this festival but of the 27 places listed on the Brew Card, 6 were distributors (Alcorn Beverage, Capitol Beverage, Crown Imports, Green Mountain Beverage, MGM and RJM Distributing), 5 were macro breweries (Coors, Heineken, Labatt USA, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Miller) and I have some question as to if Boston Beer Company and Bolder Beer Company were there as opposed to being brought by some distributor.
This is the weakest of the local beer festivals and I’ll have to see when next year rolls around if I’ll be making it to this festival again or not. Maybe I’ll hold off buying tickets in advance and wait to see if it’s going to be another rain event or not as I don’t have any faith the organizers will be making any great effort to bring in better breweries and brews.