The Best Beers We Had at the 2022 Winter Beer Dabbler

I was raised in Florida and have spent most of my adult life in California. So when I arrived at the 2022 Winter Beer Dabbler in Minneapolis, and the temperature outside was 9 degrees, I admit to wondering, “What the hell am I doing here?” (Maybe hell isn’t the right word when your toes are turning to icicles.) But since I’d been craving more beer festivals in 2022, and the good folks at Beer Dabbler were encouraging me to come to this very unique experience, I knew I had to say yes. Suffice to say, I’m glad I did– and I’m happy I get to share with you what the festival was like and what the best beers we had at the 2022 Winter Beer Dabbler were. (And I’m grateful to write this article with my fingers thawed and in tact.)

The weather was an obvious concern for a hot-weather fella like myself, so I came prepared: I bought wool long johns. I had ski mittens. I had both down and Gore-Tex jackets. I had thick wool hiking socks and waterproof hiking boots. I even had some hand warmers in my pocket just in case (I didn’t use mine, but my uncle Whitney who came along needed his). So ultimately, the weather didn’t affect me too much except for the times I was taking my mitten off to use my phone. The most useful thing I brought? The waterproof boots. There was a lot of slush on the ground by festival’s end, and if my socks had gotten wet, I would’ve had to call it a night early. Instead, I got to remain until last call.

There were a number of awesome activities on display, including chainsaw sculpting and an insulated bubble hockey arena. However, we spent most of our non-beer time congregating around the many fire pits. (My Gore-Tex still smells like smoke, but that’s a small price to pay.) There were several food trucks, though we’d eaten beforehand and didn’t end up snacking. There was also a water truck, because any water kept outside a truck would freeze in short order. My one suggestion for next time would be more water stations at more locations in the festival– but I also can tell that the weather makes water transport and dispensation admittedly difficult. We still had a great time even though we probably didn’t get as much water as we would’ve liked.

As for the beers themselves? Terrific, of course. The breweries were largely from Minnesota, with a few sprinkled in from Wisconsin, North Dakota, and a few other states. While I’d had a few beers from the bigger name places, I was most excited to seek out breweries which were either new to me or from which I’d only ever had one or two beers. We tried 70+ beers on the whole, which only scratches the surface at Winter Beer Dabbler– but I wanted to highlight the breweries, new and familiar, that helped make our Beer Dabbler experience so terrific.

56 Brewing

56 Brewing had one of the best interactive experiences of the festival: they had two IPAs called “Epic Duel,” one Sultana-hopped and one Strata-hopped. They had a large chalkboard outside and encouraged people to vote for their favorite. My uncle and I both agreed that Strata was best— and apparently the populace agreed, as it seemed to be the runaway favorite. Their Minnesota Goodbyes stout was also quite tasty, but the Epic Duel: Strata was one of the highlights of the festival.

608 Brewing

I’d been hearing great things about 608 Brewing from Wisconsin fans of the site for a while but hadn’t yet gotten my hands on any. My first exposure did not disappoint: the Citranado was a bright haze bomb, one of the better ones of the festival, and the Pastry Potluck was a very sweet stout (as you’d guess by the name). My favorite, however, was the Black Label BA Nebulous Void Double Vanilla, a hefty barrel-aged vanilla-laced beauty that helped warm me from the inside.

Brew D’Etat

In addition to having perhaps the best brewery name of any brewery at the festival (shout out to Fat Pants Brewing, though!), Brew D’Etat served up one of the best-named beers of the festival– the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, a rainbow sherbet fruited sour that’s one of the best of its kind. The Beretta Todd hazy IPA was also quite lovely. I was disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to try their lager fare, as I imagine it would’ve lived up to the caliber of the rest.

Back Channel Brewing

Ah, Back Channel Brewing– you’d been made infamous on Instagram with your IPA tasting bowls, but I’d never gotten a chance to try your delicious nectar myself. While I didn’t get to drink Plucky, their fantastic hazy IPA, from a bowl, I still enjoyed it plenty out of my tasting glass, and the Portmanteau was a very pleasant and crisp light lager that served as tasty relief from the heavier fare of the festival. Maybe one day, I’ll get my hands on that tasting bowl…

BlackStack Brewing

I was already familiar with BlackStack Brewing, as I’d had their top-shelf hazy IPAs and terrific fruited sours in cans over the last couple of years. However, at the festival, while getting a fresh pour of Slow Clap was nice, and the Crunch Time was one of the best stouts of the festival… I was most taken with the Fugazi, an Italian pilsner that was easily one of the best lagers of the weekend. Elite hazy IPAs, stouts, *and* lagers– what’s not to like?

Drekker Brewing

Yes, we had to include Drekker. While we’ve written about Drekker many a time in these articles, what can we say? They make terrific beer. (They also had, it’s worth noting, easily the longest line of the festival, so if you go to a fest and you want Drekker, go *right* away.) The IPAs were terrific, per usual, and the Ice Ice PRRRTY was one of their typically elite fruited sours. The Mass Quantities is sticking with me, though– I don’t think I’d ever had a stout from them, as this barrel-aged vanilla bomb lived up to my expectation.

Eagle Park Brewing

When we got to the Eagle Park booth early on, they were having trouble with frozen lines– understandable in 10 degree weather!– so while we sadly missed out on their lagers and IPAs, we still got our hands on a couple pours. The Tropical Slush (an appropriate name given the frozen surroundings) was a tasty fruited sour, but the Barrel Aged Naughty Water: Mead Cask was a true highlight of the festival, a big boy barleywine executed to perfection.

Falling Knife Brewing

Falling Knife was another of these breweries I’d heard great things about but had never gotten a chance to encounter until this trip. The two pours we had from Falling Knife here, however, weren’t just good– they rivaled any two pours from any brewery at Beer Dabbler. The Lil’ Shaky was a scrumptious coffee cinnamon stout, and the Verbal Tip hazy IPA was so good that it immediately rocketed into the top tier of Minnesota IPAs I’ve ever had. Now that I’ve tried it, I understand the buzz– and I want more.

Lupulin Brewing

Lupulin has been a Minnesota favorite of mine for years, arguably my favorite brewery in the state– and wow, did they bring the heat on this cold day. Literally. They brought a mulled sour, served steaming hot, and if it wasn’t the best beer of the festival (and it might have been), it was easily the most welcome for this freezing warm weather boy. They also were serving DDH Hooey, one of the best IPAs in the region, Sticky Puddles, a tasty strawberry-banana fruited sour, and Barrel God Cuvee, a phenomenal bourbon barrel aged stout. No brewery got more five-star rankings from me on the Beer Dabbler app than Lupulin… that’s high praise.

Portage Brewing

My buddy Jordan at Beer Dabbler told me Portage was a spot I absolutely had to check out. I love taking recommendations, so I made sure to try everything they had. Mark walked me through the whole selection, a full selection of winners. The Morning Oats stout and the Juicetree IPA definitely ranked up there with the best of their respective styles… but I’m a huge sucker for a coffee blonde, so the Coffeecake was their big winner in my book. Not sure when I’ll get a chance to visit Walker, Minnesota, but if I do, best believe you’ll find me at Portage.

Ursa Minor Brewing

There’s an easy way to win this man’s heart… and that’s by bringing a Bock to a beer festival. The good folks at Ursa Minor must be of similar mind, as they brought one of the two best bocks I had all day, the Buffalo Check Bock. The Cadillac Ranch Hand was also a very nicely done hazy IPA, but I’ll be honest, I went back up to the booth after finishing it and got a second pour of the bock. No regrets– I’m a bock boy through and through, and Ursa Minor delivered the good. Speaking of bocks…

Utepils Brewing

… the other great bock I had at the Winter Beer Dabbler came from Utepils in Minneapolis. Look, if your pour list is altbier, bock, Czech dark lager, and Czech pilsner? Then I’ve no doubt that you know what you’re doing. Utepils absolutely knows what they’re doing. The Minnator was the aforementioned bock, and if there’s anything I may love more than a bock? It’s a Czech dark lager. Loonar Eclipse was Utepils’s, and it was as roasty toasty as the fire I was standing by as I drank it.

There were plenty of other terrific breweries I enjoyed at Winter Beer Dabbler– and certainly a great deal many I just didn’t get a chance to try. Please shout out your favorite breweries from the festival in the comments. Thanks to all the good folks who set up and worked the Winter Beer Dabbler– I’m excited to hopefully try even more next year!