The Rochester Craft Beer Expo has moved to a new time and location. But that doesn’t mean it’s starting on a sour note, organizers say.
Well, except that it is. The theme for this year’s craft beer expo is “Rochester gone sour.” Participating breweries are all required to submit a sample of their sours.
“It’s still a traditional beer festival,” said Mark Opdahl, organizer of the expo. “The sour theme is just to give it a little bit of a twist.”
That’s not the only twist on the expo this year. The normally springy event is in September instead of May. It’s also at Graham Arena at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds.
Opdahl said the different venue will help make the event feel more intimate this year. He said the time of year makes sense for Minnesotans, who are hungry to be outside when there’s good weather in May.
“In September, people are settling back down into their routines,” he said. Minnesotans emerging from winter might not be as inclined to spend a day indoors.
“May is a tricky time of year,” Opdahl said. “If it’s a nice day, I know I’d probably be out on the golf course.”
The strong beer culture in the city prompted Opdahl and expo organizers to change up the expo to help showcase local flavors. Forager is known for its sour beers and Kinney Creek continues to produce interesting results with wild fermentations.
“Pretty much everybody’s got a sour beer now,” Opdahl said. “The guys at Forager are known for sour beers.”
Sour beers are also a gateway for new beer-drinkers. Often they get a better reception from people less experienced in beer, but more familiar with wines or ciders.
Overall, the craft beer industry has broadened its appeal, Opdahl said.
In the past, people daring to enter a craft beer taproom usually had someone with them who was knowledgeable about craft beer. Now, taprooms are inviting places that attract a broader range of people than most bars. That also means your average craft beer drinker is no longer a hardcore beer nerd.
“I think it’s just more socially acceptable to go to a taproom instead of just a bar,” Opdahl said. “Taprooms are just meeting places now.”
That widening social aspect of exploring craft beer has cultivated a culture that makes it more fun and approachable. It also means the average craft beer consumer is a little less educated than they used to be, he added.
That’s one reason each of the 27 breweries represented at the expo will have an expert on hand pouring beers.
“We don’t have volunteers pour,” he said. “We want the sales reps; we want the brewers; we want the people who live and breathe this stuff.”
When the craft beer expo in Rochester began, the city was home to one brewery -- Kinney Creek.
Today, the city has six with a seventh on the way.
The Rochester beer scene is strong,” Opdahl said. “It shows.”
The event will also feature music by Mark Joseph and the American Soul.