A Russian River Brewing Company bartender pours a glass of the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer.

A Russian River Brewing Company bartender pours a glass of the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer.

Would you try a jalapeño cream ale? Maybe a cotton candy milkshake IPA? If your answer is yes, you should head to Minnesota. The North Star State has a booming craft beer industry. But that wasn’t always the case.

Not long ago, craft beer wasn’t nearly as widely available in the U.S. as it is today. Between 2002 and 2007, employment at breweries across the country declined as large corporations like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors consolidated. In 2012, these two companies controlled nearly 90 percent of beer production in the country.

But between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments — many of them small businesses sextupled. The number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent. In the same period, shipments from the five major brewers (Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst and Diageo) fell by 14 percent.

Minnesota was no exception to the trend. In 2011, the state was home to 35 craft breweries. Today there are more than 170 breweries operating in the state. Those breweries pump out nearly 650,000 barrels of beer a year.

At the Minnesota State Fair, local breweries show off their classic brews as well as their more experimental ones, which feature a wacky variety of flavors, including dreamsicle, elderflower, lavender, dragon fruit, push pop, pumpkin seed, cake, chocolate chip cookie, dill pickle, funnel cake, maple bacon and s’mores.

Won’t you try some of them with us? We sit down and sip at the Minnesota State Fair to talk and taste with the state’s craft beer insiders.

Produced by Avery Kleinman.

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