On Sunday, Twin Cities sour beer fans fêted the funk at the third annual Where the Wild Beers Are event. Organized by Jeff Halverson and Tim Stendahl, this acid-drenched celebration of wild beers happens every fall in Minneapolis and Brooklyn. The Minneapolis fest happens on the deck of Stub & Herb’s, a Dinkytown neighborhood beer bar in the shadow University of Minnesota stadium. Thanks to the folks at Stub’s for donating their deck.
The format of the festival is unique. Halverson described it as a “beer potluck.” Rather than purchasing a ticket, attendees bring beer. Each 750 ml bottle “buys” a certain number of tastes. The beers that people bring are the beers that make up the festival tasting selection.
This format creates a welcome sense of unity at the event. As Stendahl put it, “the collaborative component of this event is really what makes it special.” The collaboration also makes for a more interesting selection of beers. Halverson explained, “If you were to try and throw this festival with only commercially available bottles purchased by distributors you would have two-dozen beers and it would be kind of so-so. But people travel. They bring stuff back. They ship beers and they trade for them. What better way to celebrate these rare beers than to have everybody bring it.”
And bring it they do. There were more than enough bottles there for everyone in attendance. At a certain point I overheard Halverson saying that there was probably enough beer for everyone to drink three 750 ml bottles by themselves. And it wasn’t just the easily-available, off-the-shelf stuff. The really wonderful thing about this festival is that collectors raid their cellars and bring special bottles to share. There was a 1994 Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene, a 3-liter bottle of Russian River Consecration, Duck Duck Gooze from The Lost Abbey, several bottles of the R&D series from New Glarus, Cantillon Cuvee des Champions, and an assortment of beers than no one had ever heard of. And all of that is in addition to the donated kegs of Flat Earth Brewing Company’s Extra Medium and Oud Beersel Framboise.
The impetus for Where the Wild Beers Are came from tasting events that Halverson used to put on. He’d have a representative sample of beers and then would open up something crazy. “You’d have people that have never had a lambic or never had gueuze, and they’d try it and half would be like, ‘oh my god, this is horrible.’ And the other half said, ‘oh my god, this is as good as champagne.’” That conversation sparked Halverson’s interest in staging such an event. With some pestering from Stendahl, he finally made it happen in 2008. After Stendahl moved to New York, a Brooklyn event was added.
For readers in the New York area, the Brooklyn edition of Where the Wild Beers Are is happening on October 30th at Mission Dolores. It’s well worth checking out and admission is only a bottle of sour beer. In addition to the beers brought by attendees, there will be a donated keg of Allagash Larry for all to enjoy.
You can hear my whole recorded interview with Jeff Halverson and Tim Stendahl here.