Saturday, September 24th marked Harriet Brewing Company’s first major event, Rauchfest 2011. Rauchfest 2011 was the brewery’s first Oktoberfest party, and they held nothing back for this celebration of craft beer, German food, local art, and live music.
Harriet Brewing Company transformed their brewhouse parking lot and alleyway into a well-organized festival. This was the only opportunity to taste both their summer and winter lineups side by side before the summer brews are retired for the year. Six beers were available during the fest including their flagship and only year round offering, Westside Belgian-style Pale Ale, their summer seasonals, Woden Weizen and Saison Nourice, and their cold weather lineup, the Divine Oculust Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale and the Dark Abbey, a Belgian-style Dubbel.
In addition to their flagship and dual season brews, Harriet Brewing offered a limited beer to be served at the festival for which it was named, Rauchfest. Rauchfest is a smoked Marzen style brew that leads with the smoke and is balanced by rich malt. Smoked beers can often be out of balance because the smoked malt can be inconsistent and overpowering, but Harriet Brewing nailed the balance on this year’s batch of Rauchfest. The smoke was obvious and up front without being like drinking an acrid shot of liquid smoke, and the malt came through to level it out with caramel sweetness.
An Oktoberfest celebration is nothing without good food. Harriet Brewing pulled in several local food vendors to feed their masses, and many of them included the brewery’s beers in their recipes. Seward Co-op had Bratwurst made with Harriet’s Rauchfest beer, chicken wings, tempah sandwiches, and even ribs. Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room had smoked brisket and Reuben sandwiches. Sun Street Breads had pflaumenkuchen (a German plum pastry) and zwiebelkuchen (a German onion pastry) made with Woden Weizen. Glaciers served pretzel bites with a choice of Westside cheese sauce or Saison Nourice laced mustard, and frozen custard with Woden Weizen syrup. If a smoothie was more fitting for the mood, The Hub Bicycle Coop had all the ingredients needed to churn one out using their bicycle blender. Designated drivers and drinkers needing a break from Harriet’s higher octane beer were fortunate enough to have to have scratch made sodas from Dandelion Kitchen to quench their thirst as well. Of course, all of the food went fantastically with the selection of beers, and with the variety of selection no one should have gone hungry.
While enjoying brats and beers, festival goers had the opportunity to check out several local artists, featuring glass artists, handmade glass bead jewelry, tie-dyed shirts, and Harriet Brewing’s own Jesse Brodd. The Minnesota Beer Activists were in attendance supporting their local brewery and talking about their cause. Even the North Star Roller Girls were skating around and talking about their bouts.
It can’t be a festival without good music. Blue Soul Caravan was the first on stage at 1:30 and their folk music reflected the soon-to-be-over relaxing tone of the early afternoon. As the crowd built up, so did the entertainment. By the time the High Strung String Band, and the Butanes Soul Review got playing the dance floor was filling up, the lights were spinning, and the crowd was enjoying themselves. The New Primitives headlined Rauchfest and finished off the night sending Harriet Brewing fans, both new and devoted, off to their homes to have German style, Rauchfest dreams.
Congratulations Harriet Brewing Company on a successful first Rauchfest. The bar has been set, and next year should be even better.