A brew fest for brewers… and we’re all invited

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Castler Danger brewer Mason Williams chats with an antler-clad festivalgoer at Hopped Up Caribou // Photo by Keith Grauman

Castle Danger brewer Mason Williams has made sure he’s the brewery’s representative at Hopped Up Caribou since he first attended the festival three years ago. “I came the second year and was like, ‘OK, I’ll take that one from now on,’” he said.

While Williams may remember that year’s fest fondly, it’s probably best described by David and Jill Boettcher. The Cambridge, Minnesota, couple had attended the previous year’s fest while in the midst of planning their wedding, which as many people can attest can sometimes be a stressful (and expensive) ordeal.

“We didn’t know where we were going to get married and didn’t have any money to do stuff like rent a tent,” said Jill. “We were at the fest and both of us looked around and went, ‘Huh, you know, we should get married here.’” The next day they reserved 200 tickets to the following year’s festival.

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David and Jill Boettcher got married at Hopped Up Caribou three years ago and returned this year to celebrate their anniversary // Photo by Keith Grauman

When the big day rolled around, it was a scorcher. They held the ceremony on the Caribou Highlands grounds just before the festival began and the beer garden essentially became their reception. Relatives who weren’t craft-beer drinkers before the wedding were quickly converted, including David’s 83-year-old grandmother.

At the end of the festival, the heat and excitement from the wedding combined to create a scene both David and Jill will never forget. “It became this grand chorus of ‘TO THE POOL! TO THE POOL!’” Jill said. “I was in my wedding dress and it was a giant horde of people jumping in the pool. It was packed shoulder to shoulder.”

The Boettchers have been back a couple times to celebrate their anniversary at the fest. It’s not uncommon for them to be wished a happy anniversary by brewers and other festivalgoers. David even brought out the sleeveless tuxedo t-shirt he got married in to mark the occasion.

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The bloody Mary bar at Saturday’s buffet breakfast // Photo by Keith Grauman

This year, the weather was just about perfect for both the Bloody Mary Breakfast, a breakfast buffet and bloody mary bar that kicks off Saturday’s festivities, as well as the 3pm opening of the main festival and beer garden.

With live music from Big Wave Dave & The Ripples, special firkins tapped throughout the day, lawn games, a selection of BBQ, and, our favorite, chocolate-dipped bacon, the three-hour festival flew by, helped along by the fact that you rarely had to wait in line for a beer due to the small size of the fest. Brewers were eager to talk to festivalgoers about what they were pouring and received immediate feedback when people returned for more and cast their vote for the best-in-show contest. (At the end of the day, Bent Paddle took home the title with their Vanilla Cold Press Black).

Many attendees took a cue from the Boettchers and hit the pool after the festival was over. Others stayed near the tent and played lawn games and beer pong into the night, not wanting their “brew-cations” to come to a close.

Alas, Sunday morning eventually rolled around. People who were strangers two days before exchanged “See you next year” goodbyes at the front desk when checking out. If history is any guide, they’ll make good on that promise.

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Keith Grauman About Keith Grauman

Keith Grauman is the web editor at The Growler. When he's not drinking beer at work, he can be found homebrewing, reading comics or playing with his kids in the front yard of his south Minneapolis home.

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