When you think of brands that host hip outdoor events, names like Red Bull and New Belgium Brewing may spring to mind. Chipotle, on the other hand, probably does not—at least not yet.
It may not have featured the extreme sports of Red Bull Crashed Ice or the gonzo atmosphere of New Belgium’s Tour de Fat, but the Chipotle Cultivate festival in Loring Park on August 23, 2014 was an impressive, well-produced event that offered up entertainment and education in equal measure.
The purpose of the event, according to the pamphlet handed out to ever attendee, was to highlight “sustainable, wholesome and delicious food.” Scattered around Loring Park were informational booths about the differences between fresh and processed food, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), factory food versus farm-raised food, and more. You might think these booths would be ignored in favor of the food stands, live music and beer, but Chipotle wisely incentivized attendees to visit them with the lure of free food. Each educational experience concluded with a stamp in the visitor’s pamphlet. Anyone who collected four stamps received a coupon for a free Chipotle burrito.
In addition to the earned free food, plentiful free food samples were available at vendor booths around the event, and food took center stage at the chef’s tent where big name local and national chefs demonstrated healthy and delicious recipes. In addition to Chopped’s Amanda Freitag and local food celeb Andrew Zimmern (of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern), chefs included Jack Riebel (formerly of Butcher and the Boar), Paul Berglund (Bachelor Farmer), and Sea Change veterans Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone. Anderson and Malone plan to open a new restaurant called Brut in Minneapolis’ North Loop soon.
Riebel, who is in the process of reopening St. Paul’s The Lexington restaurant, said Chipotle impressed him with their commitment to supporting the local food movement. “It was cool because they really wanted me to feature a farmer, feature an ingredient, and they actually went to the market and bought the stuff for me. That was really cool. I did a zucchini involtini, so I did a little roulade of Alemar cheese filling and I garnished it with red chili vinaigrette and a bunch of local tomatoes and herbs.”
Riebel said consumer demand is making it easier for restaurants to source large amounts of local ingredients, just as demand has made local craft beer an increasingly common feature of local bars and restaurants. As you would expect with any event focused on local products, Cultivate boasted a strong showing from local breweries. Breweries such as Harriet, Summit, Lift Bridge, Tin Whiskers, Dangerous Man, and more were all present, but local heavyweight Surly was unquestionably the star of the show. In addition to bringing in-demand beers like Pentagram and Darkness, the brewery created a new beer exclusively for the event: The Cultivate Farmhouse Ale, a completely hop-free Saison bittered with local dandelion greens.
“It was brought to our attention that Chipotle wanted to do this festival they brought to different cities that featured local breweries,” said Surly head brewer Todd Haug. “It was a good shot for us to make a different beer for one purpose only. From a creative outlet, it’s kind of easier to have some guidelines. They wanted it to be a farmhouse ale. The goofy thing about that style is that it’s one of the widest beer styles. It could be black, it could be sour, it could be sweet, it could be hoppy. So we thought about it and said ‘Why not?’”
Haug said he was inspired by the dandelions in his yard to create a traditional farmhouse style bittered with dandelion greens. He researched and sourced hundreds of pounds of edible dandelion greens and said he appreciated to do a completely hop-free beer. “Craft beer has gotten so centered on IPA and hop-forward beers,” he said. “This beer has absolutely no hops, so that challenge too was kind of fun.”
With free food, live music from bands like Portgual. The Man and Grouplove, and an exclusive beer from one of the state’s most popular breweries, Chipotle’s Cultivate Food, Music and Ideas Festival was most definitely a success and should be on your radar if it returns next summer.