Winterfest 2013

I got to try on a new “hat” the other evening as a bartender at the MN Craft Brewers Winterfest competition at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul. I was helping out my brother, Ken Thiemann, head brewer and owner of Borealis Fermentery in Two Harbors, MN.

Ken ‘s vision of a Belgian monastery inspired brewery began several years ago. He and his wife, Jennifer Griggs Thiemann, purchased several acres on the Scenic Drive between Duluth and Two Harbors. He designed and constructed the strawbale stucco timerframe complex, that is both their home and business, by himself. The process took 3 1/2 years and survived Ken falling off the roof of the 30 foot tall building during construction! (That’s a “whole nother” story that was recently covered by a very funny NPR interview). The result is a fantastically sturdy, warm, energy efficient structure.

Ken officially began selling his Belgian-style (you can’t call it Belgian unless it is in Belgium) craft brews in April 2012. He quickly encountered the dilemma of demand exceeding supply, as his product gained alot of attention state-wide and began winning awards at beer festivals. Currently, his beers are only sold in a few Duluth area liquor stores and restaurants. The three beers he featured at Winterfest were: La Lune, Homdinger, and Mon Cherries. The serious tasters flocked to Ken’s booth, as ‘Mon Cherries’ was listed as “one of the top ten to try” in the pre-festival publicity. (even though his wife and I loved La Lune best).  It was all I could do to keep up with the sold-out crowd’s thirst for all three of the offerings! We had many repeat visitors 🙂

The festival ran from 7 to 10 p.m.  Predictably, the first hour was very civilized. The crowd was noisier and friendlier during the second hour, and by the third hour – we were everyone’s best friends, and the noise level got crazy! I marveled at how my brother and his wife could chat up the crowd, give out information, all while serving beer very efficiently. They are both so gregarious and fun-loving, as evidenced by their elf hats and glo-bracelets they shared with some of the guests. Jen describes Ken as “Willy Wonka”. It is a perfect description!

Me; I found out I am not bartender material. I was exhausted and deaf and hoarse by the end of the night. Whew!

Ken and Jen at home in Two Harbors

The entrance to Borealis Fermentery

some of the booths at the MN History Center before the event began

Ken featured three Belgian-style beers for tasting

Ken and friend from Lake Superior Brewery
A happy attendee who scored one of the elf hats

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