The craft beer movement is in full swing in the Twin Cities and leading the charge is the Beer Dabbler’s Matt Kenevan, a brew aficionado and a savvy marketing man-about-town. If you’re a beer lover who’s yet to experience one of Kenevan’s events, you’ll have your chance this coming Saturday, July 21st, when the Beer Dabbler returns to Highland Fest for their Summer edition. A multi-faceted extravaganza that revolves around sampling of 60+ craft brewers of both local and national origin, the Dabbler goes beyond simply sipping fancy beers, it creates a full-on experience complete with live music, food trucks, educational components, contests, and more than a decent amount of showmanship. Pairing this with the artsy-fun of the annual Highland Fest is a tradition that we certainly hope continues. Kenevan and his team have managed to turn their popular seasonal event into a dynamic brand that has grown to include a magazine, a soon-to-be-open retail space, and more. We chatted with the St. Paul-based entrepreneur this week about the upcoming event and The Beer Dabbler’s continued success…
Can you give us a little bit of background on the Beer Dabbler, how it started, and what it’s become?
I wasn’t always into craft beer. 7 years ago, my now-wife worked for Summit Brewing Company introduced me to craft beer and the craft beer lifestyle. Where I grew up we didn’t have many/any craft breweries so my local brewery was one of the big guys. That made me think that there was others like myself that would love this stuff if they were properly introduced. I started the Dabbler four years ago when I realized I also wanted to find a new career path. I wanted to wear shorts to work and be my own boss. I like beer but didn’t like to brew beer so I used my career skills and resources to create and event company. Today, things have grown and we’ve become much more than an event company. We’ve been a busy crew the 6 months. First, we launched a craft beer lifestyle magazine called The Growler in June which you can currently find at 250 metro spots and soon another few hundred more, as I purchased a former favorite publication’s racks. If all goes well we’ll be opening Duluth this fall. On top of that, this September we’ll be opening a new craft beer retail store where you can find brewery merch, stemware, beer art, and misc items all in one stop.
What can people expect at the Highland Fest edition this year?
We doubled the event space so there will be plenty of room to move around. We added small things like tables and hi tops so folks have a chance to get off their feet. Of course we’ll have the standards, 6 food trucks, 60 breweries, ample port-a-potties, live music, games, beer education, some very special firkins from some awesome breweries. The Deschutes Woody has made its way from Oregon for the event. It’s a mobile bar that looks like a massive oak barrel.
Tell us a bit about this special Oak Barrel Brew that you’ll be tapping especially for the occasion?
The Dabbler’s oak barrel will be filled by Big Wood Brewing. They made a double IPA that’s 10% dry hopped with Cintra and centennial hops that comes in a 80ibu’s. If you’re a hop head you need to try this.
For the novice dabbler, what approachable summer brews would you recommend, that are available at local shops?
So many beers so little time. However, I do my part to squeeze that in. In the last week, ok, yesterday I enjoyed: Twilight Summer Ale by Deschutes, Masalam Mama – Town Hall, Summer Ale – Brooklyn Brewery, Lost Trout – Third Street Brewery, MSB- (Minnesota Special Bitter) Badger Hill.
What are some of your favorite places in St. Paul to stop in for a pint or three?
I’m a 651-er myself! The last five bars I’ve visited include: Muddy Pig, Happy Gnome, Sweeneys, Pizza Luce, and Billy’s. All of which are close to my house.
For more information on the Beer Dabbler and to purchase advance tickets for events, including July 21st’s Highland Fest Beer Dabbler Showcase, visit www.thebeerdabbler.com.