Beer and Bacon fest

The+Happy+Harry%27s+Beer+and+Bacon+festival+exhibited+many+breweries+from+across+the+nation+as+well+as+local+ones%2C+including+Rhombus+Guys+Brewery.

Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson

The Happy Harry's Beer and Bacon festival exhibited many breweries from across the nation as well as local ones, including Rhombus Guys Brewery.

Ben Godfrey, Staff Writer

The Alerus Center was buzzing last weekend at the Happy Harry’s Annual Beer and Bacon Festival. The event featured 12 bacon dishes from local restaurants and over 100 different brews to try.

Along with the huge variety of food and drink, festival goers enjoyed live entertainment and games such as the mechanical pig, Hammerschlagen and bag toss.

Tickets ran for $20 general admission (in advance) and $50 for the VIP treatment. VIP guests got to be first to sample all the great beers and bacon and leave with a hefty festival swag bag.

As a craft beer enthusiast and bacon lover, my festival experience was one of wonder and excitement. I would say it was like being a “kid in a candy store,” except it was more like I found a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

When I walked through the doors, I saw a booth with a large sign that read “BACON” straight ahead. To my left and right stretched tent after tent manned by the brewers of my favorite beverages. I saw Surly, Summit, Drekker, Schell’s, New Belgium, Indeed and Rhombus Guys, just to name a few. The best part is that they were all waiting to hand me (along with the hundreds of other people) free samples of their most popular beers. I even found my number one beer, Peanut Butter Porter by Empyrean Brewing Co.

There were light beers and dark beers, porters and pilsners, IPAs and lagers. Brewers from around the country got a chance to display their creativity and show us why craft beer is such a quickly growing industry.

I had a chance to speak with Mark Bjornstad, co-founder and president of Drekker Brewing Company. Mark put in perspective how quickly craft breweries can grow from his own experience. Based out of Fargo, N.D., the Drekker Brewery was launched in 2014 and now supplies beer to over 150 bars, restaurants and stores. What started out as a group of friends brewing in a garage has become a successful brand which is expanding faster than they could have dreamed.

This is the case for loads of breweries popping up everywhere. Why, you may ask? Because people love great beer. While domestic drinks are very popular, there is a different mindset behind craft beer. It’s not about killing a case of pounders and getting into shenanigans. It’s about raising a chilled glass with good people in a place you want to be. It’s about enjoying the creativity of hard-working individuals and experiencing new aromas and flavors.

Before I get too carried away with my craft beer pitch, I have to mention another very important thing: the bacon. Bacon, in my opinion, is good. Jalapeño bacon cheddar cornbread? Outstanding. Local restaurants and caterers pulled out all the stops this year in creating unique and tasty dishes with this not-so-humble ingredient. There were bacon muffins, bacon pizzas, bacon chocolate and even a bacon cake (sounds strange, but surprisingly yummy).

As the festival came to a close, it came time for the bacon eating contest. Four contestants, which were chosen earlier in the evening, each sat down to a heaping plate with three pounds of bacon. With one minute on the clock, the brave contestants attacked their plates ferociously. When the time ended, the plates were weighed and a winner was declared: an East Grand Forks man.

After the contest, awards were given for the best beers and bacon dishes, voted on by festival goers. The winner of the People’s Choice Award for Best Beer went to Rhombus Guys Brewery. Brewed right here in Grand Forks, the beers made by Rhombus are a hometown favorite. The “Squealer” award for best bacon was given to Up North Pizza, for their mac and cheese dish topped with candied bacon.

With the festivities over, it was time go home with a full belly and fond memories. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I fully recommend checking it out when the festival comes around again. If you were there with me, I hope to see you again next year.

Ben Godfrey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]