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Craft Beer Now Big Money At The State Fair

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) -- For 12 days a year, the Minnesota State Fair is the largest food venue in the United States.

And Minnesota fair-goers vote every year -- with their wallets.

The Ball Park Cafe is part of an unexpected and surprising trend: the explosion of craft beer at the State Fair.

It's thanks in no small part to beers like Lift Bridge Brewing Company's Mini Donut Beer, which they serve on tap.

"It's a very light, like an ale," Dan Theisen, of the Ball Park Café, said. "It's got that cake flavor...and then the cinnamon sugar on the rim."

The brew has made Ball Park Cafe the newest member of the State Fair's "Million Dollar Club."

The cafe joins Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar and the Midwest Dairy Association as one of three vendors generating more than $1 million in gross revenues.

But the biggest future trend is beer.

"There's no end in sight," Dennis Larson, of the Minnesota State Fair, said. "This is crazy."

For the first time ever, six of the top 10 grossing State Fair booths are beer vendors.

Revenues topped a record $9 million last year.

"It's been a real win-win," Larson said. "[The fair is a] place for the small brewers -- the small craft industry -- to practice and experiment with their new beers and try them here."

The State Fair expects beers sales to increase again this year.

Currently, there are 22 beer vendors at the fair. Surprisingly, hat's only six more than there were 10 years ago.

However, beer sales are up a whopping 178 percent.

Here is a look at the top beverage and food vendors from the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. And to see the sales for beer vendors in 2014 and 2015, click here.

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