By Tanner Kent
---- — MANKATO — Raise a toast: The date has been set, promotional events have been scheduled and tickets will soon be on sale for the 2014 Mankato Craft Beer Expo.
"We did wonderful here last year," said Mark Opdahl, who owns Chop Liver Craft Beer Festivals along with partner Juno Choi. In addition to Mankato, the pair organize a handful of similar events throughout the state. "The vendors were very impressed. We heard from everybody that Mankato had a mature, well-educated audience."
With attendance topping 1,400, Opdahl said the inaugural Mankato event was an unmitigated success. This year, he said, 2,000 tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday. Tickets are available at Brew-N-Wine Creations in Mankato, the Mankato Brewery and the Verizon Wireless Center, which is the host venue for the Jan. 11 event.
Opdahl said the list of beer vendors is likely to expand, as is the slate of promotional events.
Pub 500 has signed on as the official host of pre-expo events, which kick off today with the release of Mankato Brewery's Mint Stout. Beginning at 5 p.m., the brewery will unveil the second edition of its anticipated seasonal release. Though last year's Mint Stout was available only in draft, the brewery will be bottling the beer in four-packs this year.
"If you think of mint and beer, you think, 'How does that work?'" said Tom Tupy, Mankato Brewery co-founder. "It's brewed with notes of chocolate and coffee and a subtle flavor of mint. It's been extremely well-received."
In a new twist, expo organizers are also introducing a vacation package for the weekend of the expo. In partnership with the Hilton Garden Inn, everyone who attends a Pub 500 promotional event will be entered in a drawing to win an overnight stay as well as a complementary meal and expo tickets.
Furthermore, Opdahl said he and Verizon Wireless officials are also working on a combination beer and music festival at Riverfront Park next fall.
"We've been really excited with our reception in Mankato," Opdahl said.
For more information, visit www.mankatocraftbeerexpo.com.
Upcoming promotional events ■ 5 p.m. on Friday: Mankato Brewery Mint Stout release party; ■ Nov. 21: Third Street Brewhouse release of Sugar Shack Maple Stout, along with french toast dinner; ■ Dec. 5: Schell's Brewery mystery fass; ■ Dec. 13: Lucid Brewing release of Duce red ale. Note: All events held at Pub 500.