Swirl, Smell, Sip: Wine, Cider and Craft Beer Tastings at Feast! Local Foods Marketplace

You’ve done the Great River Road Wine Trail and the Rochester Craft Beer Expo and maybe even a cidery tour or two. But have you ever gone to a tasting that includes all three types of beverages from over a dozen different makers under one roof, right in downtown Rochester, for only $25?

If not, check out Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, the region’s largest local food festival, now in its fourth year. Unlike wine trails, this tasting doesn’t involve a long bus ride to Wisconsin or congestion in the Twin Cities. Instead, Feast! brings the best local wine, craft beer and cider to you at the Mayo Civic Center, Saturday, December 2, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Plus, the ticket price includes a multitude of culinary treats, everything from farm-sourced cheddar to mouthwatering confections, all made by food artisans in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Historic Brews

First stop: Stagecoach Brewing Company, where fascinating stories, golden ales and smoky porters are on tap for Feast! Owned by local brew master Tod Fyten, Stagecoach will be serving up the brewery’s distinguished history, dating back to 1857 in Mantorville, as well as a tipple of their Smoked Porter, award-winning Honey Golden Ale and their flagship brew, Stagecoach Amber Ale, now celebrating its 20th anniversary. 


“My lifelong passion is keeping beer local,” says Tod, who will be attending Feast! for the fourth year in a row. “Small, local breweries are what’s going to be growing in the future, and Feast! fits right into that philosophy. If you’re a person who likes local food and meeting local producers, there is nothing else like it.”

A Cider House that Rules

If hops aren’t your thing, check out the Hoch Orchard Hard Cider & Winery booth where Harry and Jackie Hoch will be pouring samples of their best-selling hard ciders—Purple Reign and Honey Honey. These easy-drinking, semi-sweet concoctions are just two of the many items made on their organic family farm in La Crescent, Minnesota. Producing five different wines, 13 carbonated ciders, two ice ciders and two still ciders—all from estate-grown, organic fruit—the Hoch family exemplifies the ability of local farms to meet local needs.

“We’ve been at Feast! since 2014,” says Jackie, whose company started out as a food vendor at the festival, selling applesauce, vinegar and other items produced on the farm. “We keep coming back because it’s important for people to realize that our area of Minnesota is very bountiful. It’s an abundant source that can provide for them. Feast! is a great place to try things that are in your own backyard and you didn’t even realize it.”

Wine with a Twist

Looking for something a bit more exotic? What about elderberry, rhubarb or cucumber wines? Then venture over to the booth for Aspelund Winery from Kenyon, Minnesota, where owners Bruce and Dawn Rohl will tantalize your taste buds with unique blends like High Country Spice, a fan-favorite tomato wine that peps up chili and pairs well with pepperoni pizza, and Liquorice Dream, a fennel wine they describe as “that after-dinner brandy.” You’ll also get a chance to sip on one of their latest offerings: Lady Cara-Mel, which incorporates caramel and apples. 

With new exhibitors, chef demos and kids activities, the 2017 Feast! Local Foods Marketplace promises to be the biggest and best yet. Tickets are available at the Mayo Civic Center on the day of the event, Saturday, December 2. Adults are $5, kids ages 2-12 are $2. Beer, wine and cider tasting is an additional $20. Pick up 2-for-1 coupons in advance at People’s Food Co-op, Rochester Children’s Museum or participating Restaurant Week locations. For more information and a complete list of exhibitors, visit local-feast.org.

Marlene Petersen is a St. Paul-based freelance writer, editor and novelist.