See more of the story

What bev­er­age com­ple­ments the sweet­ness of a Sweet Mar­tha’s cook­ie? Which wine or beer wash­es down a gi­ant tur­key leg?

These are ques­tions dis­cern­ing eat­ers could con­tem­plate on a cul­i­nary jaunt to the Min­ne­so­ta State Fair. Pair­ing the per­fect drink with favorite foods might sound hoity toity, but when done right, it can en­hance the fla­vors in what­ever is hid­ing be­neath a lay­er of fried dough.

Some­times find­ing the right pair­ing comes down to per­son­al taste. “If you want to kick back with al­li­ga­tor sau­sage and have a dill pick­le beer, then to each his own. It’s re­al­ly no­bod­y’s busi­ness,” said Les­lee D. Mill­er, a som­me­lier and the own­er of wine con­sult­ing firm Amusée and the na­tion­al wine club, Sip Bet­ter.

But there is some sci­ence behind the best food and drink matchups, and it ap­plies wheth­er you’re at Demi or a din­er — or even the State Fair.

Con­sider the fat con­tent (high would usually be an un­der­state­ment), wheth­er the food is creamy or salty, sweet or sa­vor­y. A­cid­ic wines go well with rich, oily foods. So do bub­bles. Sour, fruity beers match well with ber­ry-based dish­es. A stout and ice cream? Made for each oth­er.

“It de­pends on what you like to eat at the fair,” said Lauren Ben­nett Mc­Gin­ty, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Min­ne­so­ta Craft Brew­ers Guild. “If you’re eat­ing all fried foods, it could be weigh­ing you down. Go with light­er beers: pil­sners, kölsches, a light Mexi­can lager.” Want to eat a little of ev­er­y­thing? Try a flight of beers; the Guild is of­fer­ing ro­tat­ing com­bi­na­tions from 90 Min­ne­so­ta beers at their sta­tion in the Agriculture Hor­ti­cul­ture Building.

And be sure to a­bide by your own mood be­fore fol­low­ing any­one else’s guide­lines. Meat, like the pork chop on a stick, goes nice­ly with a glass of Min­ne­so­ta Mar­quette wine, and Mill­er would rec­om­mend a Fron­te­nac with a tur­key leg. But “hon­est­ly, if I’m going to hang onto a gi­ant tur­key leg, I don’t want to get bou­gie with a glass of wine,” she said. “Go straight to the beer build­ing.”

Other things to think a­bout when pick­ing your drink are the spe­cif­ic fla­vors, like man­go, cin­na­mon, and yes, pick­le, that made their way into the wine­mak­ing or brew­ing proc­ess. Many of the more off-the-wall State Fair bev­er­age cre­a­tions are riffs on clas­sic fair foods; Mini Donuts, Fun­nel Cake, Cot­ton Candy are some of the treats that now come drink­able, and foods with the same ele­ments can match nice­ly — or be o­ver­kill, de­pend­ing on how much you love them.

“You can’t do any­thing bet­ter than the Mini Donut Beer paired to some­thing like Tom Thumb Donuts,” Mill­er said. “That’s pret­ty much a hit out of the park there.”

Corn Dog and Funnel Cake: Corn Dog and Funnel Cloud F2 Ale
Corn Dog and Funnel Cake: Corn Dog and Funnel Cloud F2 Ale

Provided

Sim­i­lar­ly, the new Fun­nel Cloud F2 Ale from Bad Weath­er Brewing Co., with the fla­vors of light­ly toast­ed bread and va­nil­la, could be the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to an age-old fun­nel cake. But Nick Man­ci­ni, head chef at Man­ci­ni’s al Fres­co, where Fun­nel Cloud is sold, says he’d have the beer with a Pon­cho Dog corn dog. The sweet­ness in the bat­ter would be a match to the hint of des­sert in the brew.

That Dill Pick­le Kölsch from Tin Whisk­ers Brewing, at Gig­gles’ Camp­fire Grill, has al­read­y be­come a fair leg­end in its short life span. In­fused with dill and cu­cum­ber, it’s gar­nished with a pick­le and a cube of Ha­var­ti cheese. They’re onto some­thing with that little skew­er. Take it a step fur­ther with a bas­ket of fried cheese curds, Mill­er said.

Alligator and Hot sauce: Deep-Fried Alligator Bites and Michelada
Alligator and Hot sauce: Deep-Fried Alligator Bites and Michelada

Provided

New at Tejas Express, the Michelada is as close to a cock­tail as you can get on the fair­grounds. It’s Mi­che­lob Golden Light mixed with hot sauce, lime juice and spices, and it goes great with “some­thing sau­sage-y,” Mill­er said. A clas­sic Pol­ish sau­sage would be a win, but so would any ar­ray of al­li­ga­tor dish­es from Bay­ou Bob’s.

An­oth­er new beer this year, called the Great Min­ne­so­ta Hand­shake, is a col­lab­o­ra­tion from In­deed Brewing Co. and the Freehouse, and is sold at the Blue Barn. The straw­ber­ry milk­shake cream ale has lac­tose in it, lend­ing it a creamy mouthfeel, not un­like a real shake. Per­fect for tam­ing down spic­y food, said In­deed mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Kelly Moritz. But here’s a next-level sug­ges­tion: “A buck­et of those French fries,” Moritz said. “It’s the i­de­a of when you’d get a milk­shake and dip your fries in it, it’s al­ways deli­cious. I can’t re­al­ly think of any­thing bet­ter.”

For des­sert, choose wheth­er you want to go the wine or beer route.

Cream and bubbles: Cream Puffs and Lavender Lemonade Bubble Trouble
Cream and bubbles: Cream Puffs and Lavender Lemonade Bubble Trouble

Provided

The Hide­a­way Speakeasy’s new La­ven­der Lem­on­ade Bub­ble Trou­ble com­bines Can­non River Spar­kling E­del­weiss with la­ven­der-in­fused lem­on­ade. The spar­kling as­pect would match well with fried pas­tries, and “some­thing with a cream fill­ing would be re­al­ly deli­cious,” Mill­er said. So, use this wine cock­tail as an ex­cuse to vis­it the longtime Cream Puffs ven­dor, sell­ing noth­ing but, well, cream puffs.

Chocolate and fruit: Deep-Fried Oreo and Frosé Wine Slushie
Chocolate and fruit: Deep-Fried Oreo and Frosé Wine Slushie

Provided

A few ven­dors are of­fer­ing frosé, a fro­zen pink wine slushie with vari­ous juic­es mixed in. Min­ne­so­ta Wine Country’s stand in­corpo­rates a wa­ter­mel­on twist, while oth­er icy blend­ed wines high­light peach or rasp­berry. Mill­er, who hosts three bev­er­age pair­ing class­es at the Wine Country booth, likes those fro­zen wines with a deep-fried Oreo. “Think a­bout what main fla­vors stick out,” she said. “Choc­o­late and rasp­ber­ries? That’s pret­ty magi­cal.”

For beer, Ben­nett Mc­Gin­ty gravi­tates to­ward dark­er, choc­o­lat­y brews, “some­thing like a black ale with cof­fee add­ed.”

A por­ter, which can be less thick than an in­dul­gent stout, would pair well with a cold treat from the Dairy Building. But if stout is your thing, go for it.

“Frank­ly, if you’re eat­ing any­thing at the State Fair, it’s OK to in­dulge in some heavi­er beers,” she said. “It’s one of those cheat days.”

Cookies and milk: Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar and milk
Cookies and milk: Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar and milk

Provided

Last but not least, the ul­ti­mate pair­ing ques­tion: What would you sip with a buck­et of Sweet Mar­tha’s choc­o­late chip cook­ies? You don’t need a som­me­lier’s de­gree to fig­ure that one out.

Just head to the All You Can Drink Milk booth.