“I Voted” for Beer

So, it’s election day. You’ve voted, or are thinking about voting, and you deserve to be rewarded for it (GO VOTE – and don’t forget to educate yourself on who supports Sunday Sales, courtesy of MNBeerActivists).

Be thankful you live in Minnesota, not Kentucky or South Carolina, where you can’t buy alcohol on Election Day. Although it is illegal to drink and vote (obvi), here is a [CONSTANTLY UPDATED LIST OF] few Twin Cities deals that your coveted “I Voted” sticker can get you, after you vote.

Inbound Brewco: Buy one, get one beers all day with “I Voted” sticker

FREE BEER // Show us your #iVoted sticker, buy a pint, and the second one is on us // ALL DAY

A post shared by InboundBrewCo (@inboundbrewco) on

 

Sisyphus Brewing: $4 beers all day with “I Voted” sticker as well as a special barrel-aged beer from their cellar on tap.

We all deserve a beer after this election circus. #govote #mnbeer #becausebecause #vote2016

A post shared by Sisyphus Brewing (@sisyphusbrewing) on

 

Maple Island Brewing (Stillwater): “I Voted” sticker gets $2 off first pint

Town Hall Brewery: $1 for a pint at any Town Hall restaurant with “I Voted” sticker and FiveStars rewards card.

Fair State Brewing Coop: $1 off all beer and NA options in addition to a results viewing party 8-11pm. More importantly, you should consider #TonkTheVote – vote for Charlie Tonks for Best Craft Beard in Growler Mag’s Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Awards.

LynLake Brewing: $2 off a beer with a “I Voted” sticker

Modist BrewingWith your “I Voted” sticker get pPhresh – $3 for a pint, $2 for a tulip or a growler fill for $10.

Insight Brewing: Extended happy hour pricing 3-8pm ($3 pints)

Norseman Distillery: Not beer, I know, but $5 Harvey Wallbangers all night is a great idea!

 

Big Wood Brewery (White Bear): $1 off your first pint with “I Voted” sticker

 

Even liquor stores are getting into it! Lowry Hill Liquors is giving 10% off non-sale alcohol with your “I Voted” sticker.

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Blind Beer Tasting: Relying on Our Other Senses

Last Friday, I went to a blind tasting hosted by Heavy Table and the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild – my first ever. And, boy, it was tough. Never in my life had I been so faced with the inability to react to visual cues and branding. I was left to focus on my other beer-drinking senses, rather than my “does this label suck?” sense – which, if you know me, is very hard to turn off. But at the same time it was liberating to not have to worry about the company, style, reputation or branding (I guess, until after, when it was revealed and some of our opinions proved surprising).

What was fun though was experiencing the “back to basics” approach that a blind tasting brings out – it’s not about the fancy label or name (or lackthereof), how the beer fits the style guidelines (although they were in flights kind of organized by style or flavors, Brown bag 40sor recognizing it has a high ABV,  hence the tulip glass. All of the beers we tasted came in tulip glasses or beer festival tasters, adding to the intrigue (and frustration). Much like these 40s (had a few weeks ago at World Street Kitchen), hidden inside brown bags, you don’t know what’s there or how to feel about it before you taste it and truly know how you feel about it. I spent most of my time swirling and smelling – I could not get enough of the scents. Next time you have a beer, although you may look like an idiot, close your eyes and breath it all in. Never have I had so many memories or feelings flooding my brain. BEER FEELINGS!

That all being said, it was cool for me to see which beers I really liked – those that I liked with and without the branding (Indeed Burr Grinder, Summit Frost Line Rye) and those that surprised me, both positively and negatively. Check out the article to read more and see some cool pictures!

Every Good Brewery Has a Creation Story

As many of you know, there’s nothing I like more than a good brewery creation story, especially when I’m on my one-billionth brewery tour. But I’m talking deeply-rooted cultural beginnings type of creation story that defines the brewery’s entire life and being, not just “I homebrewed and I was good at it, then a lot of people said I should start a brewery so then I did.” Like all of the world’s cultures, microbreweries have—and need—them too.  Something that reminds them of why they’re doing what they’re doing, what drew them into beer, what makes them a brewer you the consumer should come to know, respect and even love, like you would your a person. The creation story is frequently alluded to in the brewery’s name or the taproom décor or the beers they brew or the names they choose for those brews. But it’s everything. No creation story, no soul.

Bent paddles on the brewery floor

You’ve heard them all. Half Pints brewery in Winnipeg was started by a man who began his brewing career at a Big Brewery where he would get free beer at the end of every shift. A family man (who told me that there are two types of brewers out there: scientists and drunks, he of course being the former) who just wanted to top off his day and get home, would only order 8 ounce pours, earning him the nickname, and name of his future brewery, “half pint”. Bent Paddle in Duluth was started by a man who, while brewing at Rock Bottom, and was looking for a mash paddle that would do the job juuuust right, and realized he had the perfect thing in the trunk of his car—a bent canoe paddle. It worked wonders, and beyond becoming the name of his own brewery, it is now a mainstay on the floor.

These stories are for real. These people are for real. Sure, maybe these quaint stories have been molded into the truths that are told by tour guides or bartenders or local beer nuts, but if we believe them to be true they are true and their stories become our stories. Like them, I’m sure you have a story of when you first discovered craft beer. Of when you first discovered your love for homebrew. Of when you began your journey into commercial-microbrewing. Mine to come at a later date.

I would say the stories are what makes craft beer so fascinating. But the weird thing is, the Big Guys have them too. They are some of the oldest and most historically-significant corporations of our time and their stories are deeply rooted in some of the same things our favorite craft breweries are, like the entrepreneurial spirit, elegant craftsmanship, and building a tradition based on that of our forefathers. But beyond that, they helped build statistics as we know it today, branding as we are in awe of today, and industry that many can only dream of. But what makes their stories different? My uncle, who pretty much only drinks Miller Lite connects to the brand as much as I connect to Indeed Brewing (which is, for the record, probably my favorite Minneapolis brewery) but dare I say he connects on an even deeper level. It was the beer his father, my grandfather, drank every day after a hard day of work a machinist; it was the beer he guzzled in college; and it is the beer he now chooses for his games of golf.

So as much as the craft beer revolution is based around being the other, microbreweries setting themselves apart from the Big Boys by defining themselves as something they’re not, intentionally creating a cultural fission between micro and macro, I only see the two becoming more similar, more united, more one. I mean, Summit is already doing throwback labels, building a brand based on nostalgia and a history of quality – um, that sounds familiar!

But I don’t have an answer to this and I definitely don’t have a solution, perhaps because I don’t truly see it as a problem (Cocky Liz just thinks “Well, macrobreweries just keep losing market share, and clamber to gain it back to no avail, so no worries. Right?”). Maybe the issue is that as craft beer lovers we’ve built a healthy amount of hatred towards the category leaders; we want to support our local favorites, our friends, our city. But how different are they really?

Wine From Water – Food and Beer Pairing

Hello! I know this a little late (a year and a month late to be exact), but I wrote it, so I want to post it. Plus it’s interesting and cool and I don’t do a lot of blog collaboration – I want to do more of that. A while ago, Nelli and Brian started a blog called Wine From Water. It’s awesome with all sorts of good recipes, commentary, and food porn photos, etc. Nelli asked me to write a little piece about pairing beer with a meal they made, so here we go!

I am so pleased to be blogging with Wine From Water; I’ve known Nelli and Brian for a long time, and well, let me just say that Nelli (and assumedly Brian) is a great cook and very adventurous when it comes to the palate. I’m just glad I have something to contribute to the mix (literally). Trust me, I know a lot about mac and cheese, because it’s pretty much the only meal I make (different variations thereof, including Annie’s, spruced up), and I know even more about beer. Here I’ve laid out different beer options for pairing beer with the two dishes Nelli and Brian have made, and a little bit about pairing beer with food to get your mind working. So next time you go to the liquor store after a grocery store run you can think about the flavors and come up with a pairing on par with the fanciest wine-only restaurant. Beer is for everyone, so I don’t want to hear that you don’t like beer. If you don’t like beer, you haven’t found the right one, so keep trying!
 
Food & Beer Pairing with Wine From Water’s Spicy Shells and Gouda Cheese recipe

You pay a small amount for a meal, you don’t want to bust your budget on beer, but you still want it to taste good and compliment the deliciousness you labored over. With a meal like this, which is generally spicy, I would recommend an IPA. IPAs can help balance the flavors of robust meals like this one, because of their high levels of hops, and are good balancers for spicy and chili flavors (like the ones found in pepperjack cheese). Spiciness also part of their history. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, if you didn’t know the lore, now you do: when the British went to explore India they brought beer (good idea guys) and then they were worried it was going to go bad (unlikely) so they put some hops in the finished beer (called dry-hopping, hehe), which makes the finish (the lasting taste in your mouth once you’ve swallowed it) incredibly bitterTwo Hearted Ale and delicious.
 
If you’re from Michigan, a good standby is Bell’s Two Hearted, and it won’t break the bank, really (I would say on average, about $10 for a 6 pack, which is pretty standard for a nice craft beer). But if you’re from Minnesota, or can get your grubby little hands on it, have yourself a Surly Furious (more IBUs – international bittering units – than your mouth can taste). It’s about $12 for a 4 pack of tallboys. Or even better, and cheaper, you could get Rush River Bubblejack ($9 for a 6 pack).
 
anchor porterIf you’re not into IPAs, that’s fine, but you’re missing out. Instead, you could pair this dish with a beer that accents the smokey flavors in the paprika topping, and can help tone down the spicy notes in the food: a porter. A cheaper more widely found porter is the Anchor Porter from Anchor Brewing, one of the oldest breweries in the United States. A good Michigan option: Founder’s Porter. Deep, dark, and delicious. That’ll run about $10, but the Anchor can be as cheap as $8.

Cheers!

The Beauty and Elegance of High-Low Beer and Food Pairing

Recently I’ve been itching to go to a beer dinner, a really delicious excuse to eat too much delicious food and drink too much delicious beer, but to be honest, they’re just too expensive. I mean $50 for a four-course meal with 4 beers is pretty reasonable, assuming that each of those beers costs $5, that’s $20 and then the dinner itself is $30. However the reason person within me thinks ‘wow, when was the last time you spent $50 just on food for yourself in a normal restaurant situation?’ I feel like beer dinners should just be cheaper – you’re a captive audience and supporter and blowing $100 on a weeknight meal for two just feels frivolous to do more than once a year. It’s ok to make it expensive sometimes especially if you’re involving a renowned chef, but to really get people excited and learning about craft beer and food/beer pairings, you have to make it more accessible – lower the cost.

However, it’s a two-fold situation. Beer-pairing dinners are the little brother to wine-pairing dinners, which are arguably more expensive and, for lack of a better word, ritzy. The discourse around wine is much more sophisticated and as are the people that talk about the ‘bouquet of the wine’ and nibble crackers in between tastings (that apparently you are not supposed to actually swallow). Wine is supposed to go with high-class food while beer goes with sporting games and burgers. But as we’ve seen recently ‘everyday’ food like burgers and grilled cheeses are become more popular, more ritzy, and definitely more expensive. So why not pair beer with those things instead of the unattainable Michelin star-type food you find matched up with wine? Well, some do, but then they charge wine dinner prices for it. Sure good quality craft beer isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely not fancy pants wine and that’s not what beer is all about so why charge like it is? Beer is for the people, even craft beer, believe it or not.

If craft beer is expensive then won’t people think it’s better and more elite, like wine? So then it practically needs to have events similar to those with wine. Craft beer no longer competes against crappy American lagers, it competes against wine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people who say they don’t like beer just haven’t found the right one. There is a larger variety of flavor profiles in beer than there is in wine because it can literally be or taste like anything – craft brewers are getting adventurous and by over-pricing beer dinners, people are missing out. Pairing craft beer with gourmet food isn’t the ‘next big thing’ because it’s here and frankly it’s unsustainable and further alienates people that craft beer has left behind. The future of craft beer and food is high-low beer pairings, bringing the people and the beer together rather than the beer to the people.

Last summer for a friend’s birthday we went to the Lagunitas and Heggie’s pizza beer-pairing dinner at the Nomad World Pub. It was awesome. For $20 we had four (five?) glasses of Lagunitas paired with five different slices of the famous bar-only Heggie’s frozen pizza. As an appetizer we had a handful of Totino’s pizza rolls in a whiskey glass served with a tasting glass of beer and then from there, the beer and pizza were flowing. Before every new pizza and beer, the local Lagunitas rep gave us a brief description of both and why they went well together – there were no white tablecloths, no cloth napkins for that matter, just a lot of beautiful patio and tasty beers. I honestly can’t tell you why there weren’t more people there – am I the only one who likes cheap craft beer and above average frozen pizza? Perhaps.

But my point still stands. Through that event, Lagunitas got their name out in the community, we got to try more Lagunitas than I have even had at a beer festival and we ate plenty – it was a successful beer dinner by all definitions.  So now I want more but I have seen none. Unlike a wine-pairing dinner that teaches people that the only way to enjoy good wine and good food is to pay a lot at a fancy restaurant, the beauty of the high-low beer pairing is that it is inexpensive for everyone and a great way to focus on the beer and how to pair and enjoy it with everyday foods. That’s what craft beer is all about.

Beer Black Hole

As I stared at the never-ending rows of craft beer at Zipp’s, overcome with indecision and displeasure, I realized that I have a problem. I am bored by craft beer in its current state. It makes me sad and grumpy and disappointed – like a parent whose child wrecked the family car and claimed it was an accident when it was clearly a case of distracted driving. I have tried so many beers, and love trying so many beers, to such an extent that it is the core element of the beer experience for me now. I no longer want to just drink a beer; I want to try a new beer. I want to evaluate it. I want to recommend it to friends and love it for that moment, for that six-pack, and move on to another. And repeat. So I just stared at the beers, settling on a tried and true brew, but I was disheartened. How many others are suffering from this illness? This I-need-a-new-brew-to-survive disease? And the answer is, I’m sure, plenty. That’s why the beer scene continues to grow and there is literally a new brewery every other week in Minneapolis. But that begs the question, when will it be enough? A sinking feeling in my stomach – never. I will endure this forever, for better or worse, until the beer industry implodes on itself from too many beers.

The Craft Beer Movement: Insider or Outsider?

“I can’t believe I became part of this movement,” I said to Hannah as we sat on the couch watching TV one lazy post-work day. I continued, “Of all the things I could’ve gotten into, it never ceases to amaze me that I got into something that is actually now a thing.” How did I know that craft beer and home-brewing were going to become as big as they are? How did I know that my love for craft beer would grow into something much more, something bordering on obsession?

The truth is, I didn’t know, but now that it has become this thing in my life I’m grateful. And I can’t help but think my own involvement helped spur the movement along. I like to think that my research and involvement helped it grow, in my own small way, as I immersed myself into craft beer culture throughout and after college. But maybe I didn’t. In 2007, craft beer was already a thing, home brewing was already a popular pastime, enjoyed by middle aged men everywhere, Minnesota already had several cart breweries and more in the works. I was just another supporter, standing watch as craft beer exploded in my face.

But Surly Brewing didn’t really open until 2006. It didn’t really become popular until the following year when it entered the main stream. It was no longer for bicyclists and beer geeks, it was for the people. People like me. Which makes me wonder, if there weren’t people like me, where would the craft beer industry be? I’m just a fangirl, going to beer fests, pretending I know more than others and that I have some claim to the movement, a little piece of the MN faction.

I could have picked anything else to devote my time to, to become my hobby or pet interest and cause in life. In the past I cared about more important things like HIV in subsaharan Africa, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, corporate social responsibility; not that I don’t care about these things anymore because I do, I just don’t blog about them. I don’t think about them on a daily basis. I don’t drink them. I don’t consume them. That’s what draws me to beer and craft beer culture. It’s more than a drink, a theory, or a product, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of life I share with many others, that gets me excited when I meet a kindred spirit who likes what I like and drinks what I drink, it’s my own little club that I can choose to share with others, and when I do, it’s oh so meaningful.

But then I meet people who are part of the movement who I don’t like: the middle aged man who loves craft beer and wants to financially support a brewery but who thinks I’m nothing more than a little girl who’s interest in craft beer is “cute.” We are not kindred spirit, we are not in the same microculture. He is everything that is wrong with the movement, elitist and demoralizing. And what about the beer snob, someone worse than me, who insists my favorite craft beer is not worthy of such title, and has plans to start the next new local microbrewery? I am them from from years past, small and stupid, my tastes unrefined and my knowledge sub-par. He is everything that is wrong with the movement, superior and disrespectful.

And then there’s me, for I too am at fault. With my knowledge I too alienate people, haughtily explaining why a room temp pint glass is better for beer than the frosty mug they grew up drinking from, scoffing at the only “local” beer on the menu at a fancy restaurant in Iowa: Leinenkugels. Have I gone too far inside the movement such that everyone else is an outsider? Such that anyone else who wants to be part of the movement, can’t be, or isn’t good enough to be?

That’s not what it’s all about, and that’s not the way to keep the movement growing and changing. That’s what keeps it stale and stagnant, the same old people making the same old beer because they know best, they know the most, they have the most at stake. Thinking that your thoughts and opinions dont matter because you just dont understand. It’s not your way of life.

In the most recent issue of the Beer Advocate magazine, on the list for what to expect in 2013 is “a stronger backlash toward those who take themselves and craft beer too seriously.” Truth. Beer is for fun, beer is for drinking, and sometimes we just need to shut the hell up and enjoy a cold one, whatever glass it comes in. So this is my goal as we move into 2013: enjoy craft beer. Love craft beer. Share the love, don’t hoard it or save it for insiders like yourself. Support knowledge and the quest for knowledge so that other people too can claim the movement for their own because it is also theirs. It is a cause worth caring about, but first people have to learn and embrace why it’s worth caring about to begin with and they can only do that if the movement is open and caring of them too.

Happy New Year and cheers to 2013!

Livin’ the American Dream: Opening a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Brewery

Every homebrewer dreams of one day taking their hobby one step further and living the American dream: becoming a craft brewing hero. It just seems like the logical next step, you’ve been brewing for x number of years and what else is there to do next? Sell your beer, hear compliments form the masses, grow even bigger, supply the United States with your beer and your love of beer. And why not? Everyone keeps telling you it’s wonderful and they would definitely pay for it at a bar, it’s legit, so you should open your own brewery already!

But anyone who knows anything about the craft beer industry knows how hard it is to open a microbrewery, much less a tap room or figure out how to convince distributers to sell said beer.  It’s much more complicated than the simple dream of artfully crafting the best tasting beer – which many of us believe we are already doing. But everything tells us how easy it is, the sheer number of breweries opening up makes us think, “Hey, if they can do it, so can I!” but it’s hard. Really hard. Work you to the bone and cry every night because you’re not sure if you’re going to make it hard. But once you do, you’re guaranteed to be as cool as Omar, and don’t we all want to be as cool as Omar? He’s the owner of Surly, in case you’re not in the know. It’s time to stop admiring the modern art and saying, “Oh, I could do that,” when in reality we probably couldn’t, but we want to so bad. It’s time to put our money where our mouths are. Literally. Shit is expensive.

But having said all that, the dream still lives on, even in me – especially in me. We as homebrewers and craft beer lovers can’t help but think about what could be; because we constantly surround ourselves with and support other microbreweries that grew up out of the same dream, like surrogate children, we love them, and secretly or not so secretly long for one of our own.

One day, I want to open my own microbrewery, or nanobrewery, or brewpub – I’d even settle for liquor store. And if I don’t or can’t then I want to be part of one beyond what I am already doing right now – I want to help craft the beer and build the brand of a bright and shiny new brewery in Minnesota (or wherever else is in need of one, I’m looking at you Sioux City). I want to market it and pour it down people’s throats because as anyone in in marketing knows, you can market nothing better than something you love and truly believe in. And for me, it’s not better healthcare or Totino’s pizza rolls, it’s the craft beer revolution.

The dream was born for me when I was driving with my boyfriend and his parents to a family cabin up north by the boundary waters (if you’re not from Minnesota, the boundary waters is probably the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of landscapes. Let me rephrase: it is the most beautiful landscape that makes me proud to be from this land. It’s all majestic with eagles and shit) and in order to get there we drove through Cloquet, a small town south of Duluth that is really more of a crossroads, but less Wild West and more Iron Range. They told me about this place, but I had no idea what to expect, and then there it was, as we slowed to a stop underneath its beautiful awning: Frank Lloyd Wright’s one and only service station. It’s small, and reminiscent of the aforementioned Wild West that he sometimes alludes to with his flat roofs and Route 66 stylings, but it was different; everything about it screamed Midwest, and sadly, Struggling. Just a few pumps and a garage, it was dead. No one was fueling here, taking in the shade from the greened copper roof, but there it stood, proud of its heritage, uncertain of its future.

The gas station is part of FLW’s Broadacre City Project, a “utopian vision of a new urban landscape”: suburbs in the city, cities in the suburbs – he had plans to put skyscrapers in the middle of the plains and everything. I mean, the man was crazy, but a genius. A reaction to and embracing the push to the suburbs, somewhat socialist in theory (everyone in this city gets one acre), his vision incorporated beauty and art can still reign, all with a touch of Japan.

I don’t know why he chose to put the service station in Cloquet of all places (it actually has something to do with its namesake, R. W. Lindholm, for whom he later designed a home), but this is where my dream truly came to life. I began to daydream, transforming the mechanic’s shop into a taproom, with its glass garage doors open to the summer breeze that Minnesotan’s seek in the warmer months up north, serving elegantly hopped and perfectly heady black IPAs – the oxymoron that pairs nicely with the historical surroundings. Would there be an oatmeal stout on the menu too, you ask? Of course. Available all year round.

Since it’s a garage, the floors would be already sloped, so that would be the easy part, but the difficult part is a much larger feat: transforming a national historical site into a brewery; I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed. But think about the delight it would bring to travelers, wanderers, passersby, and more importantly the town and Minnesota as a whole. This was FLW’s dream: to bring functional art to the people through architecture whether they wanted it or not. The pumps would stay, of course, but the gas station would be transformed into a modern fueling station of sorts, bustling with people at all times of the year, because as Minnesotans we know that even in the winter we want our beer and are willing to go out in the cold to get it.

I was further inspired when I went to Marquette, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula where I drank at undoubtedly the coolest nanobrewery I’ve ever been to, Blackrocks. It’s a similar concept, make a house into a brewery, put in a bar, and make it the ultimate hang out place for pretty much everyone in and around the town including visitors like myself, hungry for a pint of the good stuff. They hang personalized mugs from the ceiling for the regulars and provide ever-changing wonderful beers – when I went there it was IPA week—exercising that brewer’s muscle.

Apparently the FLW gas station was recently sold and I’m not sure to whom or for how much or how well it’s doing now (according to this NPR article from August of 2008, the current owner is “not sure how long it can remain privately owned”), but I want it and I want it bad. I want to make it into a destination tap room and nanobrewery. I want the American dream.

Oh, Hello Again!

As some of you have mentioned (somewhat passive aggressively) to me over the past few months, I have been neglecting the ol’ beerspectacles and for this I have no excuses, only apologies. As of late I’ve been enjoying the summer and the beer events it has to offer while trying to build my online presence and experience through beer blogging and journalistic-related endeavors. So in a way this blog post is actually pretty weak, I’m just here to tell you about the different sites and things I’ve been working on/with to try to get you to support them too, and to let you know I still care (I even have a new layout, don’t you like it?).

MNBeer.com

Many of you are already familiar with MNBeer.com or should be; it is Minnesota’s premier beer blog filled with events, goings on, interviews, spotlights, and basically anything and everything you need to know to be as on top of the beer scene as I have. About a month ago, Ryan, the main MNBeer.com dude sent out a call to all followers asking for more hands at blogging, naturally I was very interested. After meeting him at the St. Paul Beer Fest (which was awesome by the way, the best I’ve been to yet), he decided it would be a good fit and I was given a log-in and an assignment and so began my journey with MNBeer, which is only just beginning. They are going to do a full rebrand and website redesign, so stay tuned for more about the blossoming Minnesota beer scene; the most exciting thing I’m looking forward to: Ryan is making a beer blog aggregate! I will also be receiving tickets/passes/other shit related to Minnesota beer, so if you’re ever interested in going to something let me know, my answer is almost always ‘yes.’

The Growler Magazine

One of my friend’s friends passed me along to Jason Zabel (you may recognize him from the now-defunct AV Club Twin Cities) who is the editor of the Twin Cities newest beer magazine: The Growler. I sent him my credentials and some story ideas and was assigned a story about biking in the Twin Cities and how various breweries/styles of beer pair with the different kinds of bikes people ride. This article is scheduled to come out in the August/September issue, which is both online and print. The Growler is a subsidy of The Beer Dabbler, Minnesota’s most successful beer festival organizer (despite my gripes from this year’s winter one), and is paid for by advertising, which makes it free to the public, available at your favorite taproom, liquor store, or homebrewing supply store. Go grab yourself a copy and be expecting to see a lot more of me in there! Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.

Fusion Chill

As many of you know, I also have a day job that I am technically not allowed to blog about here, so I will not. However, I can’t NOT talk about the beer-brewing I spear-headed for our summer client event. If you follow me on Twitter (@beerspectacles) than you’ve been witnessing the beer as it fermented, but the final update: the beers turned out better than I would’ve ever expected and the turnout at the party was great. More importantly, people LOVED the beer and there was a lot of talk about leaving my job. But as many of us avid homebrewers know, there’s plenty of homebrewers out there who want to brew professionally, but very few actually go through with it – it’s just a dream the helps spur the craft rather than change the path. But maybe one day, a girl can dream. One of our graphic designers did a killer job on the labels as well as coordinated decorations. The three beers: A lightly smoked apple and pear hard cider (everyone’s favorite despite naysaying at the outset), a coffee porter (less people are into these in the summer, but I drank my fair share), and a classic American IPA (for men, since as you may know, I work for an all-female company and we have male clients). Brewing three batches at once isn’t the easiest thing in the world, because it ends up being about a day’s worth of work whatever way you look at it, but it’s fun to get paid to brew beer with your coworkers.

That’s it for now, folks. I have other posts in the works (have been for a while) and I promise – pink swear – that I will be better about my avid beerspectacles fans. I love you all. Cheers!

What You Need to Know: Minnesota Brewpubs are Fighting for Their Right to Brew

No one can deny it: Minnesota is in the midst of a fantastic and delightful beer renaissance. Things are changing and they’re changing fast. Part of why I’m here is to keep you updated on all things beer, especially as they relate to Minnesota. You may remember from an earlier post that there are many, although not a TON of brewpubs in the Twin Cities (unless you count Granite City, in which case, shame on you). The ones that are out there are really great, there’s no denying that, but I mean, what is there that ISN’T great about a brewpub? Craft beer brewed on a small scale? Check. You can visit the brewery? Check. You’re SITTING in it looking at the brewing equipment. You can eat there too WHILE you drink their beers? Double check (and sometimes they even PAIR the food for you! Swoon). You can support a local business while supporting your local brewery and local appetite with local friends? Check. Check. Annnnd… Check.

So what’s the deal? Well, you’ve heard about the Surly Bill, right? You know, the one that passed that allow Surly to build their destination brewery (still in the works)? Well that was great, but it didn’t do anything for our fabulous brewpubs and now they want a piece of the legislation-change pie too. If you’ve ever been to the Town Hall Brewery, and I hope you have, or if you haven’t, you have plans to go there in the very near future, you leave thinking ‘Damn. I want more of this beer.’ And it’s your right, as a consumer, to demand it. That’s what the new legislation is doing, making a strong push for brewpubs to be able to sell their beer offsite (bottles, growlers, on tap, whatever). Read more here, it’s not all sunshine and roses.

It’s a little complicated because there’s actually two parts to this. Not only is it legislation to allow brewpubs to sell their beer not just for consumption on-site, but it would also allow local breweries that do not currently sell their wares in cans/bottles in the state to sell them in growlers off-site (at liquor stores). That’s great news for breweries like Harriet (you have to go there to get your growler filled. It’s not a bad thing, but why just stop there? They want their beer OUT THERE to get more people IN THERE if you know what I mean), but Surly could care less (their cans are everywhere and they have a huge waiting list of other liquor stores that want some of that distribution).

I mean, I’m sure Surly cares, because for the beer scene right now it’s about helping others and creating a SCENE and not necessarily competition, but Surly already cans and is sold locally in said cans, so it’s all good. But wouldn’t it be sweet to be able to buy growlers in liquor stores? I mean not on Sunday because that would be sinful, but any other day of the week before 10pm?! Yes, please. Then I wouldn’t have to go to Duluth anymore for my growlers of the Big Boat Oatmeal Stout (or make my friends bring it back for me, thanks guys!), I could just pick it out of a growler line-up at the liquore store and come back for more.

Recently Herkimer hired a new head brewer to mix things ups and start making awesome beer again; Town Hall has one of the best brewers around; I’ve never been to Barley John’s but I want to and when I do I’m sure I’ll have a positive opinion about it. In general, a brewpub is easier to open than a brewery (you don’t have to slope all of the floors for drainage, you can use less space, you put less into it right away because you have restaurant revenue, etc.) but why are there so few? Probably because there isn’t that much growth opportunity, another reason for this legislation change. And there’s nothing worse than a brewer limited. Why hire a new brewmaster if you’re just going to tell them to ‘change things’ and then tell them ‘oh but don’t get too crazy.’ Brewpubs are putting in the effort to make good beer, restaurant-goers are putting in the time trying and loving brewpubs’ good beers, so why shouldn’t it be available at other places too (liquor stores, bars, etc.)?

Perhaps the title of my post is a little too apocalyptic, but if you know me at all, you know I stand by the things I say (never stand down!), and I stand by this. Even though this is legislation that’s fighting for brewpubs to expand and be able to make more beer and make more money on the beer they’re selling off-site, it’s really for the right to continue to brew, and not just be the sideshow to a restaurant. And let them brew, I say! If the legislation doesn’t pass and brewpubs can’t sell growlers of their beer, I guess they’ll still be able to brew, but it’s not the same, knowing that they are being denied something that, quite frankly, the people want.

This weekend I was in New Jersey visiting my friend Laura and we went to a local brewpub called Harvest Moon and I was chatting about the new Minnesota laws with one of her friends and it occurred to me: Minnesota DOES have antiquated liquor/beer laws, and it makes me sad and excited at the same time. To me it’s just a constant reminder that we’re behind everyone else (a fact which is sometimes thrown in my face by my East Coast friends about the Midwest in general). Just LOOK at Colorado or Oregon and their killer beer scene. They’ve been doing it for years, they’re pros. And here we are, weak little Midwesterners trying to get our shit together to be anywhere CLOSE to what they are. But we still continue to try.

I may sound angry, but I’m not. It’s more motivating than anything. It’s inspiring to know that things can still change and we’re making it happen, and that ultimately, it can happen for other states too if they want it to and they’re wiling to fight for it. We’re making waves and people are noticing. It’s just a bummer that we have to make the stupid waves to get what we want—why do these laws still exist? Then again, if it all came easy and we all drank wonderful craft beer all the time like we were from Portland (#RCTID) or something, our beer wouldn’t taste as sweet, the literal fruit of our labor.

So, support your local brewpub and smile because you’re from Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, legislation changes, and hopefully in the future: 10,000 brews.

A little Minnesota Beer nostalgia for you. The Grain Belt Beer sign in NE, a reminder of what NE used to mean for beers and brewing, and a taste of what it could be.