“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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Monty Loves Beer

As some of you may know, a few months ago, I got a welsh terrier puppy – his name is Monty. In case you didn’t know, here is an adorable picture of him that my friend took while enjoying a happy hour on a nearby dog-friendly restaurant’s sidewalk.

Monty: little dog, big city

As a new pet owner, I’ve learned a lot of things, but one of the most important, and delighting, is that Monty loves beer. I know he loves it by how he gravitates towards my fermenters in the corner of the dining room, licking up whatever spills may have congealed around the sides, how he licks the sides of every can or glass I drink a cold one from and how he digs through the recycling just to keep tabs on which new brews I’m trying out. But, alas, dogs can’t have alcohol, i.e. beer. So instead he must live vicariously through me, watching me savor every sip. And savor I shall.

In an effort to help Monty watch me enjoy beer, and to have all of us enjoy the shit out of the summer since we’ve had the world’s longest winter, I’ve resolved to take him to as many outdoor/dog-friendly beer-related places as possible, including but not limited to: breweries, tap rooms, restaurants, bars, parks, drinking in the park, etc. So join us on our doggone fun adventure by reading summary posts here and following my live updates on my twitter @beerspectacles, with the hashtag #MontyLovesBeer.

Cheers!

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.

My Beer Myopia

 

As I stared at the long list of bottled beers at the Epic tap-less taproom, my mind drew a blank. I was stunned by the sheer volume of beers and only 30 minutes in which to drink them before they closed the place down. I have never seen so many beers available at a taproom before. My friend Blackmer and I bellied up to the bar where the above-average looking bartender stood chatting with another customer. This was no ordinary taproom, this was a tap room in Salt Lake City, Utah. What was once a notoriously barren desert of craft beer (due to a strict 3.2% law with a religious bent) now has a couple cactuses and, boy, are the cactuses flowering – at high gravity nonetheless (only because they have to; the law states that if a beer is above 3.2% it has to be in a bottle, so that’s a nice loophole).

The man sitting at the bar next to me, a business man also staying at my hotel but for a trade show, was also clearly very knowledgeable about beer, suggested I try their Copper Cone Pale Ale, saying it was one of the best he’s ever had. He asked me what my favorite IPA was – not just beer, but IPA. This is not the first time I have encountered this question but it was the first time I was hyperaware of my lack of beer knowledge in this particular situation and my desire to not only seem knowledgeable but interesting in my beer tastes. Anything I said wouldn’t have resonated with him, he doesn’t know Surly Furious or the Rush River Bubble Jack – or maybe he does, but he wouldn’t have truly understood what they meant to me on a deeper level, as a proud Midwesterner; he was clearly intimate with the beers of the West, and I was dumbstruck, paralyzed by my own inability to commit and be judged outside of my flannel comfort zone. I avoided the question, saying I would gladly take his recommendation but I sat tentatively on the edge of my seat. What had I gotten myself into?

The sad truth is I am honestly used to knowing more about beer than the majority of the people around me, and even if they have a strong opinion that I would fundamentally disagree with (I don’t believe in hopped-stupid beers and I firmly believe that Fulton is a good brewing company), we’re on the same page. Naturally I am one page ahead of them, or so I like to think, but that page is definitely in the chapter known as ‘Minnesota and other upper Midwest breweries.’ It was at that moment, as I took a bite into the best prosciutto and Gruyere panini I’ve ever had (it even had honey on it, what?!), I realized – I have become too myopic in my beer crusade. If I cannot even commit to a universal, or at least national, IPA that I genuinely enjoy, I am doing something wrong.

The real kicker is, however, the realization that I am ignorant of other awesome beers out there, making me the most insufferable beer snob akin to only those who reside in Portland, complacent with their local beer selection and ever-so-gently reminding you that no, craft beer from Portland is the best. I only really know my local beers, and as I said in my Growler magazine article, my favorite anytime beer is the Summit Oatmeal Stout (don’t even go there, I already recognized in said article that it is a silly choice, but I’m just being honest). If I am to be the craft beer lover and advocate I pretend to be, I need to do more in the way of higher education; as we all know, education doesn’t end in school, it’s everything you do all the time – good thing I drink beer all the time, so that part is easy. But the hard part is going out and seeking things you haven’t tried before and not just putting beers from the coasts on a pedestal as the end-all-be-all, an attitude that I attribute to my reactive Midwestern beer myopia, which in a way is almost just as bad. It is exploring all the styles, beers and breweries you can get your hands on to get a better understanding of the larger context, and more specifically, the ability to just shut the hell up and pick a favorite IPA that everyone knows and can relate to. So, watch out, America – this beer snob is about to get a much-needed beer education.