Voyage North

If you have read several of my posts, I’m sure you’re noticing a recurring theme: I like going up north. When any opportunity allows me some extended time away, I can usually be found in my car headed up 35 in an instant. After a rather involved month of May, I was more than eager to get out of the Cities and enjoy some time in the woods.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I went up to Grand Marais Minnesota, a place so far up the shoreline that when you look out over The Lake, you’re actually looking south (as opposed to likely looking east / northeast over the Lake when in Duluth). Unfortunately, the views weren’t exactly spectacular upon arrival. In the morning I woke up to this…

IMG_7282
Stunning 20ft of Lake Superior

But not one to let any fog dampen my spirits, I went out and explored the area which of course included a stop at Grand Marais’s own brewery, Voyageur Brewing. Situated right off the main road / 61, Voyageur nicely fits within the core of Grand Marais. At first glance, it’s a modest yet pleasant-looking building on the side of road with only its name across the top to identify it as Voyageur. No other bold signage sticks out to shout that the brewery exists, which I found refreshing. The inside, however, is a open space with lots of room for patrons. At the time that I visited, the brewery was understandably busy due to the long weekend and also to a local band performing. I grabbed a flight and decided to head upstairs to the rooftop patio, despite the weather conditions remaining mostly unchanged and the view offering one shade of gray.

IMG_7379
A flight on the rooftop

These beers are good brews. Each one that I tasted I thoroughly enjoyed, and my favorite turned out to be their Trailbreaker Belgian Wit. The Devil’s Kettle IPA provided a significant hop dankness that was potent yet balanced (and I was sad that I wasn’t able to visit its namesake on this trip). The Palisade Porter was the perfect dark beer option that I was craving on gray day. Others that I also sampled included their seasonals: Muddy Boots Maibock and the Maple Hill Smoked Roggenbier.

I find that I have more appreciation for well-made beers. Doing just that alone is worthy of praise. A brewery doesn’t have to make the craziest creation in the world. Certainly fun creations have their place and they’re enjoyable, but having a solid line-up of beer is just as important. Voyageur is doing exactly this. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I visited, and I walked away very satisfied. I would’ve been content to have any one of their beers on a given day, and I think that says something. In fact, I spied the Trailbreaker in a liquor store last week and reminded myself that I’d need to purchase some for myself soon.

If you’re up in the Arrowhead, I highly recommend stopping by at Voyageur to experience this unique north shore brewery. It’s a good location with good people and good beer. All in all, that sounds like the good ol’ Minnesotan way to me.

 

A Modist Opening

Mod beer

It started out where most of us hear a lot of news – social media. I’d been watching the hype grow on various outlets for some time, and as someone who likes beer, it naturally sparked my interest. It was all about the newest brewery on the block, Modist Brewing. So, a few weekends ago, I ventured over to take in the grand opening of Modist Brewing.

What a treat it was! The beer is delicious, the space is very accommodating, and the location is ideal. The taproom was naturally busy on the first Friday of being open, but the flow of people allowed patrons the opportunity to wander through the space to either take in the sights of the production area or enjoy the cityscape on the outdoor patio.

The beer that I grabbed for myself before I attempted to find my friends in the crowd was the pHresh. I was in the mood for something a bit lighter, and at 4.8% ABV with a tantalizing flavor description, my choice was easy. The beer was perfectly refreshing after my bike ride over to the brewery. With an incredibly clean texture and crisp flavor, I would’ve biked away dragging a keg of it behind me if I could.

So it’s no surprise that over the course of 3 days, Minneapolis apparently drank them out of beer as evident from this tweet from Modist the Monday following their open…

Tweet

Had I not joined up with my friends later than I intended, right as they were about to disband, I would’ve easily had another 2 pHresh beers. It’s one I that want to have in stock on a constant basis in my fridge, or in my car for any camping/cabin trips.

Keep brewing friends, because not only do I want to enjoy some more beers of yours soon, but so does the entire city! Congrats on your open and I will be back to see you very soon!

About a Stout

Stout

This is a beer alert blog post: the Goose is loose.

While out on a ride-along day with one of the Clear River reps in south Minneapolis on Monday, we planned to end our day at my habitual favorite spot, The Pig & Fiddle. Having already arranged to meet one of the staff members that afternoon, I went in knowing I’d have a beer and a good time chatting with my friends.

But I didn’t just have any beer. As I sat down, I was promptly told that the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout had just been tapped. And when you hear that, you don’t say “no”. I immediately ordered one. A winter beer making a sneaky springtime appearance? Well played Fiddle, and I’m all for it, especially since I have taste for dark, strong beers. The Goose Bourbon County Stout doesn’t disappoint. It clocks in at 14% ABV. BeerAdvocate rates it as a 100, which is no surprise. I sipped it over almost 2 hours and got more animated as the time passed, likely to the amusement of my drinking companions. This beer will get to you… 

And because I was among friends, the infamous beer shots were frequent. After downing a shot of our 8.5% Hoodoo dubbel, conversation turned to the fact that I own a chainsaw and currently have it in the trunk of my car.

“Who just drops the fact that they have a chainsaw in their trunk?!” my Clear River rep exclaimed. The beer buyer for Pig & Fiddle gave him a deadpan look back and replied “…why do you think we have Boom Island on tap?” Perhaps I should use my chainsaw as a selling point more often…

If you want to get an amazing beer on tap that you are not likely to find anywhere else, get down to Pig & Fiddle ASAP and order yourself a pour of the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. You will not be disappointed.

So don’t meander, get that gander.

Urban Sauna Society

Sauna

Last week as I was monitoring social media for Boom Island and vaguely wondering what I wanted to do over the upcoming weekend, I happened to catch a quick glance at a tweet from the Growler: “Sauna visits Dangerous Man.” I’d heard of this unique, mobile sauna before, called Little Box Sauna, having seen a few other articles drift in through various social media platforms about its residencies downtown and at Como, made possible through the 612 Sauna Society. As an avid sauna fan, I hadn’t investigated the Little Box Sauna but was more intrigued when I saw it paired with a nearby brewery. After offering a session to a friend of mine as a birthday gift, I booked us some tickets and we were set for Saturday!

Both of us arrived to Dangerous Man wondering where this sauna on a trailer was hidden, but we soon were able to figure it out – simply by following the smell of the fire. We were greeted by our friendly host who gave us a quick run-down of the sauna procedures. After donning our bathing suits, we went inside and happily sat and sweated, the temperatures getting up to about 180 (which is still cold, according to the sauna meister). Joined by 4 other women (2 of which were from the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization and made it all happen), all of us had a great time sitting, sweating and trading stories about other sauna experiences and life. Whenever a cool-down was needed, we’d walk back outside in the middle of northeast wearing nothing but a bathing suit, our faces red from the heat and streaked with sweat. As one of the women commented to me after I was about to go back in after a cool down, “You’re very pink. It looks good on you!” I laughed in appreciation, as I’m known for being very pale (and was the most pale of the bunch, not to my surprise). Water for drinking as well as dousing is available, and I opted to do a quick douse by splashing a bit of water on my neck and sternum.

After our relaxing hour and a half together that had all of us lazing on the outdoor chairs, slathering on coconut oil that I’d brought, we were completely refreshed and in need of a beer. My friend and I intended to go into Dangerous Man, but the atmosphere was too lively after our quiet, almost meditative sweat session, so we opted for the nearby Mill NE. There I had a Hammerheart beer, which seemed very appropriate after doing sauna. My friend took a sip and commented “Oh yeah, that’s a Marta beer.” Apparently I’m becoming known for my liking of darker, stronger beers.

It was an amazing way to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend having a sauna session with Little Box Sauna. Even though it was at Dangerous Man, no beer was allowed in the sauna itself, only water. I have, however, been known to drink beer in a sauna far up north where the owner (and my good friend) doesn’t just allow beer in the sauna, he encourages it! Granted, you have to proceed with caution when you’re enjoying a beer and sauna at the same time  but if you usually employ common sense, I doubt you’ll have any issue. Just be sure, whether there is beer or not, to bring water into the sauna – you’ll need it!

After the Saturday sauna session and celebratory beers, I returned home and came close to passing out on my couch. If you do decide to have a beer, either during your sauna or after, it’s probably best to be somewhat close to a place where you can allow yourself to rest. There really isn’t anything quite like doing a good, hot sauna to make you feel refreshed, even if it means you’re likely to take a nap for the rest of the day. Keep your eyes open for the Little Box Sauna in the future – you just might find me there.

 

Drinking North

Birch Trees
Winter scene on the Superior Hiking Trail

Going “up north” is something that seems innate in most Minnesotans, and I’ve definitely got it bad. I have a love affair with getting up to Duluth and beyond. Not only is the scenery stunning at any point of the year, but it offers an opportunity to enter another world, one that is inspired by the wilderness that is right out the backdoor.

I enjoyed a long weekend up north in earlier this month and on my recent trip, it was my aim to not only get away from it all but to also visit a few specific places up north. Here’s a recap of where I went and what I tried…


 

Castle Danger Brewing

CastleDanger2

My first venture out was to Castle Danger Brewing where they are responsible for crafting one of my favorite beers, which is their Castle Cream Ale. On this excursion to their taproom, I opted to get their Big Dumb Stout on nitro, which had been brewed with maple syrup from Sawtooth Mountain Maple Syrup Co. just up the shore out of Lutsen. The experience of drinking this beer was one of the smoothest that comes to recent memory. With a thick body but velvet texture, this beer slid down easy which was welcome after my non-stop drive straight up from Minneapolis to Duluth. One of the bartenders offered me an exclusive staff-only version, being a miniature stout float, and the Big Dumb was handed to me in a tasting glass with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top and a spoon on the side. The results were perfect as I enjoyed perusing my Superior Hiking Trail book and plotted out a hike for the next day.


 

Bent Paddle Brewing

Bent3

The following day, I took off on a 3.5 mile hike on the Superior Hiking Trail near Crow Creek. After cutting trail for myself (sometimes through knee-deep snow) and going up and down 2 ridges, I was ready for a beer and headed into Duluth to visit Bent Paddle. Being a Friday afternoon, it was filled with locals out supporting their local taproom. I started with a Venture Pilsner which was the perfect, refreshing brew after my hike. As luck would have it, I found myself seated at the bar next to a rep from Bauhaus, and the two of us drank away the time while discussing a variety of beer-related topics. We were then treated to a quick peek into the production facilities along with a fast taste of their soon-to-be-released barrel-aged Double Shot Double Black Ale. I had to remind myself that my sample was being shared with me from one of the staff, and that I couldn’t down the entire thing, which I came very close to doing.  My next beer was a special cask featuring mosaic and simcoe hops, a stark but tasty contrast to the Double Shot.

I highly enjoyed my visit to Bent Paddle. Not only do these guys brew good beer, but they’re taking a stand for the environment which is an issue that is close to my heart. I love our northern Minnesota scenery, and I’m proud to see (and support) a brewery that also believes in preserving that for generations to come. Well done!


 

Vikre Distillery

Vikre3

The next day was my visit to Vikre Distillery which is located in a prime location in Duluth: right by the lift bridge on Lake Avenue. In an old brick building and with the tanks fully visible, you feel a bit like you’re stepping back in time. I sat at the small bar and decided to try a flight of 4 spirits: 2 gins and 2 aquavits. Each one was distinctly different and offered a unique tasting experience:

  • Boreal Spruce Gin – for me, lavendar was the prominent aroma and flavor that I encountered in this spirit, highly enjoyable
  • Boreal Cedar Gin – my 2nd favorite among the 4 that I tried. Aged on cedar wood and with hints of sumac and currant, this was a spectacular and unique gin
  • Ørevann Aquavit – this was the winner and came home with me that day, and I am already in need of another bottle… spiced with caraway, the hints are lovely of cardamom and citrus
  • Voyageur Aquavit – a specialty acquavit that had been aged in cognac casks

I rounded out my visit with the very fitting Girl From the North Country cocktail, and the staff was extremely pleasant to talk with during my visit. As soon as I’m back up in the area, I’ll be returning here immediately.

Belgian Beer Fest

BeerGlass

One of the craft beer meccas in the Twin Cities also happens to be my personal favorite, and has been since I was an undergrad at St. Catherine’s. Tucked on a corner in St. Paul, I’m speaking of course about The Muddy Pig.

“The Pig”, as it’s known among my circle of friends, has been an honored favorite for years for the selection of beer and the friendly and knowledgable staff. As I started to get into craft beer back in 2010, the Pig was my spot to find something new and interesting, and to get solid recommendations. Whenever my friends and I want to grab a beer, the Pig is always a welcome choice (even if it means driving the distance over from Minneapolis).

The Pig is also known for their festivals that they hold throughout the year, the most recent of which was Belgian Beer Fest. I’d known about this for several weeks and secured a Boom Island Yule for them in advance, so I was especially excited to go and taste more Belgian beers. Here’s what I tried and the impressions that I got:

Prearis, Quad, De Proefbrouwerij, Oedehen, 10% – A golden-amber in color (keep in mind, bar lighting), this beer had a sweet candy-like flavor with a pleasant lingering finish. Its texture was thicker, somewhat like syrup, and evenly coated the inside of the mouth. The boozyness of this beer was very noticable on the nose and palate, yet I wasn’t affected by its prominent alcohol content. An interesting characteristic of the Prearis was the fact that it is comprised of 7 types of malt, 2 of which are chocolate. It resulted in an extremely pleasing and complex beer, one that I will certainly keep my eyes open for in the future

Lupus Wolf 7, Belgian Pale Ale, Brouwerij Wolf, 7.4% – As the next beer I tried, this was quite different from the Prearis. With a very light body and clean finish, this beer was easy to consume. With bubblegum on the nose and in its flavor, the Lupus also had hints of stone fruit along with the hops coming forward towards the end of the experience.

He Said, Tripel, 21st Amendment, 8.2% – This beer was not one I selected to try but happened to sample thanks to the generosity of my drinking companions. Brewed with pumpkin, this beer had prevalent spice in its aromas and flavor. The pumpkin flavor was especially noticeable, but rather than being sweet, this pumpkin was savory and actually tasted real. I enjoyed the beer for what it was, but favored other options on the menu.

Goudon Carolus, Cuvee, Van De Keizer Blauw, 11% – Thank God (literally) for Belgian beers. The first thing that entered my head as I tasted this was Berry boozy!”. The Goudon had very prominent fruit in the entire experience, and to me could be thought of as having an almost jam-like quality and sweetness. With a full, thick texture and candy-like flavors, this is a beer that I befriended very quickly. It’s one I will certainly be buying for myself when I come across it at a liquor store.

St. Feuillien Speciale, Belgian Strong Dark, Brasserie St. Feuillien, 9% – This beer distinctly stood out from the others that we were sampling. Immediately upon taking in the nose and with my first sip, I was greeted with prominent notes of anise & orange. The texture was thin which coupled well its clean body overall. As the beer warmed, notes of stone fruit emerged with hints of molasses & cinnamon. The St. Feuillien was certainly a beer that showcases spice and stood out among the others, and was one I enjoyed. For those who are not as fond of spice beers and anything related to anise, I would suggest not selecting this beer. 

Piraat, Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Brouwerij Van Steenberge, 10.5% – Upon coming to the Piraat, this beer was a bit different from the others I’d tried. Immediately, I picked up on just a touch of funkyness, likely made more obvious to me after consuming a number of beers that were sweeter in flavor. The Piraat was slightly bready and had subtle fruityness (mostly apple) and bubblegum that I noticed in its flavor profile. The body on this beer was mild and had a bit of a lingering finish. Personally, I’m still warming to beers with the funk quality in them, but I found this beer to be nonetheless an interesting and enjoyable experience to drink.

Val-Dieu, Triple, Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu, 9%  – The Val-Dieu was a good follow-up to the Piraat, which also showcased a touch of funk in its profile. With a dry texture, this beer had a distinct pear flavor throughout. Light in body and with a clean finish, the Val-Dieu was a beer that had wine-like qualities to it, and was one I enjoyed trying. 

Saxo, Blonde, Brasserie Caracole, 8% – The citrus is strong in this one. With prominent lemon, the Saxo blonde sported a noticeable tartness with hints of sweetness hidden behind the it. It’s light body lended itself to being an easy beer to consume, and it ended with a dry finish. This was a pleasant beer that I would likely prefer more in warmer weather.

Millstream Raspberry Blonde, 9.2% – This beer was practically dessert. Light & fruity, “airy” texture, very drinkable. I say airy as one might compare eating a tart or coffee cake like eating a “cloud” (or maybe that’s just me). This beer is pure joy in a glass. Extremely drinkable and flavorful, we ended the night on a good note. 


Overall Experience – It was a treat to hang out at the Pig and enjoy a wide variety of Belgian beer that would likely be difficult to find anywhere else. The experience alone makes you appreciate the extensive range of flavors that can emerge out of a particular style of beer. Granted, there are many styles that fall under the umbrella of “Belgian beers”, but still, the diversity among them is still impressive. You might try four tripels, but each one will show its unique personality. It’s events like these that are really eye-opening and, for me personally, are extremely interesting.

Also – special thanks to my drinking buddies for being willing to share their beers with me, although it was practically necessary given the high ABVs of the entire menu…

The Beginning

MNLandscape
The northern Minnesota landscape is as vast & unknown as 2016

I think it’s safe to say that this year got off with a bang. Or in my case, given who my employers are, a boom.

2016 immediately proved to be a year of change, especially as Boom Island became partnered with Clear River Beverage Company as of January 1st. This meant that my position as a Boom Island sales rep ceased to exist, but instead, I was shifted into a marketing position. In addition to assisting with the transition for my customers, I was also wrapping my head around organizing myself for the new job. Luckily, from my “office”, beer is readily accessible…

But as for the actual start of 2016, it proved a fitting way to ease into a new year and calm my nerves about the unknown ahead. As I’m not one for big, flashy parties on New Year’s, I wandered over to one of my favorite bars, the Pig & Fiddle, where the staff and I have grown from acquaintances to friends during my time as a sales rep. Upon arriving, I was immediately handed a beer shot (it’s exactly what it sounds like) accompanied with the toast of “You’re my rep for 2 more hours.” 12:01AM rolled around and I was given my 2nd beer shot to ring in the New Year. Then approximately 15 minutes after that, I was gifted a consolation beer shot with a saracastic “Oh hey, former rep” directed my way. As I downed the shot, I rolled my eyes at the bartender who gave me a teasing wink in return.

Despite being slightly apprehensive about the oncoming weeks (typical of my nature as the perpetual worrier), seeing the New Year arrive among new friends was the best reminder of the support that I’d built throughout 2015, and I knew that it would carry over into 2016. I may have met these people through work, but I’ve found that work is where some of my closest friendships form. Maybe I won’t see my contacts as frequently now that I have a new role at Boom Island, but I know that these connections will continue beyond the transition. I’ve promised to keep in touch with many people, and I intend to see those promises through.

And so 2016, let’s see where you go. You came in roaring, and so I only have one thing to say back to you:

This blonde is ready. Bring it on.


 

To read more about the recent partnership with Clear River Beverage Company, have a visit to the Boom Island blog.