Oberon Street* (4/30)

April 4, 2018

poetry 4-30 four beers

Sunny Day
Drinking my cares away
On my way to where the wheat is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Oberon Street

Drink all day
Everything’s A-OK
Friendly beer store’s where
I meet my needs

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Oberon Street

It’s a magic summer ale
I enjoy it without fail
I’m happy through and through—
Summer in a beer
We’re all happy here

Sunny Day
I suddenly feel OK
On my way to where my sleep is deep

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Oberon Street…

 


*Original Sesame Street theme song lyrics © Sesame Workshop

Terms of Use | Sesame Street

Referenced in good faith for this personal project

Original Sesame Street theme song

Jimmy Fallon, Sesame Street & The Roots Sing “Sesame Street” Theme (w/ Classroom Instruments)

 

 

Every now and then I come across a meal that is, to my palate, a masterpiece. There have been two recently.

Beer & Beast at the Acadia: smoke Scotch egg and Oskar Blues Reeb Rye'd ale

Beer & Beast at the Acadia: smoke Scotch egg and Oskar Blues Reeb Rye’d ale

The first was a smoked scotch egg at one of my neighborhood joints, Acadia. Once a month they have what they call “Beer & Beast” for which they make a special meal, which usually involves the smoker out back, that they pair with a special beer. I was a little skeptical about a smoked scotch egg because breaded, fried food isn’t my bag, but they have a few hotshot young cooks in the kitchen and one bite in, my fears were allayed. The egg was excellent, the Oskar Blues Reeb Rye’d beer was excellent, and the two together sent me into nirvana.

Not too long after that, another neighborhood establishment, Town Hall Brewery, had their annual Barrel Aged Beer Week. They made some crazy and delicious fancy beers, releasing one per day throughout the week. I went in right away on Monday and learned that they developed some special food items to pair with the beers. I chose the seared scallops because I have a soft spot for scallops.

photo of scallops dinner

This was one amazing plate!

I’ll admit that I gave the plate a quite the side-eye when it arrived. The scallops with bacon-onion jam, farro with fire-roasted tomatoes, and grilled zucchini floated on a pool of white sauce. Okay. Maybe they wanted to visually fill out the plate or something. I reread the menu card. “Beurre blanc,” it said. “French for white sauce makes it sound fancier,” I interpreted.

My white-sauce snobbery quickly melted away as I tasted what an excellent carrier it was, helping to blend all of the the flavors together in a most excellent way. The tastes and textures balanced each other nicely, from the salt and crisp of the scallops and the sweet and smoke of the bacon-onion jam to the savory and chewy of the farro. Once again I found myself in my happy food place.

I had already been thinking that I’d try to return later in the week once more of the beers had been released. After eating I knew I would return, if only to have that delicious plate again!

In the meantime, I encountered a chef friend to whom I raved about this meal, including recounting my attitude about the “white sauce, well, beurre blanc.” What comes around goes around. He gave the side-eye right back to me without further explanation. After we parted, I became curious about this unfamiliar cooking term and looked it up. I stood corrected and publicly apologized to beurre blanc on social media. It is not white sauce. It is white, that’s true, but it’s actually an emulsification of butter in white wine that results in a sauce-like entity that is particularly complimentary to fish and seafood.

photo of beer flight

Town Hall Barrel Aged Week, flight 1: Foolish Angel, Buffalo Bock (2015), Twisted Trace (2015)

I went back to Town Hall on Thursday. That evening, there were enough of the special beers available so I ordered a flight. In case you’re wondering, the Foolish Angel was my favorite of the beers I tried. The general manager, Scot, who I got to know last year in a bowling league at one of Town Hall’s other locations, was flitting around so I was able to compliment him on it. He was pleased because it was a new beer this year.

photo of beer flight

Town Hall Barrel Aged Week, flight 2: Project 3106 (2015), Czar Jack (2015), Duke of Wallonia (2015)

But more importantly, I had the scallops dish again! Somebody different must have been in the kitchen, though, because the plate came out with at least twice as much beurre blanc, which was twice too much, and maybe a third less farro, which was a third too little. It was still as delicious as I remembered from three days earlier, though I did not come close to finishing all of the sauce. Then I decided to take the rest of it home with me for use at a later date, an endeavor made much easier by having exactly the right sized plastic container in my bag from my breakfast. (I always pack my breakfast and eat at my desk. Saves me fifteen to thirty minutes in the morning. Fifteen to thirty more minutes of sleep. But I digress.) I long ago got over feeling embarrassed about pulling out my own container at a restaurant in order to stow leftovers. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

That night as I lay in bed I had the ultimate brain wave. Along with the leftover beurre blanc, I had half of the ingredients necessary to recreate this meal at home. I had a zucchini, onions, bacon pieces, brown sugar, and sun-dried tomatoes. My mission was clear!

I located a recipe for bacon-onion jam that used only basic ingredients, read about how to pan-sear scallops, learned some more about beurre blanc, and purchased scallops and farro. I was ready to begin. The jam recipe is not at all fussy, it just needs and hour and a half of prep and cook time to get the reduction. I got that going first and enhanced the recipe with some dried currants for good measure. The farro was next. It needed about thirty minutes, and I included chopped sun-dried tomatoes. When the farro was done cooking, I finished it by frying it for a few minutes to crisp it up a bit; there had been something a little crispy about the Town Hall plate. As the jam and farro were finishing, I heated the pan for the scallops, getting the butter and oil nice and hot. While the scallops were searing, I reheated the leftover beurre blanc in the microwave, stirring frequently. I know, I know, I can hear you laughing from here. It was a visual disaster. The fat from the butter immediately separated into yellow oiliness, and the remaining part turned into a gloppy, viscous mess. But it still tasted heavenly and it all gets re-blended in your mouth, right?

photo of scallops dinner and beer

It doesn’t look the same as the professional version, but it tasted just about as delicious.

It was only after I had carefully plated my homemade meal with the goal of downplaying the physical appearance of the beurre blanc that I realized I had completely forgotten to make the zucchini. Oh well. With six rather than four scallops, it was plenty to consume.

The meal was delicious! I paired it with Summit Great Northern Porter. The bacon and the beer really brought out the smoky characteristics of each other.

I was very pleased with the effort!

photo of scallops dinner and beer

No Town Hall brews at home, but Summit Great Northern Porter was a fine stand-in.

Why do I torture myself year after year? I willingly go to a place where I get to hang out with 150,000 of my closest friends. I spend a hot summer day outside in the sun. I tolerate waiting in long lines for the ladies room. I eat battered, deep-fried, junky food. What is this torture? Why, the Great Minnesota Get-Together, of course!

Any self-respecting Minnesotan will trek to the Minnesota State Fair at least once each year. I have friends who go multiple times. Take my friend Jen A, for example, whose husband is in the Army. They got stationed in Guam for three years. A year ago he left a month before Jen. Jen waited until after the Fair. And when has she come back for a visit? To coincide with the Fair. She has been there just about every day. I don’t know how she does it. I go for a few hours and I’m done in. Think I’m joking about attendance of 150,000? Look at this. And I went on the last Sunday. The last Sunday usually goes over 200,000.

These just in:

Quotes from Jen (which I include because I truly am impressed by your desire, determination, and stamina, and I know you were doing what you love to do): 1) “After a 15.5 hour day yesterday, I’ve logged 67 hours at the fair this year. A record for me. One day to go. (Sunday).” 2) “My last day at the fair. 16 hours for a total of 83 hours over 6 days. That’ll do.”

2014 State Fair breaks all-time attendance record. Thank goodness I didn’t go on Saturday, attendance 252,092.

So this is the fun I had at the fair.

photo of overheated Kelly

When I bike to the fair, I am hot and miserable before I even pass through the gate.

Biking to the fair.

Just like going to the fair at all, biking to it always seems like a good idea before I do it. It’s a four-and-a-half-mile ride, most of which is on a dedicated bike- and busway. Easy route, but even if the temperature isn’t too hot, I get overheated. So I’m at a disadvantage before I even get through the gate.

I should also mention that the fair encourages you to not take your car. As could benefit me, there are three bike corrals. Unfortunately they are at the three corners of the grounds other than the one where the transitway spits me out. Getting to a bike corral adds a half-mile onto my ride. But I’m glad they have them because it takes a lot of the thinking out of arriving at the Fair.

Anyway, I had a couple of personal connections at the fair.

Personal connections and vegetables in general.

My coworker’s grandmother enters vegetables every year. And she wins every year. Look at those Yukon gold potatoes! Jen (a different Jen) helped harvest those winners. And since I love vegetables, you get a photo of the west wall of the Horticulture Building. And who wouldn’t be impressed by giant pumpkins, Charlie Brown?

photo of potatoes

Blue ribbon Yukon Gold potatoes dug up and sorted by my coworker, grown by her grandmother.

photo of giant pumpkin

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

panoramic photo of vegetables

These are a few of my favorite vegetables.

photo of Larry's painting

A little purple goes a long way.

I also managed to find my nextdoor neighbor Larry’s painting in the Fine Arts building. As my mentor Chris Gargan always said, a little purple goes a long way. Or was that John Ribble? It was twenty+ years ago.

photo of mini-donut beer

Mini-donuts! In beer form!

Beer.

Natch, it didn’t take me long to acquire beer. Unlike last year, Lift Bridge Brewery made PLENTY of their Mini-Donut Brown Ale. It sounds so wrong, but it works. This year there was also a s’mores beer replete with a floating marshmallow, and a lager that came with blueberry frozen foam.

photo of Kelly with beer

Kelly visits a beer exhibit. Yes, a beer exhibit.

A great thing about the Minnesota State Fair is that it keeps up with the times. Whether it’s an evening of Minnesota bands, sponsored by The Current, or craft beer, the fair is all over it. Back by popular demand for the third year, was the Land of 10,000 Brews exhibit, also in the Horticulture Building. This is where there are six options for four-beer flight from Minnesota breweries. The selections vary daily. Sometimes there’s fancy stuff, but mostly it’s a way to support our burgeoning craft beer industry.

[Update from the interim between writing and posting: Some asshole robbed the exhibit at gunpoint a couple hours after the Fair closed for the year. Armed robbery of over $10,000.]

photo of double-wide stroller

Does she look like she’s actually having fun?

Major annoyances.

I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year, too, and every year before that. If it’s not old enough to walk under its own power, it’s most likely not old enough to really comprehend, and therefore actually enjoy, what is going on at the fair, and should therefore be left at home. Your doublewide stroller isn’t doing anybody, and I mean anybody, least of all you, any favors. Tell the truth. Do you actually enjoy pushing that thing through the throng, having to constantly apologize to the crowd around you for needing non-standard space accommodation, the crowd which is already annoyed by the rest of the crowd? Are you having fun when the tot is screaming because it wants cotton candy, or is over-stimulated, or is over-tired? And when it falls asleep, well, what was the point anyway?

photo of parade float

It’s a parade. Yay.

While we’re on the subject of hindrances to the already crowd-hindering crowd, what about the daily parade? I guess some people watch it, but it seems like it’s mostly meaderers scattering to the curbs to make way. I find it particularly purturbing because on either side of the street it goes down are some of the things I’m most interested in, such as the aforementioned Horticulture Building and the abeermentioned Ballpark Cafe, from whence the Mini-Donut Brown Ale (and many other fine, Minnesota brews) is served, and because I always manage to encounter it. I just want to cross the damned street. Call me a chicken if you must, apropos to the fair.

photo of Kelly with a Pronto Pup

It’s a Pronto Pup. Or is it a corndog. Huh?

Fair food.

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve likely heard of all the any-state’s fair food you can get on a stick. Minnesota’s fair does food on a stick like no other. However, I mostly avoid it. Battered, deep-fried delights are so far from how I typically eat that it doesn’t take much of it to do me in. But I’ll always get a corndog. I don’t like weiners but I love me a corndog. I am a poor Minnesotan because I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is between a corndog and a Pronto Pup. What I do know is that this year I got a Pronto Pup rather than a corndog and I didn’t like it as well. I think a Pronto Pup is more of a batter batter while a corndog is more of a cornbread batter. Next year I shall go back to the corndog.

photo of Kelly eating corn on the cob

Corn!

What never disappoints is the roasted corn on the cob. Minnesota sweetcorn, grilled in the husk. ’Nuff said. Oh, except for that they compost all the discarded cobs.

 

photo of weather radar progression

How much time do I have?

Weather, more beer, more food.

All afternoon I felt like I had blown it with regard to the weather. The day before, Saturday, was a little less warm, a little less humid, less unsettled. Sunday started out overcast and not-warm, but of course by the time I got pedaling the sun came out and the dewpoint started creeping up. The forecast was for a clear afternoon with rain and thunder likely in the evening. It approached more quickly.

photo of Kelly and cutout of Mark Stutrud

Hanging out with Summit Brewing founder, Mark Stutrud. Well, a reasonable facsimile of him, anyway.

I made my move in the direction of the exit when I figured, based on radar panel number three, that I had about forty-five minutes before the heavens would open. I need about twenty-five for the bike ride. Fortunately, the main Summit Brewing counter, in the International Bazaar, is right on the way to the entrance I use next to the bike corral. Summit had a fair-only brew this year, but it was not on offer on Sunday (unless it was at an auxiliary location). Nevertheless, I ordered one of the beers that was available and participated in what was their genius marketing ploy for the fair, taking a selfie with the life-sized cutout of founder Mark Stutrud. I have actually hung out with Mark several times in person, so this was a little weird, and yet, necessary.

photo of tacos

Tacos al pastore y asada.

I had just about decided that I was out of weather-time and had every intention of heading out, when I was dazzled again by what had caught my attention on the way in, tacos from Los Ocampo. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but wanted to eat, and figured that if I ate a little more at the fair, that would be enough for the day. I went for one each of the al pastore and the asada. The nice people sitting on the bench next to me approved of my choice (having vast, it seemed, experience at one of Los Ocampos’ restaurant locations) and gave me a piece of their fried plantains. It was all very good.

photo of approaching weather

Hopefully I’ll beat this home.

I finally, finally, uncorraled my bike and headed home, a little later than I meant to. On the other hand, it wasn’t already raining so I knew whatever happened, I wouldn’t get it too bad. As it was, I only got spritzed on during the second half of the ride. I got home and took my second full shower of the day. I tied my hair up in a different way that proved to be a beneficial way, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the fair.

My cat picked out my sushi

August 21, 2014

Mackerel and sea bream cat food

Last Sunday, the Open Streets folks did one near my neighborhood. Open Streets is when a stretch of a road is closed to cars for a day and non-motorized folks get to go nuts on it. I’d been aware of previous events but hadn’t made it to one, so I was excited that I’d have to put forth minimum effort to attend this one.

But to be perfectly honest, the day was one of extreme relative humidity—something gross, like, the dew point was 69F and the air temperature was 71F (21C/22C). I had texted my bikey friend, Jon, at noon to inquire whether he would be toodling over, then stuck my big toe out the front door and immediately decided I wasn’t going out in that, and settled in to watch some Grand Hotel.* After the second episode I decided I at least needed to take a shower because, even inside in air conditioning, I was feeling sticky and yucky. I stood up, checked my phone, and realized that Jon had replied in the affirmative almost right away. I texted him, thinking I’d be lucky if he was still out. I was very lucky because not only was he still out but he was at my end of the two mile stretch of the open street.

Well, fine. I hated the thought of going out in that weather, yet knew I’d regret it if I didn’t finally check out such a convenient Open Streets, and knew I’d appreciate a shower more after I returned home. I met him in the beer garden in the parking lot of my local liquor store.

Dear Open Streets,
I ride my bike back and forth to work every day across two vectors of downtown, Victor. I thought suburban SUV-driving commuters who can’t think outside the car were the bane of my existence. Not so. In that one tiny ride during your event, one-half mile to a neighborhood business I often bike to anyway, I realized that, really, pedestrianing parents with cherubic children are far, far worse. No cars on the street? No motors to listen for to give us audio cues as to how to behave in common space? No problem. No trajectory is too weavy for us to wobble along. I’m riding a bicycle? I might as well be a semi-truck hurtling toward your Croc-shod toddler. You sneer in my general direction.

Ugh.

Beer and band gardenIn hindsight I’m very glad that, when I found Jon and said that I wouldn’t mind riding to the other end and back, he informed me that he had already done so twice and was just going to order another beer. Here’s to neighborhood brewery Harriet Brewing’s Woden Weizen!

Being the humid, unsettled weather it was, the sky soon unleashed another round of showers. Jon and I gamely stood in the rain because, let’s face it, neither of us is fancy, and it felt good. Unlike previous showers that day, though, this one lasted for more than three-and-a-half minutes. It wasn’t bad for us spectators but unfortunately for the band that was playing, the tent-shelter that was protecting them decided to let loose into the keyboard its load of water. That put a damper on the vibe.

But I digress.

I quipped to Jon that I’d still be willing to ride to the other end but he came up with a far better idea. I’m finally getting to the sushi portion of the story.

Across from the liquor store is a fairly new Thai restaurant which also has a sushi bar. It’s really like two restaurants in one. Jon said, nah, let’s just go to Sober Fish and engage in their happy hour. Okay, twist my arm, Croc-shod toddlers!

Lagunitas IPA and Sober Fish shot glassI was glad when he suggested ordering sushi items rather than Thai noodle stuff (which I do like but I was more in the mood for sushi). I was also glad when I saw Lagunitas IPA on the fairly short beer list. Lagunitas IPA goes well with raw fish things. Then I was horrified when he seemed eager to also order the house shot which consisted of cucumber vodka, ginger something, and something else. In the old days I did enjoy my vodka tonic, and in these new days I mix my Pimm’s with cucumber soda (during the two weeks of Wimbledon). Then I saw that you got to keep the shot glass.** I wasn’t too hard a sell on that, then, either.

The drinks were the easy part. It turned out that I like rolls and Jon likes sashimi. Also, we had never collaborated on a food order before so there was that awkwardness, “what do you like?” “Oh, no, what do YOU like?” I’m finally getting to the cat part of the story.

Jon made a hard sell for mackerel sashimi. I countered with advocating for spicy tuna roll. I like that a lot, and when I eat at a new sushi place it’s sort of my benchmark. Not too sophisticated in the big scheme of things but there you go. We decided we’d order both forms.

There were many sashimi choices. Tuna is my favorite raw fish in general, but I’ll always try anything once. Not that mackerel is so exotic. It’s not. Then I comprehended some of the other choices on the sashimi list and formed my opinion as to what else we should select.

As I said, Jon was a big fan of mackerel. I saw that sea bream was also on the list. So I said yes to the mackerel and suggested the sea bream as well.

Why? This is why.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet on cost and serve my lovely cats wet food because it’s significantly better for their health than dry food. I like to get them the tuna-based kinds, and the tuna almost always includes some other seafood as an accent. The canned food ain’t cheap so I’ve been determining the best balance between ingredients and cost. Along the way I added a third cat, thereby half-againing the cat food budget, so I could no longer afford to buy the tiny cans of best-quality, tuna-based food and instead have had to figure out what’s next best.

I’ve settled on a couple of brands, one of which is pictured above. The store carries four varieties—shrimp (30¢ more per can), sardine, mackerel, and sea bream. Sea-what? Never heard of it.

Empty platesWe ordered my spicy tuna roll and also a caterpillar roll because Jon likes eel, and I like that sweet sauce that usually accompanies it. For sashimi we ordered the mackerel and, as our second sashimi selection at my behest, the sea bream. Do you see where I’m going with this?

My decision-making process: if it’s good enough for the cats, it’s good enough for me. Let’s go for it!

The mackerel was salty and firm and reminded me of smoked salmon or smoked trout. The sea bream was at the opposite end of the spectrum—tender, mild, and nutty. Jon hadn’t had it either and seemed pleasantly surprised by it.

I am embarrassed to admit that it was Jon and not I who said/thought, “This would make a good blog entry.” By that time, the sea bream and mackerel were long gone and we were down to one gyoza.

 

* If, by chance, you start watching Grand Hotel based on this brief mention, stick with it long enough to realize that Inspector Ayala reminds you exactly and completely of Hercule Poirot, which won’t actually take you that long. You will be richly rewarded in episode 23.

** Until that Sober Fish outing, I didn’t actually possess a shot glass. What I do have is a set of four antique aperitif, shot-sized glasses. But they’re delicate, textured glass. They were my grandparents’, and I’m always terrified that it will take only one gentle yet errant tap on the side of the Mason jar into which I mix my Wimbledon Pimm’s to shatter it to pieces. It was an easy sell to convince me order a shot that would resulting my owning a chunky, heavy-duty, actual shot glass. I guess the shot was okay. It was not much like cucumber or ginger, very sweet, and Ecto-Cooler green. One could get into trouble with them …

Kelly in London with bronze statue of Hobbs, Samuel Johnson's beloved cat.

The last thing Kelly would have wanted would have been to have to talk about herself, especially if it were in the third person. It’s true that if you were talking to her, she’d frequently interrupt with “related stories,” but they were always in the first person. She liked to think of it as an endearing personality quirk—the stories were related—but in the end she figured that she likely was just annoying to the other speaker. She tried to control the impulse with only moderate success. The issue probably stemmed from her general enthusiasm for things she liked and her desire to seem relevant.

Which is not to say that she liked people—she’d be the first to tell you that she didn’t. But sometimes actions—or interruptions—spoke louder than words.

Kelly liked to say that she inherited the best from each of her parents. Her mother was an extrovert and loved talking to anybody who would listen, and even if they wouldn’t. She, too, was generally enthusiastic about most things. Kelly’s father, on the other hand, was a quieter, more reserved sort who never made a spectacle of himself. So though Kelly knew that she often was loud and boisterous in her enthusiasm, she pretended that she knew when to dial it back and stop the stampede. Moderate success.

Anybody who is a friend of Kelly’s knows that in recent years, two of the things she was most enthusiastic about were writing and craft beer. And if you asked Kelly herself, she’d tell you that one of her favorite activities was to write her blog while she was drinking beer—and getting kind of tipsy while doing it. If she were here right now, which we know she is in spirit, she’d want everyone to stop moping and go enjoy something you love.

One of the things Kelly wouldn’t hesitate to say she loved most was London, England. She had hoped to move there one day but unfortunately, that’s a dream which will now remain unfulfilled. And that seems like a good way to draw this to a conclusion. If she were here now and succumbing to clichés, she’d say, “Go for it!” One of her philosophies of life was that you won’t know if you don’t ask which, on occasion, led to awkward moments. But she felt that though the answer might have been no, it might well have been yes. And if it would have been yes, wouldn’t you be disappointed not to have found that out?

my happy refrigerator

I interrupt my regularly scheduled blog posts for this important news: I have twelve bottles of my favorite new-to-me beer in my refrigerator! Well, ten, because I gave one to my neighbor to try (she likes it, hey Mikey!) and I’m sitting outside drinking one at this very moment.

(Full disclosure: I wrote the first half of this a week ago when it was 80F/26C, clear, and perfect for sitting outside. Tonight, it is 58F/14C, drizzly, and miserable. I don’t feel like drinking beer at all…)

white cap white ipaLet’s get the business taken care of first. Hinterland White Cap White IPA is a pleasant, slightly-cloudy yellow beer that pours with a fizzy, long-lasting head that can be easily reagitated. It isn’t extremely aromatic but when you taste it, it’s an explosion of pink grapefruit in your mouth! That might lead some people to believe that it’s problematically bitter, but that’s not the case. White Cap is only 4.3% alcohol by volume so it all stays in balance. I say best part because I began to experience big beer burnout this summer. I am thrilled that many breweries have started producing smaller versions of hoppy varieties which are still big on flavor, and this is one of them.

white cap and tuna tartareI first encountered White Cap at Ginger Hop in northeast Minneapolis. It was my third trip to that bar-restaurant for their tuna tartare starter which has become an occasional payday treat to myself. It’s chopped, raw tuna that has been tossed in lime juice and sesame oil and is served as a mound of perfection topped with fresh cilantro and accompanied by buttered crostini. It’s perfect for a hot day, and so is White Cap.

I’m always up for trying something new, especially when it’s an IPA (my favorite style), so when I learned that an IPA that I had never had was on the menu, I ordered it without hesitation.

kelly and white capToday was a windy, unseasonably warm day here in Minnesota. Combine that with the diminished daylight that fall brings and even in the early evening, we have my preferred conditions for enjoying a beer—at home, sitting on my steps, after dark, warmly windy. And the White Cap is a perfect beer for warm days.

It’s true that White Cap is just good, but I’m trying to decide why I think it’s soooo good. I think I can pinpoint two reasons. The first, I’m sure, is what I said up above about being tired of the high ABV that has been the fashion almost regardless of style, and even (dare I say it) the trend of making every hoppy beer an out-and-out hop bomb. White Cap is gentle in both regards.

The second reason is because of what I think of as the Jameson Effect. Ever so many years ago, I attended an outdoor festival. Let’s call it 2001. It was a beastly hot day in July at a rib cook-off in a surface parking lot downtown—a very localized urban heat island. There weren’t many adult beverage choices. I had tipped over the divide to craft beer, so rather than slum it with the Coors Light or the malt beverage on offer, I chose the only other alternative—Jameson Irish Whiskey. At the time I was still more of a vodka gal if I had booze but I though what the heck and, since it was a stinky-hot day, asked for one on the rocks. The sweltering heat with oppressive humidity under the bare sun on asphalt with the smell of twenty kinds of ribs wafting through the air while watching Harry Casey & the Sunshine Band work their asses off on the music stage provided the perfect atmosphere for that Jameson to be the best drink I had ever had. Ever since then for sentimental reasons, every summer I buy a small bottle of Jameson to have on hand for the inevitable return of that kind of weather.

The first time I had White Cap was also during uncomfortable summer conditions, but not as extremely as the Jameson incident. The temperature was only around 80/26, but the dew point was in the mid-70s/24, so you worked up a sweat just lifting your pint glass to your lips. My Ginger Hop tuna tartare was on order and I eagerly gulped the first couple of sips of the beer. It was the hot weather magic all over again.

Eager to enjoy my new favorite at home, I looked for it at my local liquor stores to no avail. The distributor was no help, other than identifying that they were the carrier, but armed with that information, I got Chris at Sorella Wine & Spirits interested in the quest. Eventually he was successful and the result is tonight’s bounty!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This is what has transpired in the last week since I began writing this post. The very day after I acquired my booty, I attended the Autumn Brew Review beer tasting festival which is put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. If any of my Original Gravity friends have checked in, you might want to stop reading here 😉

kelly and mitchellI found the Hinterland table which was awkwardly unbusy. On the other hand, that gave me the opportunity to strike up a conversation with the regional brewery representative, Mitchell. He wasn’t pouring White Cap but he did have Saison. I eagerly tried that as it’s a favorite style and it, too, was a delight—a solid representation of the style but instead of sweet-spicy it was black pepper-spicy. I love pepper notes in beer.

While we were talking, Mitchell revealed that he was there alone with no back-up. Since to pour (but for Original Gravity but they were over-volunteered and I didn’t seem particularly needed) was the reason why I had gained entry to the festival, I offered to man the Hinterland table so that he could walk around for a short while. He gave me a crash course in the Saison and the Oktoberfest and away he went.

This is the weird thing about me and tasting festivals: as much as I love trying new beers, I about ninety per cent loathe being out in the beer fest crowd as a patron. I realized that about an hour into my first large festival four times ago. I pleaded with my Original Gravity buddies to let me help out and so they threw me into the fire behind the Alaskan table. Once I switched sides I had a blast, and that’s how I’ve been enjoying tasting mayhem since. This is also one of the few situations in which I’d say I’m actually good at and enjoy schmoozing.

kelly and a canSo I was happy to help Mitchell out. You can’t fault me. I’m enthusiastic about beer that I like and that’s one of the things you like about me. He told me to wait a minute and dashed over to his car which was just across the street. He handed me two sixteen-ounce White Cap cans and said that I am the first consumer in Minnesota (or possibly anywhere, I don’t remember which) to possess them. I stuffed them in my jacket pockets and didn’t tell anyone. Until now. You people with cabins and boats, remember this for next summer.

So just one more thing before I wrap up this post that has gone on for longer than you ever thought it could, though to be fair this is like two entries in one with the week-separated writing sessions.

Tonight I cracked open the cans. As I was taking my traditional photo of the poured beer and its container, I noticed that the can design is quite a bit different from the bottle label design. The rocks and Lake Michigan photo from the label has been simplified and graphic-ized for the can, and though the typefaces are the same, the entire treatment of the can design reminds me more of a geographic atlas map. But that’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that I re-noticed the word white in the name. Not the white in White Cap, but the white in White IPA. I had ignore that second white with the draught and bottle versions because all I tasted was the grapefruit. But when I poured the can version, smelled it, and tasted it, I realized that the aroma I got from all three versions was the white-as-in-Belgian-style sweetness. And oddly, unexpectedly, the canned version of White Cap White IPA to me tastes more white-as-in-Belgian-style than the draught or bottle versions. I’d better compare against the bottle. I know that sorting the photos I want to add to this post will take at least another beer…

The bottle tastes a little more Belgiany than on previous occasions. My official assessment is that that’s just how my palette is tonight. Such is the joy of beer!

*The events presented are factual, though to help the narrative I may have massaged timelines somewhat.

My history of beer

September 23, 2013

Kelly and Oberon

I’ve been asked by a couple people recently how I came to adore beer as I do. If those folks were curious, maybe you are, too.

I always liked beer well enough, I suppose. In my youth in the early 80s, I tended to favor Stroh’s and Michelob. You can’t judge me—craft beer as we think of it today didn’t exist. I probably favored mixed drinks at that point anyway; I remember being quite fond of brandy old fashioneds at one point. The college years saw me drinking whatever macro beer was in the house party keg. Even in my thirties, I liked vodka tonics best, but it is at that point that I had my first memorable beer experience.

Kelly and NewcastleIt was 1995 and I was spending a lot of time at Rosen’s, the bar next door to my office building. I had graduated to “dark beer” by that point which occasionally meant Guinness Draught, but Newcastle Brown Ale was far and away my favorite. My friends and I ordered some cheese sticks to accompany the beer. Rosen’s, like most places, served them with marinara sauce for dipping. I took a sip of my Newcastle to wash down the dressed cheese and was utterly gob smacked by the burst of cherry flavor that I suddenly detected in the beer. Where had that come from?! I tried the combination at other establishments, but nobody else’s marinara did that to the Newcastle. It was eye-opening in a way I didn’t yet have the knowledge to comprehend (I didn’t yet know of the concept of intentionally pairing drink flavors with food flavors beyond, you know, the basic red wine with meat, white wine with fish). But sitting here writing about it eighteen years later, I still remember the moment at the tall table in the front window like it was last week.

Kelly and Summit EPADuring the passing years I began to add Summit Extra Pale Ale to my “dark” beer repertoire, because that and Guinness were what my bowling alley had on offer. Because Summit was a nice caramelly, amber color as opposed to see-through yellow, it was considered ”dark.” This was still early craft days; I had no idea that Summit was a craft beer. This wasn’t one of my epiphanal beer moments but it bears mentioning, it think, because Summit EPA is the original craft beer in town and remains one of the best and one of my favorites, even with all the upstarts that have come onto the scene.

Fast forward to 2005. One of my bowling friends was well into wine, and invited me to a wine tasting on Nicollet Island. I dutifully tagged along, listening to him geek out on trying to learn things about wine. I enjoyed tasting different wines and gaining a little knowledge, and I really enjoyed the food samples from local restaurants and wished they served bigger bites. I eventually found myself wandering over to the side tent where there were a few brewery tables set up.

Thinking back, I suppose Summit had one of the tables, but it was the Bell’s Brewing beers that I was most interested in sampling. A coworker adored their Two Hearted Ale so I wanted to taste that one, though I hadn’t yet gone to the hop side (that could be a whole other post about me and beer!). I tried the three or four brews that they had there, and it was the Oberon wheat ale that tickled my fancy. I took my sample and went back into the main room.

The first food table I encountered was manned by the chef from Murray’s Steak House who was sautéing up some buttered steak and mushroom bites. I love steak. I love mushrooms. I love butter. I ate the sample. I washed it down with the last couple sips of Oberon. And that was when I had my beerpiphany.

Just as the Rosen’s marinara had done something to the Newcastle, so did the steak-mushroom-butter combination transform the Oberon into one of the most amazing taste moments I still have ever had. All the flavors complimented each other perfectly. That was when I realized that beer could be something special.

As I aged, I eased into hops, and focused my consumption on IPAs. The craft beer movement took off and there was more beer in more styles available. My same coworker who liked Bell’s Two Hearted also adored Chimay Rouge Belgian trippel. That was another style that I just didn’t like the taste of. Yet.

Three Philosophers ready to serveNow it’s 2009. Some friends of friends moved from California to Minneapolis and we became friends. They are foodies and drinkies. They invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner. They did the research and figured out that Ommegang Three Philosophers Belgian quad was just the right beer to serve with one of the courses. To me it didn’t taste as “Belgiany” as Chimay had when I had tried it. And again, it paired absolutely perfectly with the food. Are you noticing a trend yet? The Three Philosophers had a milder Belgian flavor along with prune and cherry (but there was no marinara in sight). I tried other Ommegang beers (which are mostly all Belgian-style of one sort or another) and found them all to be gentle versions of their styles. I decided maybe Belgian beers weren’t so bad after all.

By now, a couple of years ago in 2011, I had embraced the craft beer movement with full enthusiasm. I had beer geek friends and many acquaintances in the industry. I eagerly tried new, different beers whenever I could. I started attending beer classes. I was voluntarily ordering Belgian beers and liking them.

Except…

Within the Belgian genre live sour beers. And within sour are lambic and Flanders. I tried to wrap my taste buds around sours because many beer drinkers who knew far more than I really liked them and I wanted to be on par with my beer-smart friends. But I was struggling to get to a point where I could drink more than a sip or two.

Finally, one of the classes was about sour beers. We had samples of several of the major styles, including a Flanders. And then it happened again. As soon as the class leader described it as tasting like a barnyard or a horse blanket, I turned the corner. Now, those funky Flanders beers are my favorite of the sours. Horse blanket. HORSE BLANKET! What a fun way to think of a flavor! I’m glad I persisted in my effort.

I suppose the broad takeaway from this is that trying new things can lead to incredibly rewarding experiences. When you’re contemplating whether to go with something outside your comfort zone, remember, you’re not making a lifetime commitment and you might very well surprise yourself.

Horse blankets!

notes from the Belgian/sour beer class