Epic Weekend Day Two: @45thParallelWI – @BarleyJohnsBrew – @CasanovaLiquor

45SunWe are calling Day Two our “Booze Cruise of Western Wisconsin.” As I mentioned in Day One, the original plan was to keep the weekend mostly quiet after the big talk and tasting on Friday. Life rarely goes as planned, even when unplanned.

45Still
See the Vodka happily distilling inside?

A while back, I purchased a LivingSocial deal for a tour of 45th Parallel. We did a tour a couple of years ago, just after they released the first batch of New Richmond Rye, and I was anxious to see what has changed. I think my first bottle of the New Richmond Rye was from barrel number one, though sadly I didn’t keep the strap. It was good enough back then but it really has gotten better. The winner of the day for us was their Wheat Whiskey, a limited release they do for an annual party. This year, thankfully, they bottled too much and so we were able to pick it up at the cocktail room. I highly recommend this tour – the guides are knowledgeable, friendly, and do a great job telling the story of both the distillery and distilling. They will happily make you a cocktail to drink as you tour, I recommend the Old Fashioned with their Madison Avenue Orangecello in place of muddled sugar. Also, you get to try ten different spirits made at the facility – ranging from the whiskey to Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit. It’s a roller coaster of flavor!

BJPatioFor the second day in a row, we found ourselves closer to a brewery than planned. If you look out from 45th Parallel and across an empty lot, you’ll see a new building with a lovely patio out front. Patios aren’t a common feature in an industrial park – but they are great for breweries and taprooms. This one happens to be the much talked about Barley John’s expansion. If you’re not familiar with the story, Minnesota laws prevent Barley John’s brewpub in New Brighton from distributing their beer. Barley John’s decided that the only way to grow was to split ownership – the brewpub had been owned by a husband and wife team but now the pub is owned by the wife, Laura Subak, and the Wisconsin brewery is owned by husband John Moore. Minnesota lost out on a beautiful facility and a great small business growth story, it’s a shame.

BJBeerThe Wisconsin brewery has also gotten permission to have a small kitchen in order to serve small appetizer plates. After the generous sampling at 45th Parallel, we were very thankful to have a place in walking distance where we could grab a Little Barley and a cheese plate. Another thing that is different in Wisconsin – taprooms can have guest beers! There were six Barley John’s taps but also a small selection of other Wisconsin beers. Our 45th Parallel tour guide joked that someone needs to buy the empty lot between the two businesses and open up a hotel – it’s not a bad idea! Both places are worthy of a destination day trip. I anticipate a lot of used barrels going back and forth between these neighbors – a partnership that can only end well for the drinking public.

No Sunday afternoon trip to Wisconsin is complete without a beer run, so we made the inevitable stop at Casanova Liquors in Hudson. It’s New Glarus Fat Squirrel season so some of that needed to come home, along with their Apple Ale. I discovered the Apple Ale last year and it quickly became my favorite fall beverage – sweet, tart, and malty all at once. We also picked up a handle of the 190-proof Everclear not available in Minnesota, so watch drinkingincontext.com for more cocktail experiments! (The 190-proof is great for extracting flavor and making bitters, infusions, and all sorts of things to be consumed in SMALL doses.)

WISunset2
The sun sets on Wisconsin, and our epic weekend.

And thus concludes our epic “quiet and unplanned” weekend. Work almost feels like a relief after this weekend!!

More photos after the jump…

Continue reading “Epic Weekend Day Two: @45thParallelWI – @BarleyJohnsBrew – @CasanovaLiquor”

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Weekend Highlights – Sep 18-20 (plus one)

Here are a few of the things on my radar for this weekend…

  • Autumn Brew Review – Saturday 1-5pm – Unfortunately, this event is sold out. One of the beer fests thrown by the MN Craft Brewer’s Guild, ABR is held at the historic Grain Belt brewing complex in NE Minneapolis. It looks like the weather this year will be PERFECT. The Guild generally does a great job of organizing their events and this is always a favorite.
  • Odell ABR Tap Takeover – All weekend – Odell Brewing is taking over 11 taps at Republic-Calhoun Square in honor of ABR weekend. Didn’t get tickets to ABR? This, plus the usual great lineup at Republic will help you forget your pain.
  • Street Pub Twin Cities – Saturday 2-10pm – Still sad about missing ABR after your trip to Republic? I’ve got one more for the beer drinkers, the Deschutes Brewery Street Pub. A 402-foot custom bar will have 40 taps in this pop-up pub event with all proceeds going to Second Harvest Heartland. Food vendors include Happy Gnome and Potters Pasties. Music by Big Wu, Solid Gold, Step Rockets, and BBGUN.
  • Iron Bartender Week Two – Sunday: Doors at 7, Competition at 8pm – Held at the Pourhouse in Downtown Minneapolis, this week the remaining eight teams will go head-to-head in this secret ingredient challenge. The $10 cover charge (free to members of the US Bartender’s Guild) gets you into the event and generous samples of eight cocktails from the competing bars.
  • Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony Party – Friday 5-8p – Nomad World Pub will be airing all of USA’s Rugby World Cup matches and they are kicking things off with a party!
  • A Prairie Home Companion Street Dance – Saturday 5-10pm – I’m sure you’re thinking “Whaaaaaaat??” but hear me out on this one okay? It’s not particularly cool to like PHC these days, as evidenced by a petition asking “all people under 100” to help cancel the show. But you know what is cool? The music of JD McPherson. McPherson will be playing the inaugural show of Garrison Keillor’s final season and then heading out to Exchange Street to play. The event is free except for the $5 meatloaf supper. Music begins at 7pm.

Also, though not exactly this weekend, the 2015 Ivey Awards are on Monday at the Historic State Theatre. Tickets are still available for the show, after party, and VIP reception at Marin before the event. If you love theatre, this is a great way to get out and support the community!

@TheUSBG #IronBartender @PourhouseMPLS

Nick Kosevich greets the crowd before
getting things started

Because we hadn’t already had enough fun wandering around St. Paul, we decided to take the Green Line in the opposite direction to Downtown Minneapolis for the 6th Annual Iron Bartender opening night. This is one of those events I often heard about after the fact, but have recently been more in the loop AND can get out a bit more easily these days. This occasionally makes me feel like a cocktail bar groupie, but I’m pretty damn okay with that.

The “Wheel of Fortune”
determined the competitor’s
secret ingredient

Iron Bartender is an annual event in which 16 local cocktail bars go head to head in a March Madness style bracket competition. (Confession, I have no idea if what I just said makes sense, but it sounds good.) Eight teams competed this week, eight more will compete on the 20th, and then the eight winners from the first two rounds will compete on the 27th. The finalists will have their showdown on October 4th. This year, competition is taking place at The Pourhouse in the Lumber Exchange building.

A sweet little watermelon
number from Marvel Bar

In case it wasn’t enough fun watching bartenders improvise on the fly (hint: it is fun), each bar has also created a “Consumer’s Choice” cocktail for the crowd to sample and vote on. Tell me when else you can try eight different cocktails from eight different cocktail bars in one night – it’s a rare treat!

How do like dem apples? Saint Dinette’s
duo hopes you like them in cocktails.

This year’s competition started with Marvel, Parlour, Saint Dinette, La Belle Vie, Il Foro, Hola Arepa, Bradstreet Crafthouse, and Eat Street Social. I don’t know who’s up next week, but I’m sure it’s an equally impressive lineup. While we’re often Team Marvel, I also had to cheer on Saint Dinette – especially since we had been there twice already that day. Brian and Aaron didn’t make it to the next round of competition, but we’re sure to have a few more rounds with them anyway.

Bright bottles, bright bartenders.

All of the teams brought their home
bar’s unique flavor to the stage, but one in particular brought ALL their flavors. Hola Arepa? More like Hola Syrupa! They lined their bar with brightly colored bottles full of (I assume) homemade syrups, tinctures, tonics, and bitters. It was an impressive sight.

Making it to week two is unlikely, but we’ll definitely be checking out weeks three and four. And getting a few tastes of some of the town’s newest bars has added to our must try list!

Brass bands @comodockside

 

 We finally made it over to Como Dockside, a few months after the new management took over. Now being run by the group who owns 331 Club and Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Como Dockside is featuring New Orleans style on the shores of Lake Como.

There are a lot of great restaurants in parks these days, a trend I love and hope is continued/expanded, but Como wins on cocktails at this point. Most of the drinks featured locally made spirits and were creative takes on the classics.

Having walked over from the Zoo, I needed to start with something refreshing and opted for “The Green Line,” a blend of Far North’s Alander rum, soda, simple, lime, and Thai Basil. I wasn’t sure how the spiced rum would play with herbal basil, but they made it work.

While I was enjoying my Green Line, I noticed a bartender muddling strawberries. I’m kind of a sucker for strawberries in cocktails so round two was the delightful “Crocus Hill Tonic,” Far North’s Gustaf Navy Strength gin, tonic, strawberries, black pepper, and simple. Strawberries and black pepper are beautiful together.

We didn’t eat much, just some mussels and fries, but we’ll be back for the food. They are currently working on a breakfast menu and since I live less than three miles away, this has the potential to become a new favorite spot.

The building and pavilion are also fabulous. Originally built in the early 1900s, it has retained it’s classic charm while still feeling relevant. The pavilion has a small stage and overlooks Lake Como. I could totally imagine early 1900s families strolling around the area, the ladies with parasols to protect their skin. I’m sorry we made it here so late in the season as the music, movie, and event schedule looked great. Next summer, you’ll find me at Como.

It’s a spa! No, it’s a bar! No, it’s IN Spirits!

Well, this has to go down as one of the strangest bars I’ve had the pleasure to visit. And trust me, it truly was a pleasure!
 
 
Tucked in the back of Intelligent Nutrients you’ll find a beautiful custom bar. And if you happen to be there at the right time, you’ll also find a fabulous bartender. IN Spirits is a collaboration between Intelligent Nutrients, Verdant Tea, and Prohibition Kombucha. From 3-5pm on Thursdays and Fridays, Verdant Tea hosts an afternoon tea with guided tastings. Then from 4-8pm the full bar is open for “aromatic cocktails”
 
If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Wait, what?? Aromatic cocktails? Is this some health craze where you just smell the drink to save calories and prevent toxins from taking over your body?” Trust me, you get to drink your toxins. Tasty tasty toxins. The aromatic part of the equation comes from the seven “aromatic essences” by Intelligent Nutrients. Each of these seven blends of essential oils are entirely edible, so the cocktails are created to work with the aromas.
 
This might seem like a strange “gimmick” – except that it WORKS. It works well. They have developed a cocktail menu with a very unusual goal and made it work with the spirits instead of against them. What are bitters and tonics if not aromatic accents to spirits? This is just a very different spin on the idea. In lesser hands, the aromatics could be overpowering and it might seem like drinking perfume. But in the hands of a creative and skilled bartender, you get something completely new and innovative.
 
Now, I’m not going to lie, it felt weird walking into a place known for things like “neutraceuticals” and oxygen bars to get a drink. But once you sit down at the beautiful bar and have a drink in front of you? Everything else just fades away. And hey, if you enjoy the drinks a bit too much – just pick up some aromatherapy “Recover Remedy” on your way out. It’s win-win.