Ain’t this the truth.

Spotted at Keys Cafe and Bakery in Forest Lake, Minnesota.


Re-rockin’ the 902: Big Spruce Brewing

Big Spruce Brewing is a very cool microbrewery in Cape Breton. Just south of Baddeck in an area called Nyanza. I’ve already mentioned their brews: they make an Oatmeal Stout and a Pale Ale that they serve at the Festival Club. Quite excellent and certified organic, by the way. (‘Cause you know that’s how I roll.)

Image from Big Spruce Brewing
Other pics from me

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Volstead’s Select Pre-Prohibition Style Lager. NOM NOM NOM.

Volstead;s Select

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Andrew Volstead was a Republican Congressman from the 7th Congressional District in Minnesota. He sponsored the bill that forever bears his name, the Volstead Act, which created Prohibition. He also authored a bill that allows farmers to form cooperatives. Some good, some bad. After his time in Congress he returned to private law practice in Granite Falls, a small town in western Minnesota. He rests in the town cemetery.

bottle logoMy homebrewing buddies and I, collectively known as the Mulberry Junction Brewing Company, brewed this lager almost exactly one year ago. And we named it for Andy.

I’ve sampled a bottle or two since then. And just now I opened up another one, a full year after brewing day.

Holy mother of malt, is this good. Crisp. Dry. Smooth. Slightly hoppy.

Thanks for the inspiration, Andy. NOM NOM NOM.

Another fine product of the Mulberry Junction Brewing Company. Support local breweries.

Reblog: How Beer Gave Us Civilization

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Courtesy of my good friend John Popham. From today’s New York Times:

Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply — and pass along their DNA to later generations.

But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation — the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization.

To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.

We needed beer.

Beers you must try: Bell’s Java Stout

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I seem to have a thing for coffee stouts. Well, coffee and beer are two of my favorite flavors so it’s pure economy on my part.

This one is spendy. A sixer set me back $16. But quite worth it, just not every week.

The coffee stout my fellow beer geeks think is best is another Michigan product, Founders Breakfast Stout. That one is great especially since it features Sumatra and Kona coffee, two of my favorites. Founders, however, is an Imperial stout, i.e., ass-kicking alcohol volume. This one is a milder stout: a session stout, actually. Features Sumatran coffee too, which has distinct flavors. Tropical fruit, spice, smoke, and maple. Coffee geek Ken Davids calls Sumatran “the Scotch whisky of coffee.”

Pair that up with a stout, with its roasty malty chocolatey flavor, and it’s a winning combination. I like this better than Founders, I think: all the pleasant flavors without the ass-kicking that comes with an Imperial stout.

Pours a deep mahogany color into the glass with a solid mocha-colored head. The head settles down and leaves the desired lacing on the sides of the glass. Coffee is the prevailing flavor (naturally), with a bit of chocolate and vanilla after the glass warms up a bit. Very little hop presence which is also a difference from an Imperial. Feels “chewy” in the mouth. Lightly carbonated. A dry roasty flavor on the back of the mouth that lingers nicely. The alcohol provides a wee bit of warming, which is ALSO a difference from an Imperial.

You probably aren’t going to buy this every week. (If you do, invite me over.) It’s one of Bell’s winter seasonals, though, so get some quick before it’s gone.

Beer and the sequester

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By and large, we Americans are spoiled. We want what we want when we want it. We don’t like ever being told we have to wait for what we want. In fact, we believe there’s a Constitutional right to us having whatever it is we want whenever it is we want it.

When we’re inconvenienced, because something that we’ve always taken for granted is either in short supply or slow in coming, then comes the outcry. Example: In the summer of 2011 Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature reached an impasse in budget negotiations, and the state government shut down.  State parks closed, highway projects stopped, social services for the elderly and school kids were unfunded, and only those functions deemed “essential” by a Special Master and a judge continued.

One week passed, and there appeared to be no end in sight.  Some began predicting a protracted battle through the fall and even until January 2012.

And then the beer almost stopped flowing.

Brewery giant MillerCoors faced having to pull all 39 of its brands off Minnesota shelves for lack of a renewal of its brand label license, required every three years.  Apparently, MillerCoors submitted its renewal application with a check that was larger than required.  Rather than simply refund the difference like any normal business would, the Department of Public Safety instead returned the check and put the application on hold until they received a new one.  MillerCoors promptly sent the right check, but the department didn’t process the paperwork prior to the shutdown, so the license never got issued.  (Add to the mix that Anheuser Busch had its license renewal due up in the fall.)

When news broke that Minnesotans stood to lose Miller Lite and Coors Light, the heat ratcheted up to get a budget done: more so than the loss of access to the state parks or any type of social services.  And suddenly the Governor and the Legislature struck a deal that wasn’t much different than the one on the table before the shutdown.

To quote Homer Simpson: “Beer. The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

When we’re inconvenienced, even mildly, then comes the outcry. And this time it’s more serious than a beer shortage. This time the blame will be laid squarely at the feet of the Republicans, where it should be. They are the ones who came up with this genius sequester idea. Digging a hole for someone else to fall in.

Overwhelmingly, Americans want the rich to be taxed more. But the “American people” that the GOP talks about are their wealthy 1% donors. This very vocal minority of people are complicit in their own downfall. They’ll be inconvenienced too, right alongside the rest of us. Beware of the hole you dig for others, lest you fall into it yourself.

(Thanx and a hat tip to Semper Eadem and Jeffrey O’Brien.)

Okay, I hate their beer. But, dammit, this one got to me.

* snif *

Beers you must try: South Shore Brewery Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout

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This beer is like jazz.

Mint in a beer. I know, right?

I had this for the first time in 2007 at the Autumn Brew Review in Northeast Minneapolis. They served up 2 oz. sample glasses, but that was enough for it to floor me. Not sold in MN, more’s the pity, so I’m on the lookout for it on my occasional pilgrimages to The Land Of Beer And Cheese. (South Shore Brewery is in Ashland, Wisconsin, way up on Lake Superior.)

Pours into the glass dark and rich, with a substantial mocha-colored head. The beer smells like a grasshopper pie, if you remember those. This is a sweet London stout, not a Guinness-style Irish stout, so the flavors meld together nicely. This beer is like jazz. Coffee, bourbon, oak, mint, vanilla, and chocolate are all there but none overpowers the rest: they each take their solo turn, and then fade back into the ensemble.

To be fair, though, it was so much smoother on tap than out of the bottle. Close, though, mighty close.

From Strange David’s awesome blog:

The taste is a fudgy chocolate, prevalent but not intense, and notes of vanilla sneak in too. The mint seems to fade in and out as it crosses the palate.

In fact, the entire beer seems to be about hinting at power but holding it in reserve. There is no single flavor that overwhelms, but the combined taste is a strong one. Surprisingly, there is very little aftertaste other than that astonishing mint that turns out to be an ingredient that the majority of brewers have overlooked.

All in all, it’s almost like having a nice chocolate stout after having had a good mint julep.

Brilliantly confusing beer.

I like being brilliantly confused, so that works for me.

This is a one-of-a-kind beer. It’s a seasonal offering, only sold through January, so if you’re in Wisconsin snap some up.

Christmas In Kentucky, Chapter I: The Departure

My (rental) ride

My (rental) ride

Wherein I relive the joys of Saint Paul rush hour, dine at a McDonalds whilst it was still being built, brave the fierce elements, and rediscover a dormant but prodigious talent

Off to Kentucky for Christmas with Mom, sister Mary, bro-in-law Pete, and adorable niece Nolia. I am still carless after the collision, so have rented a sweet little 2013 Ford Focus. This is a live ride. I may not give it back.

The office closed at noon. And after a stop at the radio station holiday potluck, I eventually got on the road by 3 with every intention of reaching Missouri by dusk. I-35E traffic in Saint Paul during Friday afternoon rush hour had different plans, though. I was nearly to Faribault before the interstate stopped resembling a parking lot. Road rage was surprisingly absent, though, which is remarkable.

Image from –  Not the actual Medford McDonalds

In Medford my windows began to frost over, I was hungry, and I needed to pee. So I pulled off the interstate, onto a goddamn roundabout (which I despise), and into a (seemingly) friendly and welcoming McDonalds. Bad choice. Apparently the lighted sign did not indicate a restaurant ready for diners. Although the McStaff was serving food to a crowded line of customers, the McConstruction Workers were still building the place: hanging drywall, installing ceiling lights, prepping the floor for tile. There was one bathroom and the line was understandably immense. Cold weather caused most of the diners to eat in, and we all sat at church-basement folding tables and chairs. I understand their desire to serve holiday travelers, but this was a McMistake.

Continuing on down the interstate, my windows continued to frost over. As I approached Albert Lea (home town to Al Franken and nearly into Iowa), the roads became more slippery. As I crossed the border, they became glazed. I pushed on another forty miles to Clear Lake (best known as the place where Buddy Holly et al died in a 1959 plane crash), drove gingerly onto the exit ramp, and took my rest at the AmericInn.

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I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it into Missouri. But my dad was famous for saying, “Just find out how many miles the road will give you.” Good advice, Dad.

On the plus side: for road trip music I busted out some mix CDs I burned four or five years ago. God damn, but I make some fine mix CDs.

So. Sitting back, chillaxin’, quaffing a Schell’s (coincidentally named) Snowstorm. Their winter seasonal is different each year, and this time around they’ve created a Biére de Garde. Very very nice.

Yes, the holidays have begun. With luck and an early start, Kentucky tomorrow afternoon.

Oh, this is too cool. Home brew being made at the White House.

My Prez is a beer geek!–finance.html

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Obamas tap White House home beer

President Barack Obama has become one of the first modern day US presidents known for enjoying a cold beer that is brewed and tapped right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Obama aides on Tuesday confirmed the small brewery during a three-day re-election campaign tour across Iowa. An official admitted the Obamas have their own alcoholic beverage made and kept in stock at the White House.

Revelations about the White House beer came to light after the president gave a bottle of it to a patron at a coffee shop he was visiting in Iowa.

The beer, named White House Honey Ale, comes in both a light and dark variety. The honey portion of the drink is taken from first lady Michelle Obama’s garden beehive.

Added a pic of the bottle!

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