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Back To Meinen Roots – The Beers of Germany That I Love

I’ve got an Irish surname, but as Bruce Willis’ character Butch from Pulp Fiction so succinctly put it: “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.” My grandmother always told us that we were ‘Heinz 57’ whenever we inquired about our family lineage; 57 varieties of (presumably?) white folks. That’s probably true of most of us in the United States and beyond (the 57 varieties, not necessarily the white folks part). Humans tend to mix together with others of varied and disparate descent to become something that is unique yet highly universal. I think it’s fair to say that none of us truly know all of the parts that make up our whole, but most of us think that we have some idea of where our family origin lies, at least in part. Your surname is definitely a good indicator of where at least part of your family hails from, but in my case even my relatives who immigrated from Ireland to the US  were descended from people who immigrated to Ireland from Germany. That, along with some other family genealogy that has been well documented, illustrates that I am probably of around 50% German descent, with some Norwegian, Finnish, English and Irish thrown in for good measure. A lot of us who hail from the Northern parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota can reliably trace our Norwegian or Finnish ancestry only because the majority of those ancestors immigrated here in the early 1900s.

Beer in the USA is a great parallel to our human lineages. With the explosion of craft breweries and beer in general in this country, you see breweries here taking the known brewing traditions of the Europeans who many of us are descended from and expanding upon their basic form; sometimes with great results, and sometimes leaving your palate in the dust. For years, when most American craft brewers brewed a classic style like an ale or pilsner, they backed up the truck from the cascade hop farm and let it rip, imparting mostly that flavor and burying most of the other ones. That’s cool. I personally don’t want to drink it, but it’s cool to push the envelope and take something to the nth degree. Often, when you push the boundaries of something you arrive somewhere new and unexpected, hopefully with pleasing results. The problem is, many people (and brewers are some of the chief offenders) jump ahead to the step where they make the ‘innovative’ product without first learning how to make a perfect version of what came before. That’s problematic. In most forms of art or craft it is pretty much universally accepted that you can’t make an appreciable innovation or improvement without succinct knowledge of the original.

So, long story longer, I thought it would be fun to take a little tour of the country that a lot of people consider the epicenter of good beer; Germany. See what I did? I’m writing! Writers tie stuff together and stuff!

I think my willingness to drink just about any German beer belies what I’ve learned in drinking wine; find a region that you like and learn the styles (grapes in the example of wine) that appeal to you. I have had really good success in that manner, even as my tastes have changed. Early on in my wine game I would gravitate towards Australian wine because all of the versions available to me had a similar quality; they were sweet and jammy from the intense Aussie sun and the vines were mostly of new world varietals that did not have the complexities of some of the older vine, European wines.  Weather conditions are a huge part of the wine equation no matter what varietal of grape you grow. Ever tasted some of the wines produced made from grapes grown here in the Upper Midwest? The quality of those that I have tried can be described in terms ranging from passable to downright diabolical. The weather here isn’t like France, and it for damn sure isn’t like Italy, so no amount of old world vine is going to make up for the differing amount and quality of sunlight or the completely different soil and growing conditions. Beer is an almost complete departure from this idea. Poor quality ingredients in beer are definitely going to lower the quality of the end product, but not in the same way that it would with grapes and ultimately wine. The grains and hops to brew beer are not all created equal, to be sure, but since the process of brewing beer is so completely different from that of making wine, you end up with much less of the nuance and actual flavor of the grain. In other words, you’re actually tasting the process more than the ingredients. Give the master brewers at Ayinger or G. Schneider & Sohn the exact same grains and hops that our old pals Budweiser use and see which lager is better. Even though the Germans might be appalled at using rice (the main ingredient Budweiser uses) as the grain for the recipe, their process would probably yield a higher quality result. So, when I talk about liking regions for brewing beer (and this is mostly true in Europe, less so in the ‘States), I gravitate towards them for their brewing traditions.  Beyond just the traditions of brewing great beer, the Germans have for centuries written laws to protect the quality of their beer. Written by Bavarian noblemen in the year 1516, The Bavarian Purity Law for beer says only water, barley and hops may be used to brew beer. Yeast was added to this list, later known as the beer purity law or Reinheitsgebot, when scientists discovered the fermenting agent centuries later. Beer was of great importance to the Germans, as it was a main food staple and also a source of clean, potable hydration (with the added bonus of booze). The modern version of the Reinheitsgebot is not the first attempt at steering the production of beer. It is, however, seen as the high point of several hundred years of regulatory development which was aimed at supplying the citizens with qualitatively good beer (a food staple at the time), while also regulating the prices.

OK… ENOUGH WITH THE BORING HISTORY LESSON. Let’s get into some suds, my buds.

 

Ayinger- Aying, Bavaria

Full disclosure; I first bought Ayinger’s beer because I loved the label, and especially the cool bottle cap it had. Since then, I’ve had occasion to try several of their other styles, many of which are readily available in the United States at some of the your finer liquor stores and bottle shops. If you are at a liquor store and they do not have at least two kinds of Ayinger beer, WALK AWAY. Alright, maybe that’s a bit extreme. But, seriously, I don’t trust a store will be able to serve my needs if they are not well in the know with this brewery. Ayinger absolutely blasts me into the pleasure-sphere with their Bavarian Pilsner, which is a little heavier on flavor than, say, a Czech style pilsner, but still balances the sweet, slightly caramel taste with a nice brace of hops.
Bavarian Pilsner is definitely a brew that can be enjoyed in any season, but could be served closer to cellar temp in the Autumn/Winter months and then ice cold in Spring/Summer. Ayinger also makes a product that I love called Urweisse. This delicious beer is pale in color and hazy; with a big and voluptuous head. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘brut’ beer, as it begins with a bit of a tart note followed by a delicious, smooth body from a combination of grains comprised of about 60% wheat.  This killer brew finishes with a subtle (don’t be afraid, it really is subtle) taste of cloves and ripe banana. That may sound crazy to you, but trust me when I say that it is very approachable and incredibly well balanced in all flavors. Ayinger’s Weizenbock is a relatively uncommon style, even in Bavaria, so I just had to mention it here. Weizen bocks are wheat ales brewed to be as strong as bock.  They are incredibly drinkable, full-bodied and deeply flavored but also perfectly balanced. This beer would be a great one for drinking around a fire in the heart of winter, but could probably refresh you in the summer, too.

Image result for weihenstephan

Weihenstephan– Freising, Bavaria

This is a storied German brewery, the oldest in the world, in fact,  that has been in its location in a hilltop monastery for nearly a thousand years. ONE THOUSAND years. As in, before Charlemagne was born, before the Crusades, before most of the cities in Germany that exist today were even cities, Weihenstephan has been making that wort and pushing those suds. I’ve included them here not only because they make great beer, but also because it is widely available in the US.  German brewing is definitely a storied tradition, but also one that still is allowed to breathe and evolve, even in more recent times. Of course, ‘recent’ when you’re talking about breweries that have gone on for hundreds-plus years could mean only 150 years ago, but who’s counting?   Let’s talk about Weihenstephan Festbier, by way of example. I guess that I need to let you know that the ‘fest’ is in regards to Octoberfest, which is like Christmas for drunks in old Deutchland. The term ‘Octoberfest’ in regards to beer is actually pretty strict in terms of the geographical location of where it is brewed, so ‘festbiers’ are sort of the rest of Germany answering the call for a beer for this very special time of year. Weihenstephan Festbier is completely different from what most people would think of as an Octoberfest beer. ‘Festbier’ is a very light straw colored lager, with a snowy white head and a refreshing hop taste that disappears quickly. I usually see it here in the ‘States every fall, and I always buy it. It’s quite simply one of the best lagers you will ever drink, and one that leaves me wishing it was always October. And speaking of changing brewing traditions , I would be remiss if I did not mention Vitus by Weihenstephan. This beer is a light-colored, full-bodied, spicy single-bock with a creamy head.  Sparkling with an effervescent mouthfeel, it develops its round character based on the extra long storage time giving it a bit of the complexity of a Saison, but without a ton of the ester and banana qualities.  Thus, the Vitus does not taste like a typical Bock beer but more like a noble, fruity wheat beer. Weird, right? Not exactly my go-to or anything, but something that I had to try, and you should, too. I’m also a big fan of Weihenstephan Kristalbier, which is essentially a wheat beer that has been heavily filtered to obtain ‘crystal’ clarity. The filtration process must take out a lot of the heavier overtones that I would normally associate with a wheat beer, which leaves you with lots of the floral qualities inherent in wheat beers at the forefront. This is a great food beer for that reason, going well with seafood and white meat in the way that a dry white wine would.

J Schneider & Sohn (Schneiderweisse)– Kelheim

This brewery is noteworthy to me in that it only produces wheat beers. I’m not a wheat freak or anything, but Schneiderweisse Tap 7 (sometimes refered to as ‘The Original’) is truly something special. I first had opportunity to try this beer at a Rathskellar (loosely defined as a beer hall or restaurant located in a basement) here in my town of Duluth, MN. The very serious brewmaster (Dave Hoops) who worked for the restaurant group which owned this Rathskellar was somehow able to get half barrels of this beer imported to him from Germany. Amazing! This was the closest thing to drinking it in Germany that you could achieve Stateside. I have included this beer and brewery in my list also because it is readily available here in the US, though not usually on tap. The version that we can buy in bottles is still really good, but as most of us savvy to what a great, clean tap system does know, it just can’t touch it. I won’t waste time describing the flavor here, other than to say that it’s very similar to some of the other weisse that I have described in this article. Even if you don’t like wheat beer, try this one! It is widely regarded to be one of the best versions in the world.

 

 

Spaten– Munich, Bavaria

‘Lass Dir raten, trinke Spaten.’ or  ‘Let yourself be advised, drink Spaten.’ is an ad slogan first coined in the 1920s by Spaten brewery. I love the way this reads in English (although it doesn’t rhyme as in the Deutsche); it’s so German! You know, we’re not telling you that you have to drink Spaten, that’s up to you, of course, but just be advised that you should be drinking this beer. Too true! Spaten is one of the most common German imports found in the US (I’m not going to talk about Beck’s or St. Pauli Girl, OK?), but it’s also just a really good brewery, and one that has quite a few different styles. For my taste, Spaten makes the excellent Munchen and Munchen Hell, Vienna and Helles style lagers, respectively. These beers are bready, crisp and dry. I think the Helles has slightly more hop flavor, but really they’re pretty similar to one another. If you want to try a pretty great version of a doppelbock, Spaten Optimator is easily found in most reputable liquor stores. This beer has a dark, cola-like appearance with a nice amount of off-white head and it smells very malty and sweet but not in a bad way. The taste is very deep malt, almost syrup like but at the same time its smooth and drinkable. It’s also one of those beers that drinks way less strong than it actually is. At 7.6%, this is the type of beer that you could get into trouble with if you get a taste for it some night.

 

 

There are still a ton of beers available from Germany in the USA that I haven’t touched upon. That’s OK! You have a world of discovery ahead of you! Generally, if you see a German import in the store, you can probably infer that it is going to be pretty high quality (unless it says Beck’s or St Pauli Girl, sorry gang). If you’re a hop-head like most of my beer drinking brethren here in the USA, you should probably stick to drinking IPAs brewed domestically. While there are reportedly a few breweries that make a nice IPA ( Fritzale, Häffner, and BrauKunstKeller are names that have been bandied about), it’s just really not their thing. But, if you want to drink any form of bock, wheat, lager or pilsner, stamp that liquor store passport and get to it!

 

 

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5 things-Smokehaus week review

Our Smokehaus week in review.

#1. Obviously the most buzzy thing that happened last week was our catering team went to the game of games, the Super Bowl! The recap from the team was all good stuff. They impressed a packed house of over 2,000 guests who were there to eat food, drink and party, party, party. Our team rocked the vibe with their table concept and their pickled mushrooms received HIGH praise. We are proud of our team!!!

#2. We have new shirts for sale! Get ’em while they’re hot. Show your Smokehaus love. These beauties are super soft and sleek.

 

#3. Send something smoky to your loved ones. Now featuring 2 limited-time gift boxes for the holiday of love: Hey, Sweetie and It’s Gouda Together. These sassy little gift boxes are sure to show your appreciation for that special person in your life. Be it your loving mom, big bro, or lifetime partner. Show ’em you love ’em.

smokehaus hey sweetie

#4. Not quite done with the day of love just yet. What else does every Valentine need? A little cocktail! Check out these cocktail recipes using Simple Syrups on our blog.

#5. Missing summertime? Yep, we are too. Now for a limited time get yourself a Summer Caper sandwich, in the deli! The Summer Caper was super popular this past summer. It starts with a Bakehouse bagel, then gets topped with scallion cream cheese, smoked salmon with pepper & coriander, red onions, lettuce and… drum roll please…….. CAPERS. Ahhhh, so fresh. Gonna need a summer cocktail with this!

summer caper smokehaus

 

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Simple Syrups Three Ways

Life in Duluth revolves around the lake. Whether you think it cheesy, inspirational, mundane or not; Lake Superior rules. The water is calming, refreshing and gives vitality. We drink the best water in the world (it’s our world) every day, so it’s not surprising that this city on the banks of Lake Superior has attracted Vikre Distillery (a lauded and award-winning company) to hand make its delicious spirits  here.
The following recipes use Vikre Gin (you can sub with your favorite London-dry gin– but you should trust us and try Vikre), Lake Superior Water, and some terminology that you might not be used to or maybe you are. Either way let’s define some words so that we’re all on the same page.

Simple Syrup- Usually a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. You can make Rich Syrup or Weak Syrup by altering the ratio in either direction. You can choose to flavor your simple syrup by adding vegetables, herbs, and botanicals.

Cordial- A more ‘advanced’ version of a simple syrup made by infusing water with flowers and/ or fruits.  Cordial sits for longer than a simple syrup in the fridge and is then strained.

Coupe- A type of stemmed glass with a shallow bowl used for champagne, gimlets, martinis, etc.

Collins-  A tall and narrow glass tumbler glass (think Mojitos).

High Ball- A short and stout glass tumbler (think Old Fashioned).

Sour- 1:1 ratio of Lemon Juice and Simple Syrup + Spirit.

Gimlet- 1:1 ratio of  Lime Juice and Simple Syrup +Spirit (or Lime Cordial + Spirit).

Bitters- A pungent liquor that is made with botanicals and added to cocktails for enhancing its flavor profile.

 

Now that we have that covered we can focus on what’s really fun; making our ingredients and having the satisfaction of enjoying a home-made cocktail from scratch.

We’ll start with some simple syrups:

Lavender Syrup

3 TBSP of Dried Lavender

1 C White Sugar

1 C Water

Bring your water and lavender to a soft boil and stir in your sugar. Once sugar is dissolved bring your syrup down to a simmer and stir for a couple minutes. Let your ingredients steep for 15 minutes off heat. Strain with cheese cloth or fine mesh. Allow the syrup to cool and keep it refrigerated.

 

Ginger Syrup

1 C Roughly Cut Ginger (1/2 in- 3/4 in)

1 C White Sugar

1 C Water

Bring your water and ginger to a soft boil and stir in your sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, bring your syrup down to a simmer and stir for a couple of minutes. Let your ingredients steep for 15 minutes off heat. Strain with cheese cloth or fine mesh. If you want to get all of the ginger goodness, use a spoon to press on the softened ginger chunks. Allow the syrup to cool and keep it refrigerated.

 

Basil Syrup

1 C Loosely Packed Basil

1 C White Sugar

1 C Water

Bring your water and basil to a soft boil while stirring occasionally and slowly add in your sugar. Once sugar is dissolved bring your syrup down to a simmer and stir for a couple minutes. Let your ingredients steep for 15 minutes off heat. Strain with cheese cloth or fine mesh. Allow the syrup to cool and keep it refrigerated.

 

Now, what you do with these simple syrups is up to you. You can use them for baking, enhancing your tea, making flavored sodas or making cocktails at home. If you feel like shaking things up, we suggest some variations of sours and gimlets as a go-to for a refreshing evening. If kept in the fridge, your syrup will last about 2 months. 

Lavender Gin Sour

2 oz Vikre Juniper Gin

0.75 oz Lavender Syrup

0.75 oz Lemon Juice

Add the lemon juice, lavender syrup and gin to a shaker and fill with ice. You’ll want to vigorously shake your mix for about 10-15 seconds. Strain into a coupe and enjoy!

Basil Gin Sour

1.5 oz Vikre Juniper Gin

0.75 oz Basil Syrup

0.75 oz Lemon Juice

 

Add the lemon juice, basil syrup and gin to a shaker and fill with ice. You’ll want to vigorously shake your mix for about 10-15 seconds. Strain into a coupe and enjoy!

You can sub the Vikre Boreal Spruce Gin for this cocktail for extra citrus and bright notes.

 

Spring’s in the Air

1.5 oz Vikre Juniper Gin

0.25 oz Ginger Syrup

0.75 oz Lemon Juice

0.50 oz St. Germain (or sub for any Elderflower cordial)

Add the lemon juice, ginger syrup, St. Germain and gin to a shaker and fill with ice. You’ll want to vigorously shake your mix for about 10-15 seconds. Strain into a coupe, garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy!

 

And if coupes are not your style, these syrups lend themselves to make refreshing variations of a Tom Collins.

 

Not Your Average Tom

0.75 oz Lemon Juice

0.75 oz Ginger Syrup

1.5 oz Vikre Boreal Juniper Gin

Soda Water

 

Add the lemon juice, ginger syrup and Juniper Gin to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a highball or Collins glass. Add ice cubes to the top and fill your glass with soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel or wedge. Enjoy!

 

 

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5 things: From The Shop + A Recipe!

Five Friday Fishmonger Favorites (by Reggie Asplund)

Unnecessary instances of alliteration for the offseason. 

With the madness of summer and the holiday season done our often busy deli has returned to the restful lull that is the winter offseason in Duluth. Though the cold can be a tad bit of a challenge, here are five things us fishmongers enjoy during the offseason.
 
1. Seasonal samplings of smoked savory sustenance.
We like to eat. You like to eat.
Free food is pretty fantastic, which is why we’re playing around with some pretty sweet sample plates in the shop. So if you’re stopping by and see some up on the case, please help yourself! Need another? We won’t judge. We’ve been sampling more than we’d care to admit.
5 things deli samples
2. Limited lines lead to lunacy and laughter.
The summer often yields to a somewhat serious full staff. Though we never take ourselves too seriously our game faces are most definitely on and ready for the never-ending crowds that often swarm our small storefront. When the crowd finally ends, we often find ourselves having, well, a bit of (read: potentially way to much) fun with the quietness this beautiful offseason provides. So please enjoy the banter, say hi, make a joke, laugh with us a bit, and enjoy the lack of a lengthy line with us. Let’s all beat the winter blues together!
3. Creative cleaner creates clever creature capture. 
Ah yes. The dreaded deep clean. Or is it?
Harrison, one or our beloved assistant managers, seasonally hides small animal figures around the shop to be scavenged for while we clean. This leads to some rather creative hiding but also a nice little reward while we clean every nook and cranny of our shop. So while you’re passing through or waiting for a sandwich, take a look around and you might just spot a few little ones awaiting their discovery.

4. Whimsical wizard wails wordy wonder. 
It’s been around for nearly three years, but it certainly deserves a replay.
 
5. Big bad bourbon breakfast beats blues. 
Yes. Bourbon for breakfast.
We aim to minimize waste (throwing food away is never enjoyable), and lately I’ve come to saving our leftover bread for a bountiful breakfast the following day. Recipe below: a modified bread pudding that’ll warm the soul, stick to your bones, and probably clog the arteries. Nevertheless, enjoy!
Pudding
3-5 cups day-old ciabatta, sourdough, or french bread, cubed in 1 inch pieces
2 tbsp melted butter
2 cups milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 apple
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
Preheat over to 350º.
In a medium bowl beat together eggs, melted butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in sugar until dissolved, then mix in milk, set aside. Finely chop apple, set aside.
To prepare, arrange a single layer of bread pieces in a well seasoned 9 or 10 inch cast iron pan. Sometimes I’ll lightly(!) coat it with melted butter, no more than a tablespoon. Top with a third of the apple and walnuts. Repeat. And again. Carefully pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread into the pan. This should get close to filling the pan but not quite. Feel free to top with extra cinnamon, apples or nuts… this is about winter survival right?
Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the eggs and milk have set. I often place foil over the top for the last 15 minutes to prevent the top bread cubes from getting too dark, but keep an eye on it.
While that’s going, go get your first round of dishes done. Do ’em quick, as we’ve got a little bit more to do.
Whiskey Sauce
Yes, I did say bourbon, though just about any whiskey will do.
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whiskey (I use Jameson or Bullet Bourbon)
In a medium saucepan, on low heat, melt the butter and sugar together.
Then add cream and whiskey. Gently mix and bring to a slow, rolling boil.
Let it slowly boil down for a good 15-20 minutes. We’re looking for a nice heavy, caramelly sauce.
When the bread pudding is done carefully drizzle sauce over it.
Let it cool for just a bit, then grab a big metal spoon and enjoy.
For extra winter warmth, serve with a batch of Northern Waters Breakfast Sausage and hot black coffee. Don’t worry, you can ski this off in no time at all.
5 things reggies pudding
Blog post written by Reggie Asplund
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We’re Going To The Super Bowl!

In a mere week and a half, our amazing catering crew are going to pack two vans, four coolers, our 6-foot-long Douglas fir serving board, and around 100 pounds of smoked goodness and head to Minneapolis to cater (along with several other folks) the Official Super Bowl Tailgate Party. It’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever catered, but we feel like all our years of catering have been great training for an event like the Superbowl.

We were thrilled to get an email from a company that organizes the Superbowl village vendors: it was a huge logistical challenge but in typical Smokehaus fashion we rapidly decided to do it and figure out how later. I filled out the application, answered some follow-up questions, and left it on the horizon for the better part of December. To participate, we would need to essentially staff a condensed version of our already-condensed deli in Duluth: sandwich coolers, prep areas, abridged menus, and (most troublingly) a staff who a) could find an affordable place to stay in the Twin Cities for a week during the Superbowl inundation and b) would not leave a hole in the schedule with their absence.

I was in the middle of loosely sorting this out and fielding plenty of interest from all corners of the Smokehaus when we got the congratulatory email, and above all the logistical concerns I knew we were in for a great adventure. About a half an hour after that the second email came in explaining that the first missive was sent by mistake – but congratulations, we were first on the waiting list. Annoyance was mixed with a splash of relief, but every time the Superbowl came up, I felt a little baby kick of rejection.

A few weeks later, Eric was contacted through an old friend from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and was asked to participate in a different Superbowl event: as a caterer at the  2018 Players Tailgate Party. This was a BIG deal – 2,000 people – by far our largest headcount, kitty-corner to a major event in Minnesota, with plenty of opportunities to share our smoked fish, charcuterie, and years of food styling trial and error with a brand new group of customers. We once again assumed the formation, said yes, and figured it out. Staffed, condo’d (thanks to a staffer’s parents), prep listed, and fully stoked, we’re going to the Superbowl(!), and once again, we’re in for a great adventure.

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BEER AS I SEE IT- PILSNER RULES OR A REFUTATION OF BEER SNOB CULTURE

I’ve been tasked once again with telling you how things should be. If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ve probably already seen some of my posts regarding how things should be or how to make things the best that they can be.  The ‘things’ part changes each time I do this column, but you can be assured that it will always be the best ‘things’ or at least the best possible ‘thing’. Although the fact that I say something is the best is fairly meaningless. Don’t let snobs of any stripe tell you how to live your life, but especially don’t let snobs tell you what kind of beer you should like. That is up to you, dear reader.

I wanted to do a basic primer of breweries from our region of the Upper Midwest (kind of skewing North, I guess), but of course it is mainly centered around the styles of beer that I personally enjoy, so don’t take it too seriously. Living in a state (MN) that is at the forefront of the craft beer movement has made life easy, in terms of writing this blog and in cracking cold brews, so… OK. You know that I want to get into some suds. Let’s do.

FULTON- Minneapolis, MN

I know that a lot of my craft-beer snob friends would poo poo me putting Fulton on my ‘tops’ list, but hear me out! Fulton brought an inexpensive, delicious and well crafted lager (Fulton Standard) to the market. A lager that is actually a lager, not an IPA masquerading as one. That was a really big deal for folks like me who had been over-hopped to death for years. There are actually a lot of us out here who enjoy beers that are more nuanced, such as a lager or pilsner because they are of the easy drinking variety and also don’t kill your palate with a pine needle assault. Beer can actually be a friend to food, not just something that you had too much of that necessarily requires you to eat food. Fulton really does the range of what quality beer drinkers expect to a T; enjoy their Standard Lager for a bit of malty refreshment, Fulton Pils for a thirst quenching drink with a flavor that leaves you wanting another sip, and Fulton 300 for that very full flavored hit of mosaic hops that this version of a West Coast IPA delivers in spades.

 

 

SUMMIT- St. Paul, MN

Summit is that venerable Minnesota craft brewery of old, so I figured I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them. For many who grew up in Minnesota or Wisconsin, this would be their first foray into ‘good’ beer, before the craft beer explosion had happened and perhaps before that term was even coined. I’m guessing that a lot of people would feel that with the proliferation of breweries (some of them really good) in Minnesota, no ink or digital blips should even be wasted on Summit. I, too, was always pretty unimpressed by their offerings, although for different reasons than my beer-snob friends. Summit’s devotion to all things pale ale (their EPA had to have been one of the most popular beers in the state) had always left me wishing that they would do a good lager or pilsner. Most of the snobs felt as though Summit had gotten too pedestrian in their styles, as they are always seemingly longing for the latest barrel aged, sour or weird peanut butter and jelly beer to come out. Summit never really did a ton of that stuff other than in their taproom, but rather, as a really pretty large player in the craft production brewery world, Summit has always kind of focused on producing the stuff that moves bottles off of the shelf  (with great success).  In the spirit of that, Summit now hits the market with a couple of new pilsners. Keller Pils was a really popular one-off that Summit did  for a couple of summers before it became so popular that it had to go into regular rotation. Keller Pils (which is a cloudy, ‘young’ pils with less filtration) drinks crisp and refreshing with just enough salinity to keep you wanting more. They also sell this for around $15 a 12 pack (cans), which makes it a value for a very high quality beer. Summit has also recently released Dakota Soul,  a Czech style pilsner, noteworthy for using barley sourced from a single farm in North Dakota and in using a new American hop varietal called Loral. This cold-conditioned pilsner is complex but easily drinkable, making it what I would consider a go-to for warmer spring weather (although sub zero temperatures recently did not diminish my enjoyment of it). Summit does a lot of cool collaborations with other breweries (the Unchained series springs to mind) but is also really making a push to master the classic European styles. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of Summit’s other beers, but their English Pale Ale, Great Northern Porter, Oatmeal Stout and Saga beers are well crafted and highly rated by many.

NEW GLARUS- New Glarus, WI

This brewery has to be respected simply due to the absolutely ubiquitous nature of their beer in Wisconsin. It’s almost like you can’t tip over a cow in that state without finding reference to this brewery.  It could be due to the fact that it is only available in Wisconsin, but seriously, there isn’t a liquor store, gas station, bodega, fireworks stand or roadside gift shop in America’s Dairyland that you will not find at least their flagship beer, Spotted Cow. Spotted Cow always gets dogged by the beer snobs; too light, too sweet, and of course, not hoppy enough. Spotted Cow falls into the category of farmhouse ale, which is a cask-conditioned style of beer often referred to as ‘real ale’, aka beer brewed from traditional ingredients (or in a traditional style) and matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed. This is similar to the way homebrewers condition their beer in bottles with no secondary carbon dioxide added. The result in Spotted Cow is a beer that is cloudy, fruity, slightly tart and incredibly malty. Spotted Cow goes great with most food and is hard to beat on a hot summer day. The same goes for their Two Women brew, a smooth yet flavorful lager. New Glarus makes a beer for just about any type of beer lover, and their beers are highly coveted throughout the Great Lakes region and beyond.

UPPER HAND- Escanaba, MI

Michigan’s upper peninsula has proliferated more than a few great breweries and brew pubs in the last few years, and Upper Hand is one of my favorites. Having occasion a couple of times to travel through this breathtakingly beautiful part of the state in 2017, and always loving to drink local, I sampled plenty of the smooth beers made by Upper Hand. It’s pretty amazing to think that in one of the least populace parts of the state of Michigan, beers are being made at such a high level (not to mention high volume). For my taste, Upper Hand nails it on their Pale Ales and Lagers, but they truly have a beer for everyone.

UTEPILS- Minneapolis, MN

Ok, so if you’re from the Twin Cities area (and surely beyond) you no doubt are familiar with how cool NE Minneapolis has become. Great breweries, restaurants, bars… basically a young, party-centric person’s dream. But what about the neighborhoods that are emerging? What about Bryn Mawr ? Just kidding! Bryn Mawr is a beautiful neighborhood directly west of downtown Minneapolis with tons of hiking trails, proximity to lakes and so many other great amenities but is probably not considered cool or emerging at all. Until now! Utepils Brewing is a relatively new player in the Minneapolis beer scene, but one that has garnered an almost cult-like following, especially in the tragically underserved neighborhood of Bryn Mawr. The reason? The beer. Utepils has a strict commitment to doing classic beer styles the way the Europeans did them, and with great success. While a lot of Minnesota breweries that had heretofore been pushing the boundaries of all that is beer are now starting to come back to doing ‘classic’ beers, Utepils has never strayed from what has worked for centuries. I think that’s the reason that I like them so much. It takes guts to go up against major players in the beer world like Ayinger or G. Schneider & Sohn, but to brew beers that actually stand up to the breweries that have been producing these styles for hundreds of years is downright impressive. I’m personally a huge fan of their Pils and Keller Pils styles, but have been geeked to see them succeed with diverse styles such as Altbier or Kolsch. Ewald the Golden (hefeweizen) was their first flagship beer and one that I highly recommend even for those who are not fans of the style. Their version is revelatory; estery, bananna-ey and clovey yet extremely clean at the finish. It makes me want to smash every glass of Blue Moon with an orange wedge on the ground in protest. An even cleaner version can be found in their Kristalweizen, which is essentially a filtered version of Ewald the Golden, producing a crystal clear look and taste. I wouldn’t kid ya, kid. This brewery could be magically transplanted to Bavaria and no one would bat an eye.

YOUR LOCAL- Anytown, USA

I don’t know where you live. Why would I? But one thing is almost certain: whatever corner of the Upper Midwest you hail from there is probably a brewpub or brewery relatively close to you. If you live in any decent sized town here I could almost guarantee that you have one or the other or both. I think that one of the smartest components of the craft beer movement is the tie to local economies. It’s really not a hard sell when you think about it. you drink beer. Beer is produced in your town. Beer is produced by the people that live in your town. Beer is taxed in your town. The people who live in your town that work at the brewery spend money in your town. You spend money at the local brewery/brewpub and a lot of that money it stays in your town. What’s not to love about that process? If you can find a beer you love being produced locally it really behooves you to buy it often. In the city of Duluth, MN where I live, we have Lake Superior Brewing (Minnesota’s oldest craft brewery), Fitger’s Brewhouse,  Bent Paddle , Blacklist and new kids on the block Hoops Brewing to choose from. Just across the border in Superior, WI we have the Thirsty Pagan brewpub as well as the new Earth Rider production brewery and taproom and just up the shore in Two Harbors, MN Castle Danger brewing is gaining a rabid following both locally and statewide. It’s truly a great time to drink beer and to do so locally. Just think about the far reaching impact those beer dollars have so close to home!

 

So there you have it. My comprehensive guide to drinking the beers of my region that I enjoy. But, no matter where you live, there are bound to be some great suds to enjoy with your buds. Please do so!

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Perfect Party Peanut Mix

A Recipe for (Snacking) Success By Deli Manager Taylor Kline

Peanut and Pretzel Mix: a football Sunday Kline family tradition, which in all reality became a requirement for every Menard’s run. By no means is this a high society party mix. It is a simple mix made for the simple pleasure of all day snacking and its often what we had in our “snack” dry pantry.

The best part about party mixes are that they can be used seasonally or as basic as desired. Think the Holiday season with almond bark-dipped pretzels or for Thanksgiving throw in some roasted pumpkin seeds.  But for snack simplicity, this is what I crave with an ice cold pilsner and the refreshing disappointment of Minnesota professional sports, minus the Lynx.

Basic necessities:

  • Pretzels 1 bag (12 oz) / Stick Pretzels – or tub (32 oz is typically what the Butter Spindles come in)
    Any basic snack-size sticks work great. But when we discovered Butter Spindles, our mix hit the next level of salty, buttery greatness.
  • Dry Roasted Peanuts – 2 containers (they typically come in 14 oz containers).   1 container of dry roasted & 1 container of honey roasted.
  • M & M’s – 1 bag (12 oz) – Regular M & M’s are absolutely fine, but come on, this is indulgent. Go for the peanut, peanut butter, or even the pretzel M & M’s.
  • Rice and/or Wheat Chex Cereal – 1 box of Rice and or 1 box of Wheat
  • -Raisins – 1 bag (10 oz)

The Mix

  • Pour into a large bowl:
    •  Full bag of pretzels ( if you are using the Butter Spindles, use half the tub)
      Each container of peanuts. 
    • Half a bag of M & M’s
    • Half a box of Rice Chex & half box of Wheat Chex
    • Half bag of raisins (if you prefer more raisins to mix ratio, add more.)

Store unused items in cupboard for the next batch.

 

There is nothing better than snacking the Big Game Day away and enjoying bevs with your friends and family. Enjoy this simple, yet delicious recipe, while watching two teams that Minnesotans dislike in our hometown stadium – No deflated footballs here!
SKOL

 

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5 things – What’s New in Mail Order

5 things coming to you from the desk of the Mail Order Director this week. I’ve had an amazing year in 2017 at the Smokehaus. From learning the ropes from my dear colleagues Flo and Mary (and the whole staff really), to being given the autonomy to research and implement new systems and processes to grow this department, to learning that you can have a job that is actually fun, challenging and creative but not all consuming. What a find, I think. I made it through the busy month of December, and now there’s time to breath and dream and scheme (as they say around here) on all the fun things we can do for our amazing customers this year.

For starters – here’s 5 recent additions to our Mail Order website (in case you missed them):

#1 Country Pate (we know it’s not for everyone, but once you try it, you may get hooked) is now offered in 3 sizes: 1/3 pound, 1/2 pound, whole loaf. The 1/3 pound is obviously the cutest, coming in the small container we affectionately call “the casket.”

country pate

#2 We’re working on amping up the grocery items available to ship. Many have asked for them, and more to come. So far, you can purchase our Hausmade Kimchi, Kraut and Crayo. Take your home sandwich-making up 10 notches with these badass items.

crayo sandwich

#3 Cheese and crackers. It’s as simple as that. You can now add Cheese + Crackers to your order for $10. Just need the crackers? You can do that too. And you know you want to add them, because it’s the easiest way to enjoy so many of our products, and the fastest way to get a party started.

cheese and crackers

#4 We have a new section on our website for “Seasonal” items/gift boxes! With our plans to offer new pairings, seasonal offerings, and promotional discounts, you can find all those good things now in the Seasonal section. In case you missed it, right now, we have super awesome Super Bowl snack packs, and a Valentine’s Day box for sweethearts everywhere.

football snacks

#5 And we’ll be working on a great many more things this year! Be on the lookout for Ham Steaks (in case you don’t want the whole 7 pounder), Portioned Porkettas (dinner for 2?), and Atlantic Salmon Boxes including 4 pieces of a single flavor (i.e. we know those purists love the Traditional Style!).

the perfectionist

Please keep eating our food, and staying in touch with us 🙂 We love to hear from you, and we love to feed you.

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Blanket Buds

Besides being incredibly tasty and hand-made with love by our surly team of smokers, our Bison Buddies are versatile. You can eat them on their own, pair them with your favorite spicy mustard or use them as a non-mysterious hot dog meat alternative. But, if you have 9-12 minutes and you want to make some extra special buttery, flaky snacks, we suggest: Blanket Buds. You only need two ingredients plus what ever adventurous dipping sauce you prefer.

Ingredients

Pillsbury™ Butter Flake Crescent Dinner Rolls

A six pack of Bison Buddies

Instructions

Pre-heat your oven and cut your Bison Buddies into smaller pieces. After prepping your buds, you’re going to follow the Pillsbury™ instructions word-for-word with an additional and easy step of cutting the pre-indented dough into smaller triangles.  Number of buds = number of triangles you’ll need. Six buds should yield around 20 +/- Blanket Buds. It’s up to your math.

Bake the buds and share with friends!

FOR AN EXTRA CHALLENGE:

Add cheese. You won’t regret it. Add the cheese.