Instant Pot is a cult! NEXIVM, Heaven’s Gate, heck, even the Branch Davidians had nothing compared to this updated take on a very old (chances are your grandparents and great grandparents swore by them) piece of cooking tech- the pressure cooker. However, this hype is warranted! Unlike the pressure cookers of yore, the Instant Pot has a few other really useful features built in, such as a sauté setting, timed and automated cooking features, and the ability to hold food to serve just to name a few. Since most of us work for a living, having a device that cooks food from scratch in a fraction of the normal time is really appealing, but what that doesn’t tell you is how beautifully the pot cooks things. Waaay better than a crock pot at cooking meat to fork-tender. Waaay better than a rice cooker at cooking toothsome, perfectly defined grains. Waaaay better at giving you collard greens that are soft and full of flavor, but not decimated. Pressure cooking really drives the flavor into your food (with pressure!) and may even make you prefer its outcome over that of, say, a slowly braised roast in the oven. To wit, here are some recipes that you could make with Northern Waters Smokehaus products in your own Instant Pot.
-3 large turnips (save the greens if they have them)
-5 medium sized parsnips
-4 mediums sized red potatoes
-4 large carrots
-Half of a large head of green cabbage (or a small one)
-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
-1 small white onion, sliced
1. Peel all the root vegetables except the potatoes. Cut the rutabaga into larger chunks (about two inches). Leave carrots, potatoes, turnips and parsnips whole. Slice cabbage up into 2 inch wedges (length does not matter). Be sure to save any turnip greens if attached to throw in with the cabbage at the end.
2. Crank up your Instant Pot’s sauté setting to high. Once preheated, add 2 Tablespoons of butter or oil and sear off the meat on all sides.
3. Once the meat is seared, add the sliced onion, garlic, and about a cup of liquid to the pot (water, wine or beer are nice), close the lid and commence to pressure cooking on the high setting. You will want to adjust your cook time to meet the texture that you prefer: 20-30 minutes for a yielding-but-still-has-bite-to-it meat, 30-45 minutes for falling apart tenderness. The cooking times are somewhat vague by design, as the musculature of the meat and a few other factors will contribute to how long it takes. The nice thing is that if you err on the side of less time, it is very easy to throw it back in for a little longer if It’s not soft enough.
4. Once you have the meat cooked to your liking, remove it from the pot and into a roasting pan in the oven at 170 degrees. Add all the vegetables to the pot except for the cabbage and potatoes. You may want to add a little more (up to a cup) of liquid to the pot if it seems scant. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and potatoes and pressure cook for 5 more minutes.
5. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pot and nest around the meat in your roasting pan in the oven. Remove meat from roasting pan to a cutting board for slicing. Taste the cooking liquid and adjust for salt.
To serve family style: On a large platter (or even in your roasting pan) place vegetables in a ring around the outside, place sliced meat in the middle, and douse with several ladles of the cooking liquid.
To plate individually: Same thing, but smaller.
Serve with horseradish sauce and stone ground mustard. Don’t forget to make hash with the leftovers!
-3 bundles (about 3lbs) of collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale or any combination of these and sturdy leafy greens
-2 tablespoons red miso
-2 teaspoons soy sauce
-2 Tablespoons butter
-1 packet Goya Sazon Cilantro and Achiote seasoning
-1 Cup warm water
-1 ham bone or small chunk of ham (optional)
-Salt to taste
1. Pick the greens- Before you start this step, set your Instant Pot to the high sauté setting. Remove the stems from the greens. You can do so by flipping the green over to its underside, folding the sides of the leaf to the center and pulling up on the thick part of the stem. Another method which is way slicker but harder to master is to make a small ‘o’ with your thumb and forefinger (think the OK signal) and pull the entire leaf through your ‘o-finger’ stem side first, thus ‘stripping’ the leaf from the stem.
2. Combine miso, soy sauce and warm water
3. Add butter to the pot. Once melted and getting bubbly, add greens and sauté until they are all coated and wilting down.
4. Throw it in the pot- Combine all the ingredients in your instant pot and set it to pressure cook on high for 30-40 minutes, depending on how well cooked you would like them. 30 minutes should yield a tender green, 40 minutes a very soft and falling apart green.
3. Season- This is the part of cooking greens that people often screw up. You absolutely should never salt your greens before they are done cooking. Once they are cooked to your liking, add salt until tasty.
It should be noted that this recipe has an easy vegan workaround- just sub oil for butter and omit the ham-bone. It’s also OK to experiment with some of the variables in this recipe- instead of water use wine or beer, use any kind of meat that you want instead of ham (bacon or chorizo spring to mind), and if you don’t have the Cilantro and Achiote seasoning or the miso or the soy sauce, just omit them and add more salt at the end. Greens taste good!
We don’t actually commit crimes, so cool it! Unless you consider the delicious products that we produce out of our tiny space here in Canal Park’s Dewitt Seitz building to be criminally good? Understandable! But I would posit that it would be a crime NOT to enjoy our amazing, hand-made delicacies and to nourish your loved ones with them. Perhaps it is YOU who is skirting legality? Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with us. If you can live with what you’ve done, so be it.
So, now that we’ve established that it’s completely legal for us to delight your palate with smoky and savory treats. But what happens when we partner with other fantastic businesses to bring you new ways to enjoy our products? Could this possibly be legal? Is it even ethical to bring this much pleasure and happiness to people in our community? Do we have any sense of propriety at all? We don’t know. But if you want to dive into this ethical quandary yourself, here’s a list of a few of our partners in the community who are not only doing wonderful things on their own, but also doing wonderful things with our products. We’re incredibly lucky to live in a community in which people take immense pride in the work that they do, and we feel honored that they think highly enough of us to include us in their schemes.
The New Scenic Cafe– Owner and Executive Chef Scott Graden took over operations at this by now legendary North Shore restaurant in 1999. Graden and crew quickly garnered a reputation for doing upscale food that was approachable, but undeniably elevated. The region really had never really seen a restaurant that combined The New Scenic’s funky and bohemian space with food that was far-thinking and forward-reaching. Nestled just North of Duluth on Highway 61, the Scenic offers breathtaking views of Lake Superior, as well as carefully appointed outdoor spaces for special events or just to relax with a drink. They even have a yurt! Graden and our own Eric Goerdt have been friends for years, and their mutual admiration/friendly rivalry have taken food at both of our establishments to new heights. The New Scenic has featured several of the Smokehaus’ production items, from our German-style bratwurst to smoked whitefish- and whatever Graden does with our outstanding products elevates them considerably. The menu at The New Scenic is ever changing and seasonally geared, but there are some items so good that they make the menu year-round. One of my personal favorites, the Tuna Sashimi Taco, has been on the menu for several years, but still seems fresh and innovative. The New Scenic is at the head of the pack for a Duluth fine dining experience, and is not to be missed.
Lake Superior Beach Club– This is the newest venture dreamed up by the staff at Duluth’s Glensheen Mansion. Lake Superior Beach Club will be just east of the existing pier, and this area will have lawn games, board games on picnic tables, menus for food delivery (hint hint) and a cash bar with beer and wine. Glensheen is partnering with Northern Waters Smokehaus for a special event this summer (can’t reveal too many details just yet) and hopefully continuing on into the infinite future. Whether you are meeting new friends at the long community table, enjoying a bonfire (the only place that you can have a fire on the beach in Duluth), or walking the estate to take in the gardens- this pristine spot right on the shores of Lake Superior is not to be missed. If the spectacular sunset that I saw there last night is any indication, this spot will soon be jumpin’ for the rest of the summer.
Zeitgeist Arts Cafe– Here’s an insider tip: Chef Taylor Peterson, Head Chef at Zeitgeist, used to be the chef at the Smokehaus’ short-lived Northern Waters Restaurant. Taylor also spent several years in the heart of the Smokehaus’ production crew, cranking out the delicious sundries that fuel our sandwich empire. Chef Taylor specializes in classic fare with a twist, but never denigrates his menus into the played-out ‘modern comfort food’ trap. Taylor is a master at execution who demands top-quality ingredients, and his time here at the Smokehaus is credited with informing his palate, along with bringing his culinary creativity to new heights. You can find a smattering of Smokehaus products throughout Zeitgeist’s menu (a few of which may have migrated from Northern Waters Restaurant’s menu), but the place that they really shine is in their weekend brunch menu. Smokehaus Mexican Chorizo really sings in the sublime Chorizo and Eggs; with pickled red onion, cilantro, crispy tortilla and beans & rice. With a full and carefully appointed bar at your disposal and a menu of forward-thinking yet classic dishes, you can really make brunch a worthy occasion. But, no matter the time of day you dine at Zeitgeist, the order of the day is always great ingredients prepared simply.
Grassroots Gourmet- Located in Minneapolis’ Midtown Neighborhood (and right inside of the Midtown Global Market (!), a deep discussion topic for another time), Grassroots Gourmet has the distinction of being the first place in the Twin Cities Metro area that offered Smokehaus products to our rabid (and rapidly growing) fan base there. Grassroots Gourmet is a locally sourced grocery store and deli with grab and go lunch items, ranging from fresh produce to preserved items. I can tell you from experience that the selection in their cases is a revelation in local cheese- and what a locality to draw from! The quantity (and quality) of Minnesotan, Wisconsin and Iowan cheese in the last 5 years has absolutely exploded, and Grass Roots patrons definitely benefit from this. We have been humbled by the amount of people in the Twin Cities that have let us know how happy they are to buy our smoked salmon so close to their home. It feels great to know that people a couple of hours south can enjoy a taste of the North Shore whenever they want to. Even if you’re not getting Smokehaus salmon at the market, you will be sure to find something locally sourced and loved with which to make any meal truly special.
Brew Dogs– Is there anyplace in the US that is experiencing a bigger explosion of local breweries than Minnesota? Not only is there a new place opening up seemingly every month, but the quality of the beer being produced is really second to none. Duluth is no exception, with the amazing Hoops and Earth Rider (technically across the bridge in WI, but whatever) opening just within the last year, along with market powerhouses Bent Paddle and Castle Danger, the niche-and-loving-it Blacklist Brewing downtown and the far flung Lake Superior Brewing simultaneously holding court in West End while also holding down the distinction of being Minnesota’s oldest microbrewery. I’m a beer loving man through and through, tried and true, so you can imagine what a paradise this is for someone like me. But what could make sucking down cold suds even better? Snacks! NWS is at the forefront of delivering smoked fish, charcuterie, cheese, sandwiches… whatever you would like, to select breweries. The only criteria is that they have to be close enough to make delivery feasible AND they have to make delicious beer. All of these breweries currently make delicious beer, but proximity-wise Lake Superior Brewing, Hoops Brewing, Bent Paddle, Earth Rider and Blacklist make the cut. Beer heads from all over are raving about these breweries, so if you’re in Duluth and are hungry and thirsty, you could be completely dialed with a one stop shop.
This past week was a pretty interesting one- we survived Grandma’s marathon and then our city was visited by a man known as Commander-in-Chief. We also managed to smoke meat and fish, dry-cure salumi and make sandwiches for the hungry masses, so we had that going for us, which is nice. I could tell you the tales of about a million things from this week, but I will just start with 5 things.
1.The President of the United States of America was in Duluth. That’s right, the POTUS was in town to hold a rally. Someone from Rolling Stone Magazine wrote a rather infamous (at least by Duluth standards) article about the rally, which was beautifully rebutted by our Mayor Emily Larson here.
2. All the Hoopla that you can handle. Our pals over at Hoops Brewing here in Canal Park are already celebrating their 1 year Anniversary! It’s hard to believe, but it is not hard to believe that Hoops has become a brewing institution in our fair city, because Head Brewer and proprieter Dave Hoops is truly at the top of his game. Beer fans from around the region are flocking to Hoops not only because of the quality of their product, but also the sheer variety that they offer. Hoops has done a great job showing dedication to the classic styles that can be so tricky to nail, but also lots of fun and innovative brews that keep rabid Beerheads coming back for more. Hoop-La is the aptly named event this weekend to celebrate this momentous anniversary. Look for great food, music, games, and also just a lot of fun to be had. Hoops has been a great partner to Northern Waters Smokehaus for even longer than Hoops Brewing has existed, and we couldn’t be happier for their success. We also really like drinking Keller Pils there after work. Get there!
3. Lake Avenue Live features tons of Smokehausers. Our neighbors across the hall here in the Dewitt Seitz building, Lake Avenue Cafe, hold a really fun event each year during Grandma’s Marathon known as Lake Avenue Live. They rent a tent, get great live music, and throw a party for those revelers that are not particularly interested in seeing Smashmouth, Sugar Ray or any of the other improbable acts that grace the multitude of other events that happen here in Canal Park over the course of Marathon Weekend. Ned, Jeremy, Brian and Amy from the Smokehaus were all part of musical acts featured at the event. Even former Smokehaus employee from a million years ago and current ingenue Haley was in on the action with her band Gramma’s Boyfriend. It was fun as hell, and everyone enjoyed a few drinks and some great music. Hopefully this event continues on into infinity.
4. Smokehaus got Pride. June is National Pride Month, and we at the Smokehaus wanted to do something in recognition of this special yearly event. NWS has decided to launch a fundraising program starting the first week of July and continuing on until Duluth’s Pride event in August. We contacted our friends at Lutheran Social Services to help us decide where this money could be best utilized. LSS clued us in to the excellent Together for Youth program. The purpose of Together for Youth is to affirm the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, allied and intersectional youth, and to assist them in navigating their way through a world in which their lives are often negated or denigrated. This program really speaks to a growing need in our community, and we are so happy to be contributing to the solution. Our mode of fundraising for this is selling a really cool sticker (see below), designed in-house by our creative team. We love the sticker (we have plans to make a poster of it for our shop as well), and many of us here at the Smokehaus are going to buy one for not only the great cause, but just because it looks so cool. NWS has been an official partner to our local Pride event for many years, but since this year is our 20th anniversary, we thought it would be neat to throw even more support to the GLBTQAI community. We know it’s the right thing to do, and it feels really good to do it.
5. “Now I will believe that there are unicorns…” Remember how we were talking up our new hippie leanings a few weeks ago? We began smoking tempeh and tofu in earnest, changing up recipes, figuring out the best holding methods, and so on. It’s been a really important journey for us in terms of being able to serve a previously under served demographic here at the Smokehaus- Vegans. We had a few fits and starts, ended up scrapping the smoked tempeh idea, but ultimately came out with a smoked tofu product that we are excited about. And what’s more, exciting products lead us to the inspiration for exciting new sandwiches! In the spirit of that, let me introduce to you The Tempest: an absolutely delicious vegan sandwich that features our smoked tofu, house made romesco, tomato, cucumber, basil and cilantro; all housed on a stirato roll. This sandwich has a really nice cheesy texture and flavor from the tofu, and a delicious savory quality from the romesco, while the fresh herbs and veg really punch up the flavor on this instant classic of a sandwich. Vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike are losing their fool minds about The Tempest. I personally think that it’s one of the best sandwiches we’ve invented in quite some time.
HOLD ON!!!! BONUS THING!!!!!! That’s right! This is technically a 6th Thing! Free of charge! I would be remiss if I did not add that The Smokehaus’ Cajun Finn Scavenger Hunt is starting next week on Monday, July 2nd. Find the secret magnet location, grab the magnet, and win a sandwich! Since it’s our 20th anniversary this year, we’re giving away 20 sandwiches in 20 different locations all throughout the month of July. It will be a rollicking good time, and you might get fed FOR FREE.
Summerofficially begins on June 21st, but here at the Smokehaus, it effectively starts Memorial Day Weekend. As the weather warms up, tourists and locals alike naturally gravitate towards Lake Superior, Canal Park and Park Point (along with all of the other incredibly beautiful outdoor spaces in Duluth) to soak up that precious surf and sun. Memorial day weekend is usually when we start to notice that the lines extend a little further down the hallway at our lunch rush, the summertime SECONDARY lunch rush starts in earnest, and that we have a generally hard time getting in and out of our beloved workplace. Right about now you’ll start to notice that our 5 Things blogs will get away from talking about plans, product development and visioning our business, and will probably shift more towards the nuts and bolts of what we will do in earnest for the next 4 months; sling sandwiches. We have a minute, though, to talk about some other stuff. Let’s get into it!
What’s ‘On Deck’? Great question! The answer is more creature comforts. We’ve had a really nice deck right outside our door for the entire time we’ve existed here at The Dewitt Seitz building, and through the years we’ve added more tables and chairs to accommodate our growing number of patrons. Since we don’t have a ton of space in our actual deli, the deck really becomes our dining room for a lot of people. We’ve had it in our minds for a while to put a some of our personality outside of our shop, and the deck offers the perfect canvas. Our amazing team here at The Smokehaus brought the vision to life by buying umbrellas, planters, flowers and furniture, along with creating custom decals to decorate some of the furniture. Our customers have absolutely loved the small but cozy touches that we’ve added, and we’ve even heard rave reviews from our staff. Having a beautiful outdoor space that matches what we do inside the building is just another small step along the way for us in crafting a customer experience that is both memorable and comfortable.
The Smokehaus just keeps popping up! The businesses that we partner with are extremely important to us. We are so incredibly lucky to have a business partner right here in Canal Park that we not only respect as a business, but is also comprised of our good friends. Our old pal Dave Hoops has a pretty great (and important in the world of Duluth beer) brewery just about a block away from our Deli. Hoops Brewing also loves great partnerships, which is why they are allowing Northern Waters Smokehaus to curate a pop up restaurant in their taproom on the first Friday of each and every month. We love to draw inspiration for these pop ups from the incredible beers brewed at Hoops, and we’ve done everything from ribs and kimchi to Bison Buddies snack sticks to good old fashioned bratwurst and polish sausage. One thing that we haven’t done much (until the last couple Fridays) was tacos… which seems crazy, right? Our homie TK brought the prerequisite brawursts and accouterments to the party, along with our famous Smokehaus Canrne Adovada tacos. Lo and behold, the tacos were were a huge hit and the first thing to sell out ( pairing brilliantly with Hoops’ Keller Pils ). Catch us each and every month at Hoops for more exciting snacks and, probably, tacos. Speaking of…
Taco Tuesday is maaaaaybe just a little played out. As a concept! Not as a way of life, obviously. But, we recognize that many many places do a riff on Taco Tuesday (including us) and that many of them ripped the concept off from a rather large taco corporation with an inexplicably Anglo-Saxon name purported as their leader (including us). But that doesn’t mean that Taco Tuesday can’t be special, and here at The Smokehaus we do our utmost to make it the best of the best. The aforementioned Carne Adovada tacos from the Hoops popup have always been a staple of our Tuesday special, but we’ve recently really expanded our taco horizons even further. This past Tuesday brought Gringo Tacos. More John than Juan, the Gringo Taco is just like Mom used to make: ground beef (except we grind the beef ourselves), cheddar cheese, iceburg lettuce, tomatoes and salsa (house made). We know that most people get the crispy taco shells that you toast in the oven, but we weren’t prepared to go quite that far in the name of kitsch, so we decided to offer house-made corn tortillas and soft flour tortillas. Other awesome and even fusion-like flavors of tacos we’ve slung have included Green Curry (a nod to the cuisine of Indian food guru Madhur Jaffrey) and just a plain old (not at all plain OR old) pulled pork taco with simple accompaniments of onion, cilantro and salsa. Got a hankering for a Tuesday taco flavor? Hit us up! We’re trying to change the taco game each week, and we will take any help or suggestions that you have to offer. We feel as though there is always room for collaboration. And tacos. Always tacos.
So Fresh, So Clean- In the past few years, we’ve taken a lot of care in sprucing up and ramping up the functionality of our tiny deli and storefront. Think about it; we had the television show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives show up 8 long years ago, and ever since have been reacting to the astounding amount of business that it has brought our way. Our deli was definitely going through some growing pains trying to accommodate the droves of hungry food tourists beating down our door, but we did it. And we think that we did it pretty well. With all of the big changes that have happened, you often don’t have a moment to contemplate the significance of the small changes. This week, our property manager decided that we were next on the list for a refresh of paint, so we jumped at it! It’s still a work in progress, but we feel that the color scheme that we picked really goes a long way in making the space inviting and calming for not only patrons but our staff as well. Check out the beginnings here, and come see the final result in person. We think you’ll approve!
Scavenger Hunt- 2018 is the year that we celebrate 20 years of Northern Waters Smokehaus. Knowing what a milestone this is for any business, we decided that we should take the time leading up to our actual anniversary (September) to do some fun stuff for the community that we live in, which coincidentally is the community that supports us so beautifully. Maybe it’s not such a coincidence, but one thing is for certain; we wanted to let Duluth know how much it means to us. More is in the works in the next few months (I won’t get into it here), but we figured we’d start hyping what we think will be a really fun part of our summer- A Scavenger Hunt! In the month of July, we’ll be releasing clues via our social media outlets for a giveaway of 20 (see what we did?) Cajun Finn sandwiches. We chose the Finn because it is not only our most popular sandwich, but we feel our most iconic. Check us out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for clues starting July 2nd and win some lunch! Why wouldn’t you?
Get here in the Summer! Also, get here in the rest of the year. Duluth is beautiful, and it makes us really happy to share it with the people who appreciate it. See you soon!
It’s been yet another crazy week here at the Smokehaus.
We’re a bit beside ourselves trying to figure out what the weather is going to do, and what our place within that ultimately is, but no matter what, the big Smokehaus wheel keeps turning and churning out great products. In this edition of 5 Things, we talk about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we let everyone know.
Hippie Takeover!!! Ok, so there’s this thing where your company is so immersed in their own world and culture that they forget about the world at large, right? Well, we at The Smokehaus are no different. Our main focus since inception was to make quality products that no one else in our region, and very few in the United States, could match. Upon our start, we were really in a league of our own- largely because literally no one else was producing fine charcuterie and smoked fish to the high standard that we were. Our founder, Eric, has a real and palpable passion for food, and he is able to not only convey that to others, but find the people who have that same very real feeling to work beside him. So, love of food informs all that we do, and one thing we now know is that there are a lot of people out there who have this same love of food, but cannot or will not eat gluten or animal products. Which is why we have taken on the task of producing a delicious substitute for meat, so that anyone with any dietary needs can enjoy one of our signature sandwiches. We started off by trying to smoke both firm tofu and tempeh. We’re still learning! Our staff had mixed opinions, but we agreed that we were on to something! Everyone who works for us brings a wealth of food knowledge to the table, and so by our constant collaboration we feel as though we will eventually produce something that is really special. So, we will update you with our progress in the weeks to come, and until we nail it we will just keep trying these delicious experiments.
Word to ya Mother! Weknow that you love your Momma. We love our own Mommas as well, and have our own traditions in which we celebrate them each year. True to form, our owner Eric has a pretty unique food tradition with his Mom (with whom he credits kindling his love of all things culinary). Spring in Northern MN/WI/MI has always meant the annual running of the smelt. If you’re not familiar, smelt are a little sardine-like fish that are actually an invasive species to the Great Lakes, but one that those in the know really love. The tradition for fishing these little guys is to go to one of the many large tributary rivers of the Great Lakes and wade out near the mouth. There is a specialized net called a seine that kind of looks like a volleyball net which two people stretch out beneath the water. In a carefully orchestrated maneuver they will haul the net up on to shore, hopefully full of these little fish-stick fishes. The smelt are de-headed and gutted (usually with a pair of scissors and your thumb) and then lightly dredged in flour or battered and then deep-fried. The big smelt you can easily peel the backbone and little bones out and eat it like a fish stick (avoid the very end tail fin). The smaller smelt you can just crunch down bones and all (I kind of like the bones). They’re something that you can really only get fresh in parts of the Great Lakes region and definitely something that is not available in Iowa where Eric is from and where his Mother still lives. Eric’s Mom loves these little morsels, and every year Eric either cooks her some or ships them to her door. It’s such a cool and uniquely Northern thing to do that we have others considering this type of celebratory feast. The timing is perfect and the fish is suprisingly good, so why not give it a shot?
Beer And Food Are Great Partners! So, we know that craft beer has been absolutely exploding in our home state of Minnesota in the last 5 years (Not literally. Overcarbonated?), and we feel like one of the champions and great contributors to that would be The Growler Magazine. If you haven’t seen copies of this mag lying around your finer liquor stores it could mean that they have all been swooped up by those in the know who want to be even more in the know about the world of beer and it’s culture. The Growler has great contributing artists and writers who all share the common goal of educating and celebrating Minnesota (and beyond) beer, along with anything (food, culture, lifestyle) that goes with it. Luckily, The Growler has given our business great ink over the years, and it is readily apparent that the folks that work there truly love our food. In the spirit of that, The Growler came to our Canal Park offices to talk to our owner Eric and our General Manager Mary. Everyone sat down with some sandwiches and had a great lunchtime discussion about the history of The Smokehaus from inception to the present-day, with heavy emphasis on the thing at the heart of our success- our culture. The mutual admiration of our two entities was apparent, and our bond has been irrevocably established. We hope to collaborate in the future, at least on eating great food and drinking great beer, but who knows? The sky is the limit with two businesses that feel such great passion for what they do.
Save your bottles in the 218! Since our business is directly dependent on the pristine waters of Lake Superior, we consider ourselves stewards of the environment maybe more than others normally would. We also are a business comprised of people who love the outdoors and love all of the satisfaction and serenity that our favorite body of water provides us. We try to make small and large decisions that impact how we interact with the environment around us, and we always try to make as little of a footprint as possible. To that end, we decided to splurge and get a bottle filling station in our deli. Any one of our customers and really anyone in the building can fill up for free in a reusable container, thus saving on plastic water bottles. The station even counts how many bottles you have saved! One of our deli superstars Ned snapped this most opportune photo in celebration of not only what we’re saving on plastic, but also the area code in which we reside. It’s the little things that you do every day that make a difference, and we are ever on the hunt for that next little thing that we can do to preserve not only our pristine environment, but the lifestyle that we live within it.
Smokehaus Walk With Me. Our creative team has been on their grind lately! We have started to realize that our reach as a business is getting further and further, and that we need to respond and evolve along with the needs of our customers and in turn our own needs. Our first foray into a filmed commercial came at the hands of Jacob, a rising superstar in our Creative Department. You may notice that this commercial pays homage to one of those cult-classic weirdo television shows that is loved by only a few, but with a rabid devotion. This commercial is currently running at the local art house movie theater Zinema 2, and on our YouTube channel. We absolutely love it, and we think that you will too.
IN A WORLD where you only have space to write about so many things, you sometimes wish for less things. At other times, you wish for more things. But for my purposes, I hope for exactly 5 things. This week, dreams came true! So, to wit:
Inclement Weather Update: This week started off with some pretty heavy weather… The kind that makes gigantic waves that sometimes go so far onto the shores of Canal Park that it floods our basement. NOT THIS TIME! Nope, other than some treacherous driving (and walking, let’s face it) things went off pretty much without a hitch down here. Our diligent crew braved all kinds of elements and did their thing as usual; brilliantly. Duluth got about 8 inches of blowing and drifting snow, which made travel difficult for about 24 hours. But, by the end of the week and with a couple of days of warm weather, the very late in the year blizzard receded into a distant memory. This weekend should give us ample opportunity to get some warm sunshine on our faces. Worth the wait!
The Northern Bagel Kit has this week passed a milestone! Due to the hard work of our bright and shiny mail order department, an idea that came to fruition has since gone on to become a momentous reality. As of this week, we have shipped The Northern Bagel Kit to 13 states across the US. That means that people across the nation are able to construct their own taste of Duluth and NWS whenever they want to! We’re completely honored that we have so many fans of our humble deli throughout the nation. For those who come from here and are homesick for a taste of something that you can only find in Duluth, you can be sure that this hit the spot.
What’s that in the window? Well, it’s some pretty great illustrations done by our own Florencia! She has been working out the details and drawings for our 3rd floor office window eleganza, and they are giving us life. Look for these to be up in the next couple of weeks. They will be highly visible and will not only point out our great location, but also show off some of the great artistic elements that add to our total package here at The Smokehaus. We’re stoked to see them come to life!
Rose Season! Yessssssss! It’s back! The weather is warming and the season is right for some delicious Rose on the patio! Our pals at Lake Avenue Cafe across the hall have just ordered up a some great Rose selections to drink into the summer, and we can’t wait to try some while sitting on their sunny and cozy deck. Rose has really hit it’s stride in the past few years, and there is an embarrassment of great versions coming out each season. It’s a great one to pair with delicious and fatty charcuterie (think of our saucisson sec warming in the sunshine a little) or just on it’s own for a refreshing taste of summer. If you love a crisp white wine but haven’t really given Rose a chance, there is no better time than now. Do it!
To the dump! Here at the Smokehaus, we recycle, reuse and generally try to pay as little as possible for things when we can, and our favorite payment plan is FOR FREE. Much of the office furniture that we have was found or given to us, and we think that way of doing things makes perfect sense. Sure, we can’t buy commercial-grade restaurant equipment for little to nothing, and of course we spend premium money to bring you premium food products, but if we can make do or get it for free, we usually will. Which is why we’re such big fans of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s reuse center on Rice Lake road in Duluth. Anytime someone brings things in to throw in the landfill that still have a useful life left, they get put aside in a series of buildings until someone that has a need for them ferries them away. It’s all free, and it’s such a great way to not only save money, but also keep rampant consumerism in check. Our Smokehaus offices were in need of another desk, and so off to the landfill we went in search of a free desk. We found a pretty perfect desk for our uses, which by itself would have made it a fruitful trip, but then we found THE PAINTINGS. There was pretty serious debate about who exactly was being depicted in these paintings; is it really Sid Vicious? It kind of looks like him in Anime form… Is that Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, Pete Wentz from Fallout Boy or just someone’s boyfriend? We don’t know, and we don’t really care. We just loved the paintings, and since they were free… why not? Our staff has already gotten a lot of joy out of them, and that’s all we really care about.
I’m not talking about sandwich artists! First off, I would never compare what my coworkers here at Northern Waters Smokehaus do with that which the employees of a certain monolithic, homogenized, bad bread (baked fresh!) having, named-after-a-public-transportation-system sandwich place would do. That would be rude. There may be some parallels for the two, but come on! What were you thinking? When it comes to Fast Food vs Fast Slow Food, I think that you know which side we’re on and I think you know which side wins.
No, I mean artists in the vein of Michelangelo, Scorsese, One of the Gershwins (you decide) or Hemingway. It might sound crazy, but a lot of the folks who work at NWS have a whole other life outside of work. They don’t just punch the clock at the end of a shift and then retire to their tomb beneath the basement of the Dewitt-Seitz building. No, they wipe off the fish scales, throw their apron in the laundry bag and head out into the larger world for creative pursuits. Here’s a little insight into 5 artists who also happen to work here at the Smokehaus. This just scratches the surface, too. We have a lot of artists, but only 5 things… So…
Florencia Matamoros- ‘Flo’ is probably the most obvious choice for the Smokehaus Artist Series; she was sort of the first ‘creative’ on our staff, and now heads up our creative department here. You can see Flo’s work on display on our website, in our deli and throughout most of the print material we produce that goes out into the larger world. Her food related ‘doodles’ have quickly become representative of our brand and are something that our customers really look forward to. Flo is also co-owner of Prove Gallery here in Duluth, which is a staple of our artist community, as well as a space for community events. Get to know Flo, yo! Here we go!
What is your background? My background in visual arts starts at the age of 7 when my mom (bless this amazing human being) dragged me every Saturday morning from 9am-12pm to classical painting classes in San Salvador, El Salvador. I received pretty formal training in oils for 7 years as a kid and I painted every damn fruit that has ever existed and fields and White Nun Orchids (mom’s favorite flower). A combination of teenage angst, rebellion and tight money led to the end of the Saturday “do I HAVE to” whines and I took every single form of arts education my school had to offer. Since my mamma is the definition of bad ass single mom, I wanted to be just like her and I started my college career as a Chemistry Major with the intention of pursuing something with explosions and a cool lab coat. I couldn’t stick to it. I wanted to draw every day and I wanted to be surrounded by expression and a different path of intellectual pursuit. Essentially I wanted to stay as much as a kid as I could and use my imagination.
Do you have a preferred medium? After many years of playing with name brand permanent markers, oils, acrylics, water colors, I’ve finally found the love of my life, the acrylic paint marker. A brand new Montana marker to me feels like when you’re laughing so hard and your stomach hurts and maybe you’re crying a little bit. Pure bliss. For the day-to-day illustrations I make, I love using felt markers, gel pens and Posca paint markers. Never pencils. I like truths. Every line; circle; squiggle; little alien looking abstracted figure is meant to be, and if not just throw it away. Who cares?
What do you aim to say with your work? My goal as a creator is to engage with play and to take up space. Manipulating lines with intent and vulnerability through walls, on paper, on canvas with movement through negative space. My abstracted illustrations for the most part are ephemeral and large scale. I’ve apologized way too much in my lifetime for being who I am, so I refuse to make excuses because my illustrations take space. Take space.
Where can we see your work? Currently you can see my work in the deli. I pride myself in my versatility and ability to manipulate line. All the chalk signs, illustrations, hand-lettering and laminated signs are made by yours truly. You can also currently see my work at the Red Herring Lounge and Blush in Duluth, MN. There’s also a floating “PERORMER” shirt out there that I made for the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival about three years ago.
Zac Bentz first started to work for NWS in 2017 as one of our Mail Order Elves. Packing and labeling boxes like a madman, but also apparently giving off some sort of design aesthetic, Zac joined our creative department in 2018 as a graphic designer (but he still packs a damn box as needed), to not only do the bidding of our creative department, but also with the idea that NWS can begin publishing a mail order catalog and eventually a cookbook (!). Zac has played in some pretty noteworthy groups based out of Duluth, MN, including his current projects Dirty Knobs and The Electric Witch.
What is your preferred medium? The simple answer is electronic music. I started as a drummer back in the early 90’s and played in a few bands as a drummer, but for the past handful of years I’ve been making electronic music almost exclusively. I guess an even more basic medium would just be ‘sound’ at this point.
What is your background with this medium? I started making my own music around 1993-94. We had band practice at my house, so after everyone left for the night I would stay up and mess around with what they left behind. I had a 4-track cassette recorder and used that to make some terrible stuff. But really all I did was play drums until about 1998 when I got a Roland XP-80. It’s a massive synth/keyboard with a 16-track sequencer built in. So I could use it to record entire songs. I still use it to play and sequence almost everything I do in the studio. I’m pretty terrible with music software and greatly prefer hardware instruments, at least for performing, but of course everything is computer-centered now. I very recently started getting into modular synthesis so that’ll probably be the end of me. I’ve made a pretty wide range of stuff, from synth pop to electro-rock to drone to glitch. Since 2010 or so I’ve been making an embarrassingly huge amount of drone and dark ambient music as Dirty Knobs. I also have a more danceable dark synth band called The Electric Witch. I probably have a hundred releases on Bandcamp but I haven’t bothered counting.
What do you aim to say with your work? Oof. Well, I have a line about “creating space through sound.” I’ve always been fascinated by ‘big’ music. Stuff that sounds like it was recorded in a bottomless pit or somehow in deep space over millions of years. Otherworldly. I’m not really trying to say anything, really. Maybe I want people to stop thinking about themselves and the reality around them. To try and remove them from themselves for a bit.
Where can we see your work? All of my music is at zacbentz.bandcamp.com, including a few albums from the bands I was in as a drummer, like this one band BOTH you may have heard of…
Jacob Swanson has been working for NWS since 2017 on our bustling sandwich line, but has now expanded his role here to include working for our Creative Department taking photographs and making videos/content for social media. Jacob plays guitar in several Duluth based bands including The Social Disaster, Dad’s Acid, Heaven’s Gate Away Team and plays bass with singer/songwriter Rick McLean, but has also begun to branch out into some solo work with a surprising twist. Jacob has been the recipient of a MN State Arts Board Grant and also an Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Grant for his work as a photographer and videographer.
What is your background? My mom is a choir teacher and my dad an art teacher, so I was definitely immersed in the arts from an early age. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Superior with a degree in video production with a minor in photography. I almost considered doing a minor in music, as I was enrolled in choir class the entire time I attended University, but it just became too many hoops to jump through.
Do you have a preferred medium? I guess music/video/installation art done concurrently would best describe what I’m working on right now. I like the idea of my work being really physical, not just in terms of being able to physically see or hear it, but also with volume and frequency that physically moves the audience.
What do you aim to say with your work? I notice themes in the world at large, so I definitely like to base work around those. But rather than ‘get a point across’ to an audience, I want it to be more about what the audience experiences physically and mentally during the show. I’m not really looking to say some specific thing with what I’m doing, I just want to give the audience something that they haven’t yet experienced.
Where can we see your work? Right now I am doing local shows with my music/video/installation project. You can catch it at Duluth venues Blush and The Rex.
Greg Cougar Conley has worked for Northern Waters Smokehaus since 2015 when he helped the company open Northern Waters Restaurant in the Hunter’s Park neighborhood of Duluth. Greg has been pursuing music while based out of the Duluth/Superior area since the early 90’s. He is an old-school fool.
What is your background? I’ve been pretty obsessed with the idea of writing music since I first learned to play the guitar when I was 13 years old. I always had a mind to try to write music in as many diverse styles as I could. I also loved singing and had a pretty good time with that from middle school through high school, and particularly in middle school I had a really great teacher who was not only extremely proficient with performance and music theory, but also had that type of extreme passion for music that is really infectious. He was teaching us music theory stuff in 9th grade that was essentially what I studied my first year as a music education major in college. Unfortunately, my experience with being a music major was pretty disappointing. I ended up deciding not to pursue that degree because: A.) I realized that teaching music was something that I just had no interest in doing and B.)The pursuit of the that degree really sucked all the joy out of music for me. There was no emphasis at all on writing or experimentation, it was all stuff like having the instructor play a recording of a sound and ask “Is this a French horn, or an English horn?”, which is probably really valuable to some types of musicians, but definitely not to me. There was also the style of music lesson where the instructor would try to berate you into singing with ‘perfect function’ by basically yelling or stomping their feet. I had no interest in participating in a system like that. From that point forward, I just tried to do exactly what I wanted in regards to music.
Do you have a preferred medium? Although I completely love the catharsis of performing live, I really feel satisfaction from recording the music that I write. I find that my most scholarly tendencies come out when I’m working on a recording; I make a lot of written notes about what I’m hearing, what needs to change, what’s good, etc. I love that feeling of inspiration while recording when you have those ‘eureka’ moments, where your inspiration begets more inspiration for a quick second and you have this flurry of parts that you get down quickly. The process of fleshing out a song and arranging it in the studio is one that I really relish. I love having a pretty strict idea of what a song is going to be going in and then becoming inspired in such a way that I leave the original idea behind and go in a completely different direction. It can be a really dynamic process that way. We live in a really exciting time right now, because technology has actually broken down those financial barriers that had once existed to allow almost anyone access to not only recording music, but making it sound halfway decent. But I also think that the advances in recording tech from where I started at age 18 with a cassette 4-track with which there was a steep learning curve, to now being able to easily make a recording on my phone has some disadvantages, too. There is definitely a form of aural diarrhea that can happen when certain people have unfettered access to unlimited tracks at the click of a mouse.
What do you aim to say with your work? I guess I just aim to say whatever springs to mind. Sometimes I aim to address a specific topic within the scope of a recording or live music set, but most of the time it’s just whatever jumps out of my mind. I have songs about ecology, worshiping the devil, love, sex work… Just so many things. I don’t know that most people get the gist of what I’m writing about, but I love the idea that I can write something and it can have a different meaning for each person who hears it.
Where can we see your work? There is a pretty small yet diverse representation of what I’ve done at bullfeathers.bandcamp.com and zacbentz.bandcamp.com.
Harrison Cross is The Smokehaus’ Assistant Deli Manager and has worked for NWS since 2013. Harrison is perhaps the outlier here, because he is not what most would consider an artist. Harrison is an avid Role Playing Gamer who coordinates several different gaming groups around town and elevates being a Dungeon Master to what some would consider an art form. Our ‘Happy Harry’ brings so much thoughtfulness and creativity to these pursuits that he has earned a reputation as an elite gamer and gaming facilitator.
What is your background? I was definitely a self-starter with gaming. I didn’t really have any experience firsthand with friends who knew games or anyone showing me the ropes. I actually first observed people playing RPGs on YouTube while I was living in Taiwan. I tried to play a little at first in person with some of my friends there, but it didn’t really go well. My first actual RPG experience was playing with another friend via Skype.
Do you have a preferred medium? There are so many different types of RPGs, and they encompass so many different genres, but one way of classifying these types of games would be ‘Low Fantasy’ and ‘High Fantasy’. High Fantasy is stuff like Lord Of The Rings, where it’s a world completely unlike our own in which events unfold because of magic or destiny and seem to just flow in a fantastic way. I prefer Low Fantasy as a medium. In Low Fantasy, you have to work your ass off! If you want to cast a spell, you have to hunt down ingredients, spend a bunch of time practicing and probably failing… If you saw an animated skeleton, I would make you roll a die in order to see whether you shit your pants before deciding what to do next. It’s kind of like trying to imagine what a fantasy element would function like in our real world, if that makes any sense.
What do you aim to say with your work? The question that I always ask my players is”Why are you travelling together?”. In other words, why is this particular party, which is probably pretty diverse in composition, going on adventures together? Because normally, this group would not probably give one another the time of day. Do they have some common goal? Why are they staying together? I think that this points to what their particular aim as players might be, and what they want to get out of playing together. it also informs the story a bit more. Because, the collective storytelling aspect of gaming is something that I really love; the fact that the story necessarily evolves and is effected by what the players want and think.
Where can we see your work? Nowhere! You can maybe come watch us play at Hoops Brewing on Mondays, but you can’t participate. Otherwise, my work is on display in private homes around the city.
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.
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!
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!
Well, another fantastic week has passed on once again. We at NW Smokehaus and NW Restaurant have been taking in the lessened business that seems to come with November in stride. Trying to rally for the inevitable lashing that seems to come with December is old hat to some, and fresh fresh for others… But, you know, it starts with just 5 things. It always starts with just 5 things…
#1. PIIIIIIIGS IIIIIIIIINNNN SPAAAAAAAACE: You know, you leave something up to the creative types and sometimes they really deliver. Our friends Anne Marie and Flo came up with a cute and concise offer; for a mere $125 dollars in purchase (and for a mere 24 hours) you could receive FREE shipping… Who doesn’t love getting something for free? The answer is: not very many people; IE we had a lot of people take us up on the offer. Making space for all (even pigs) is about as inclusive as you can get, and The Smokehaus is all about inclusivity.
#2. YOU SHOULD TOTES GET ONE OF OUR TOTES: Screaming deals are the name of the game this December, and why should the deli be any different from any of our other departments? For a limited time if you stop by our deli and spend $100, you will receive one of our beautiful canvas bags for free. They don’t just hold Smokehaus food either! Oh no, they can hold a LOT of other stuff. Too much stuff to get into here, but you get the drift. Although, if you have any questions about what you can stuff into the bag, just give us a call and ask for Smokehaus General Manager Mary. She will be happy to direct you.
#3. RESTAURANT SELECTOR: Ok, so as not to be outdone by her older sister The Smokehaus, Northern Waters Restaurant is now offering a free $20 gift card when you purchase $100 in gift cards. These gift cards are good at either location, offering a much different but equally enjoyable experience at either place, AKA the best of both worlds. So, basically you get gifts for the people you love and also give a gift to yourself. Self love is an important concept, so take care of yourselves my little beauties!
#4. IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE WINTER… VILLAGE: Our presence at last year’s Winter Village on the grounds of Glensheen Mansion caused quite a stir! You really just never know where we will pop up. But, we always pop up when people really need us, and those moments shopping for holiday gifts that can seem incredibly daunting are when we shine. In the spirit of that, we will be cutening up our little cabin by the lake again at this year’s event (this Saturday and Sunday) and offering you the ease of buying gifts that you know will be a hit. And there’s no shortage of other great vendors selling, including our friends and partners at Lake Superior Bakehouse (think sweet treats for your holiday). There’s also alcohol and food being served all day long, so no excuse for losing your momentum!
#5. PHOTO REDUX MANIA!!!!!!!: As you might remember, about a month ago we tasked Smokehaus creatives Flo and Stephen (and a late-in-the-game assist by Jacob) with a complete overhaul of the photos on our website. It was a huge undertaking, but one that we knew they were up to. The results exceeded our expectations a hundred-fold, and what we are now looking at every time we open the page makes our hearts sing! We feel as though our food is elegant in it’s preparation and beauty, and we finally have images that match those qualities. We could not be happier with the end product. Check us out at nwsmokehaus.com for the long lasting food love that these pictures so effortlessly convey.