Category Archives: Features

Features

Friday Four Pack: The Only Band that Ever Mattered

Editor’s Note: Gone but not forgotten, the Collective returns. We’re in the process of sorting out a new schedule and direction for the blog, but in the meantime enjoy some killer tunes.

The Clash—in many respects—are the only band that ever mattered. Thoughtful (“I wasn’t born/so much as I fell out”), political (“Ain’t no asylum here/ King Solomon he never lived round here”) and just plain cool (“I’m so bored with the U.S.A.”), the Clash drifted high above the creative annals of their contemporaries like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. With the swan song of Cut the Crap, alternative culture had to confront a painful question: where does punk rock go next?

Fortunately, punk is bigger than the Clash. Many suitors popped up from lesser-known contemporaries like the Buzzcocks and the Stiff Little Fingers through 90’s mainstays like Superchunk, the idea and aesthetic never really went away. [1] It’s been a while since we did this, so let’s start with a bang, eh?

Not quite anarchy in the UK:

– “Whatever Happened To…?,” The Buzzcocks, Another Music in a Different Kitchen

– “Wasted Life,” Stiff Little Fingers, Inflammable Material

– “Detroit Has a Skyline Too,” Superchunk, Here’s Where the Strings Come In (sorry for the live version, I couldn’t find a suitable recorded version. Plus this is at the Metro, so that’s awesome)

– “Stay Useless,” Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory

[1] In Lester Bang’s expose of the Clash he talks about Teds (Beatniks) and their growing irrelevance in British culture. Thankfully, the punks never faced all that much cultural blowback unless you count the Faint’s flaccid and outdated “Drop Kick the Punks,” and have contributed a significant amount of creative GDP for Europe.

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Brew for Thought: Lake Superior Brewing Kayak Kolsch

Summers are hectic, possibly more than any other time of the year. Even though the warm weather conjures up visions of lying on the beach or going to the baseball game, in truth the weather is the perfect excuse to get all of those chores done that piled up during the winter. There is a place in Minnesota, though, where you can truly get away from the endless noise of engines drumming down the highway and the constant ringing of cell phones: the Boundary Waters.

In the northernmost reaches of the state lies a quiet sanctuary of lakes and islands, whose only visitors use a paddle rather than an engine. While the term pristine wilderness is an idealistic statement, spending a week in the BWCA is as close to unplugged as our society gets. There is something wonderful and a little terrifying to know you are relying on only the items you’ve packed in to your kayak or canoe: one misstep and you could be up a creek without a paddle, so to speak.

The solitude the Boundary Waters offers a person is unmatched by any convenient amenity we can buy in a store. Waking up the first morning in camp is uplifting, as though Emerson himself sloughed the knapsack of custom from your shoulders. The air is crisp and clean and it feels like the first time you’ve ever really taken a breath.

This place and mindset demand a quality beer free of gimmicks and heavy-handed witticisms in their names. It demands something light, crisp and refreshing as the morning air. In my mind, Lake Superior Brewing Kayak Kolsh is the perfect choice for a trip to the Boundary Waters, so grab a six-pack, (oh hell, grab two six-packs) and make a grand portage to a little peace of mind.

Best Enjoyed: Quietly, at a campsite on the lake.

Best Paired With: A shore lunch of freshly caught walleye.

Where to Find: Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin

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Brew for Thought: Surly’s (hot as) Hell

I have never had air conditioning since I moved out of my parents place. It never really bothered me because I always worked in someone else’s air-conditioned building for most of the day. Now, as I sit in between my first and second years of grad school, I find myself home employed and not as enamored with the idea as I thought. I spend day and night sweating and drinking Gatorade after my early morning runs. I sweat through multiple shirts and then put them on my roof to dry. Gross? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Honestly, though, this heat makes the right beer even better. Enter Surly Hell.

Traditionally canned and packaged, Hell is fermented with strong German lager yeasts that provide just enough alcoholic bite for one of those egg-fries-on-the-blacktop sort of days. Hell takes advantage of the sterling hop—an American substitute for the distinctly Czech saas hop—to float the Old World undertones that imply boot rather than pint glass.

Surly continues to make a name for itself through the bold flavors of Darkness, Furious and Coffee Bender. Each one reminds you of how cold Minnesota gets in the winter. Hell beckons the other side of Minnesota, complete with (almost) 10,000 lakes, plenty of boats and land to sit and admire the stars. Hell fits perfectly in the short Minnesota summers.

Best Enjoyed: Cold as hell

Best Paired With: A bathing suit

Find it: Minnesota in the summertime

Have a beer you want to praise? Facebook, tweet (@midwestbeer) or email us at mwbeercollective@gmail.com.

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The Music Department: Friday Four Pack

I realized I have a hard time diversifying my playlists. I have this short musical memory driven purely by obsession [1], which makes collecting records a necessity. I dug around through my musical taste throughout the years to put these four songs together [2], tethered loosely by their psych-folk roots and how they explore that line between profound sadness and unrelenting goofiness. I can’t believe how hard it was to find studio recordings of some of these songs! Sorry if you have an issue with live recordings (I normally do, so I empathize).

In summary:

– “The Charm,” Maps & Atlases, Perch Patchwork

– “Gun Has No Trigger,” The Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan

– “Kids On Holiday,” Animal Collective, Sung Tongs

– “Jackass,” Beck, Odelay

[1] See Eno, Brian and the Talking Heads. The Weakerthans and Radiohead in high school. You know how it goes.

[2] Beck’s Odelay is a regular in my shade-tethered-CD-wallet for driving along with London Calling, Gang of Four’s Entertainment and this great Junior Senior dance mix a friend made me in high school (yes, I like hearing Prince, Jurassic 5 and the Rapture all on the same CD).

Need more than just tunes? Follow us on Twitter (@midwestbeer), Facebook or send an email to mwbeercollective@gmail.com.

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Brew for Thought: Thumbprint Saison from New Glarus

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with saisons. From Saison DuPont to the over-hopped, Spotted Cow wannabe I brewed, something draws me to the flavor. A lot has to do with the ability of the saison yeast to produce robust flavors without sacrificing the refreshing aspects of beers. With the record heat baking the midwest, everyone could use a saison (let’s all be thankful this is not Colorado. Oh boy). I could use a few of New Glarus’ Thumbprint Series—I should be so lucky.

Dubbed a Farmhouse Ale by Dan and Deb, they note that historically farmers drank these beers to cap off a day working in the fields. Think Spotted Cow with an indelible twist, an artistic afterthought hinting at the deeper potential of life. If life is about richness, then I only want to drink this beer on my front stoop with a loyal canine companion.

Hops are easily overlooked in this equations, a careful balance to the spicy flavors imparted by the yeast’s smooth fermentation and the inclusion of the “Grains of Paradise.” Paradise in a bottle, you may say? One with glaciated plains that drain into cool lakes with exposed limestone all around? How Wisconsin! Good luck finding that anywhere outside of the state…

Best Enjoyed: After a hard day of work.

Best Paired With: Sunshine

Find It: The Badger State

Need help finding a beer? Consult our maps and then consult us! Tweet (@midwestbeer), Facebook or send an email to mwbeercollective@gmail.com.

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Brew for Thought: Bell’s Oarsman Ale

Call me a sucker for sour ales, but Bell’s Oarsman Ale is the hidden gem of the Bell’s lineup. While it’s understandable that Bell’s superb stout list take up the spotlight when the winter rolls around and it’s no wonder that Oberon and Two Hearted highlight the summer, I am floored that Oarsman Ale hasn’t made a bigger splash (pun very much intended). If you are taking a trek to the lake for the weekend or having an impromptu sailing excursion a six-pack of Oarsman Ale is a necessity in the icebox.

I first encountered Bell’s Oarsman Ale when I added it to a six-pack of my choice at one of my favorite shops, the Ale Jail in St. Paul, and I had no idea that it was a sour ale. By the label and the name, I assumed it was a summer ale with a bitter bite from a heaping of hops, but it was what the label failed to intimate that I found most pleasing about this beer: the tart finish from the sour mash process.

But sour ales are so intensely lip-puckering and palate-challenging, how could you drink one or…(gasp)…more than one in the heat of summer?  Don’t fret my friends, Bell’s utilized the sour mash methods in a balanced way to produce a slight palate-cleansing tartness that continues to dance even after the band has stopped playing. This is no intimidating Rodenbach Grand Cru, but instead a wheat ale packed with tart citrus flavors perfect for a day on the water.

Best Enjoyed: Cold and on a boat

Best Paired With: Fresh oysters

Where to Find: While Bell’s is distributed all across the Midwest, visit the Bell’s website to find where the nearest location that carries Oarsman Ale is to you.

Need more beer? Not to worry, there’s a new edition of Suds right around the corner. 

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Music Department: The Friday Four Pack

Normally I favor simplicity in communication, but sometimes you need to just throw everything you can at the wall and see what sticks. A thoughtful, disorganized mind is a dangerous thing, full of quick wit and tongue-tied enlightenment without cohesiveness. I’ve been listening to Dan Bejar’s Destroyer project pretty comprehensively for the past year or so, enamored with the wealth of ideas and poetry floating around in the guy’s head (“Poor child you’re never going to make it/ New York City just wants to see you naked/ and they will” or “It was 2002 and you needed reminding to stay alive”). It encapsulates that drunken-Hemingway-conversing-with-the-common-man thing, cynicism perfectly wed to astute observations and pop hooks. I’ve written about Bejar’s Canadian preoccupation before, but the records continue growing in significance and my understanding of modern social interactions.

What stands out for the artists in this mix are two very simple things: picky, esoteric social observations made by outsiders who’ve seen plenty, and really odd vocals. These are, first and foremost, pop songs. As with Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah (!), they were quick to point out their music sounds like “Bob Dylan, but with synthesizers.” Bowie always seemed to float above it all (perhaps in space?). Spencer Krug prefers the seedy dive to the bar where everyone knows your name. Life can be pretty strange, so embrace it.

A fairly odd recap:

– “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away,” Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah!, Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah!

– “Oh You Pretty Things,” David Bowie, Hunky Dory

– “The Bad Arts,” Destroyer, Streethawk: A Seduction

– “I’ll Believe in Anything,” Wolf Parade, Apologies to Queen Mary

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