Suds: July 11

Each year, for whatever reason, the time between the Stanley Cup finals and the next hockey season becomes inextricably elongated. Perhaps it’s the sour taste in my mouth as my Hawks have bitten the dust in the past two playoffs leaving very little room for the sweetness of a Stanley Cup in 2010. Perhaps it’s the impending new collective bargaining agreement. Perhaps it’s the fact that I haven’t skated since the day before the ice at Tenney Park melted to make way for spring. It doesn’t matter. I love hockey and have a hard time without it.

The Thinker.

This summer I’ve been more proactive about my longing. Working my way through Ken Dryden’s mellifluous and expansive The Game has nicely filled the void (and made me an even bigger Habs fan). Dryden writes about hockey much in the same way Americans revere Abner Doubleday and the inception of baseball:

The Canadian game of hockey was weaned on long northern winters uncluttered by things to do. It grew up on ponds and rivers, in the big open spaces, unorganized, often solitary, only occasionally moved into arenas for practices or games.

Expect more from me on this compelling book, especially as America wrestles with its newfound affinity for the game and intellectualism replaces the stagnant analysis we’ve come to expect from modern sports discussion.

Phew, this is almost a Hoptellectual…In honor of the Central Waters Peruvian Morning I found in our Nation’s Capital, let’s get to Suds.

-Beer Here: Wisconsinite Summer Weiss from Lakefront. Hell yes.

-Haven’t been to the Chicago suburbs in a while, but this seems like a great reason to change that…

Great science makes great beer. Good thing we have Northern Brewer.

Full krausening. Oh yeah.

-Holy cow, this is some seriously awesome artwork from Indeed Brewing.

More Oskar Blues for Chicago. Nobody’s complaining.

-This is overwhelmingly awesome: Dark Lord Day dinner with Big Star Taco and Publican Meats. 10 available seats…

-Finally, I meant to say this sooner, but I can’t wait to rock my Minnesota Wild apparel with Parise’s name on the back. Big moves by a team in desperate need.

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Suds: July 9

Allons-y, Alonso! Le Tour has been upon us for over a week now and we haven’t dedicated a single kilobit to it. As proprietors of both good beer and nice bike rides, this feels very wrong—as if we’re losing the peloton.

Not this year’s tour, but still awesome and daunting.

I can’t tell you anything that you couldn’t find out on the Tour’s official page, but it’s been quite a way to cool off post-run. With riders topping out around 40 MPH and holding millimeters between themselves and the closest competitors, it’s something to behold.

Grab yourself a Spotted Cow, a great post-race refresher. Let’s get to Suds.

Celebrate Belgian Independence in MN. So awesome.

-Guys, All Pints North is happening much sooner than I thought. Tickets still available.

Win tickets to Brew Haven in New Haven, IN from MidwestMicroBrews.

-I love One Barrel Brewing Company and I want to drink there every day.

-Batten the hatches and get ready to drink more: Goose Island to release more BCBS this year.

-Why anyone would drink imported beers when Three Floyds is so close, I do not know, but the Trib has an interesting beer of the month choice.

-Finally, let’s all take a moment to get really excited about Batman.

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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

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Hoptellectual: On Picking Your Battles Wisely

Editor’s Note: My old Robocop-in-fighting-crime Todd Stevens (@TossStevens) offers a great perspective on the Ale Asylum/Union debacle. When Todd isn’t hanging out at the Nook in St. Paul or watching the Twins, he runs DVR Overflow. His analysis of Mad Men is spot on.

Last month, my former stomping grounds of Madison, Wis. were rocked by protest. Angry demonstrators brought out signs declaring their rage and demanding concessions for the working class. Battle lines were drawn and polarization was high.

I am referring not to the events surrounding the failed recall attempt of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but to the scene outside the future home of Madison microbrewery Ale Asylum, the makers of Badger favorites like Hopalicious, Madtown Nutbrown, Bedlam IPA and others. The company has been the subject of a recent informational picket from the local building trades council for using nonunion works in a new construction project.

Despite my dramatic introduction, the hubbub of controversy surrounding Ale Asylum never came close to the anti-Walker protests, though it was an off-shoot of sorts. What the protesters lacked in size and publicity, however, they more than made up for in irrationality.

Some background: Ale Asylum is currently in the process of moving into a new brewery that will offer more space, modern amenities and greater accessibility to the beer drinking public. That’s awesome, because it will mean more delicious Ale Asylum beer for alcohol-loving Wisconsinites, in addition to hopefully aiding the company in their plans to gradually expand their distribution, potentially to the entire upper Midwest at some point.

This new brewery is currently under construction near Madison’s local airport, which means hiring numerous workers to complete everything from the plumbing to the electrical work. And naturally, since a person can’t sneeze in Madison without the issue of unions coming up (“That tissue you just sneezed into better have been made with UNION LABOR, sonny!”), the pro-union crowd got wind that some of the contractors working on the building weren’t unionized. Cue outrage!

Never mind that, according to Vice President Otto Dilba, Ale Asylum was not even directly responsible for hiring the contractors (they do not own the building and the general contractor was in charge of choosing individual sub-contractors). In addition, Dilba released an impassioned post via Facebook regarding his own love of the union cause, detailing why he would never intentionally snub union workers.

Unfortunately for Ale Asylum, nobody bothered to check this out before the protests started—and if they had, based on the unsatisfied response seen in some of the comments on Dilba’s statement, it appears they wouldn’t have been satisfied. This is a crowd that had been so radicalized by the past year of Budget Repair Bill hysteria that any action from anybody that wasn’t 100 percent pro organized labor made them the enemy.

This whole attitude is patently ridiculous. Ale Asylum itself was clearly a few degrees removed from any effrontery toward the union contractors whose bids never received a response. And even if the company had directly chosen nonunion labor, the protest would still strain credulity. Ale Asylum is a locally owned private company—one that pays its own workers good wages and makes a damn good product. You’re going to smear a brewery that otherwise does everything right, simply because it doesn’t follow your single-issue driven ideology in lockstep? Then you’re a fool.

I would also be curious how far the hand of shame is supposed to stretch. If we are to be angry with Ale Asylum for associating with contractors that associate with nonunion subcontractors, should I also be angry with bars that serve Ale Asylum? Should we be angry with organizations that host functions at bars that serve Ale Asylum? After all, if Ale Asylum becomes immoral by extension when they work with the wrong contractor, don’t other establishments then become immoral by extension if they associate with Ale Asylum, and so on and so forth?

Even if their cause is more just, in the end the dejected anti-Walkerites standing outside the shell of Ale Asylum 2.0 are not much different from the bigots boycotting General Mills after that company’s recent opposition to the proposed Minnesota gay marriage ban. Gay marriage has nothing to do with Cheerios. Unionized electricians have nothing to do with Madtown Nutbrown. I like both Cheerios and Madtown Nutbrown, so I will continue to consume both frequently, albeit not together because that would taste somewhat disgusting.

I would suggest that the union protesters of Wisconsin do the same and stop dragging products into political fights where they don’t belong. Ale Asylum, being a private company and not a governmental entity, should be allowed to conduct its business as it sees fit, especially considering it already puts forth every effort to try and act responsibly. Based on the hyper-polarization of my beloved Badger State over the past two years, however, I fully anticipate the angry picketers to ignore my advice and go on attacking the real evil in this world: their local brewery.

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Suds: July 2

Everyone, it’s summer. My brother called me from the Cubs game the other day. My lovable losers were, in fact, losing, but he responded in the best way possible: isn’t today a great day for a ball game?

Grab yourself a Wrigley favorite—Old Style—and let’s get to Suds.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Don’t come between a man, delicious beer and his home state. Mark my words, there will be beer drinking. We must close the gap.

One of the better summer drinking list we’ve come across. Milwaukee Brewing Company makes some fantastic beers.

Delilah’s retains its mythical status.

-Beer Here: Three Kings Ale from Stevens Point Brewing.

-I forgot this happened: Big Hurt Beer. Now if I could only find my Sega Genesis…

Foreign beer and great pictures. Awesome stuff.

-Finally, not beer related, but I’m extremely excited to see the Porkies get some nice press from the Trib.

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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).

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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

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