Well ladies and gentlemen, March has finally (cross your fingers) turned the corner towards warmer weather. Sure we had a snowstorm today, but it was nearly 50° so I am hopeful. The snow nearly all melted. The sun was out. It was gorgeous.
Realizing that I’ve been featuring a lot of darker beers (since that is what the weather has been dictating), I thought I’d make today’s feature a hopeful one. In good faith that the weather will eventually warm up, this week’s beer is not in fact a beer. It’s a hard cider.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all you Irish by blood and at heart out there! While I am not any amount of Irish that I know of (some of my family history is a bit fuzzy…), so I thought this week I’d celebrate today with a loosely Irish-inspired Minnesota cocktail.
This week, I had the opportunity to attend an interactive cocktail making class at The Salt Cellar in St. Paul. The class was hosted by Salt Cellar head bartender Sean Carmichael, and taught by Nicholas who is one of the bartenders at Norseman Distillery‘s new cocktail room, and I’ve gotta tell you, it was epic!
To kick off the #MNinMarch cocktail line up, I wanted to pick a few staples. My staple cocktail ingredient is vodka, so I went with a new Minnesota home-grown that I hadn’t tried before: L’etoile du Nord.
This is a vodka with a particularly distinct and unusual flavor. I haven’t tasted anything quite like it before, and trust me when I say that’s a good thing. What makes this vodka so unique is its ingredients: Sugar beets (apparently the Red River Valley produces more of these than anywhere in the US) and corn. To steal their wonderfully witty marketing, this truly is a “spirit with Minnesota roots,” which is probably what makes it so delicious.
The other staple, at least one for the Minnesota music scene, is Prince… so I figured, why not combine the two!? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Purple Rain:
● 1.5-2 oz L’etoile du Nord Vodka
● 1 oz blue curacao
● 3 oz cranberry juice
In a cocktail glass, combine vodka, blue curacao, and cramberry juice over ice. Stir, then top with a hearty squeeze of lime juice. Garnish with a lime slice, and enjoy!
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go get my jam on. Cheers!
It’s March in Minnesota, and I’ve gotta tell you – I love both of those things! It’s no secret I have hometown pride, but why do I love March, of all months? Well here in the North, it’s the first time things start to feel bright and shiny and warm after the doldrums of wintertime. Those of you who are also from here know that the second the temperature outside hits 50 degrees everyone floods the streets like it’s a sun-induced zombie apocalypse because we’ve been cooped up and need all the vitamin D we can manage to soak up through our sweatshirts and jeans. That said, there is usually always also a snowstorm since reliability is never something associated with Minnesota weather.
Therefore, in the honor of March and it’s spirit of “whatever the hell Minnesota wants to throw at you”, I’ll be throwing some outstanding Minnesota libations your way. To help cope with the “I don’t know if I’ll need my snow pants or my rain boots” mentality we’re all going through, I will also be featuring TWO different things each week: A local craft beer (Tuesdays) and a Minnesota-inspired cocktail (Thursdays). After all, how can we expect to make up our minds about what to drink if March can’t decide what season it falls under?
First up is an absolute staple. For those of you who know me, it’s probably absolutely no surprise whatsoever that it hails from Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery.
For those of you who don’t know me, here’s the short version: Everyone has “their spot” and Town Hall is mine and Josh’s… technically it was his first, and I just jumped on that very tasty bandwagon. It’s where we claim to have had our first date (since we can’t actually remember when that was), and it’s where we’ve had some of our best conversations. Since college, it has always been and will always be our go-to establishment. Not to mention, the people that work there… they’re stellar. Best bartenders in town!
Town Hall has been open since 1997, and has been brewing tasty things ever since. You can always count on them for a solid lineup of 5 house taps, and a healthy, creative rotation of seasonals including both beers on cask and nitro. They have other people’s beer too, but don’t bother with those. Going to a local brewpub to order someone else’s beer is like walking into your local pizza joint and asking for an order of sesame chicken. Just plain wrong.
Typically, I go for the seasonals (and the Southwest Egg Rolls – you should definitely also order those). What I love about their seasonals is that there is always something different, and they are always playing with flavors. I’m a particular fan of infusions, and very rarely disappointed by what Town Hall turns out. That said, the drawback to seasonals is the limited run they have. They only brew a certain amount, so it’s possible to fall in love with something and never be able to order it again. Read: Heartbreaking.
With that in mind, you can always most certainly count on each of the 5 house beers that are always there: Black H2O Oatmeal Stout, Dortmunder Local Export Lager, Masala Mama IPA, West Bank Pale Ale, and my personal favorite: The Hope & King Scotch Ale
Hope & King is a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy style beer that’s full in body and rich in malt. It. Is. Tasty. Brewed with both English and American barley and some specialty malts, it’s got a lovely roasted toffee, caramel and chocolate flavor. The hop presence is pretty minimal, and I’m totally okay with that. This is just a really solid “go-to” beer that’s easy to drink and even easier to enjoy. Pro tip: If they have it on cask, it’s even better!
Anyone else out there have a Town Hall favorite?