Introducing the France44cast, our new podcast!

By Emmet

You’ve probably noticed this already, but it’s kind of hard to have a quality face-to-face (mask-to-mask?) interaction these days. We feel the same. We miss seeing you. We miss having you in the classroom, in the store, sharing amazing conversations with us about wine, beer, and spirits. If only there were a way to bring those conversations to you, anytime, and anywhere…

So we decided to podcast about it! You’ve probably heard of them. They’re kind of like radio, but on your shiny, candy-bar-shaped pocket screen. There’s a million of them out there about anything you can imagine, from true crime, to politics, to pop culture. And now, there’s a podcast by your beloved Linden Hills liquor store, where we can share our passion for all the things we love to imbibe.

We’re calling it the France44cast. Every Wednesday, you’ll join our host, Marge Buckley, for conversations with our staff and our friends in the beverage industry. We’ll talk about what’s on our mind, what’s in our glass, and how what we drink connects us to the world. We’ll address pressing concerns such as:

  • “What’s the deal with natural wine?”
  • “What’s an agave, and why are there so many different spirits made from it?”
  • “Great sparkling wine is coming from where now?”
  • “What if instead of draft beer, there was a beer draft?”
  • “You’re telling me that I can drink rum like whiskey, and cider like wine?”

And if there’s anything you’d like us to talk about, we would love to know. Send us an email at podcast@france44.com.

Find the France44cast on Apple, Spotify, Google (not yet, but soon!), Stitcher — wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks so much for listening. And until next time, drink well.

Restaurant Experiences With At-Home Prices Volume II: Recreating the Fine Dining Experience at Home

By Nick Mangigian  •  Read time: 5 minutes

During non-pandemic circumstances, going out to eat has to be—hands down—the quickest way to get a jolt of novelty and fun into your life. You get fresh flavors, different dining rooms, a hospitable human interaction. Sometimes, when you go out to eat, you’re really just trying not to do the dishes—but a lot of the time, even if you’re not trying to spend a zillion dollars, you’re still hoping that you’ll be low-key transported to a different frame of mind.

It’s probably the one thing that I miss the most about going out: how easy it was to get something new in front of me, without having to sweat for it.

What I will say, though, is that I have been saving a ton of money not going out to eat as often. And with necessity being the mother of invention, I have leveled up my cooking at home. My partner misses going out to eat even more than I do; I have done my very best to put together some awesome meals that offer an elevated experience without driving the stress level up. What I’ve discovered is that there are actually some real advantages to cooking at home, assuming you keep a few guiding principles in mind.

But first, you should know this: for a restaurant that starts service at five in the evening, they have cooks in the kitchen starting as early as nine in the morning, preparing the dishes that are going to be served for dinner. Often, house-made sauces and stocks are prepared a couple days in advance. A lot of work and effort has already gone into making the delicious meal that gets placed, elegantly, in front of you, once you’ve chosen it off the menu. So when I’m cooking a more involved dinner at home, I try to be mindful of just how much effort I actually want to exert; if I stress myself out cooking dinner, then I’ve effectively defeated my own ultimate goal of enjoying a nice evening.

That means you have to be holistic in how you look at things. Luckily for you, you have a couple advantages as a home cook that can drive the effort-to-enjoyment ratio in your favor. I’m going to go to bullet points here:

  • You can afford really high-end ingredients: Did you know that the only other place you could get beef from Pork and Plants was the Bachelor Farmer? We are going to miss that place because of their thoughtful commitment to what they put on your plate. If you’re trying to cook steak for dinner, our beef from Peterson and from Pork and Plants is only found at high-end restaurants—you will not see it in the grocery store—and it is way more affordable to buy it from us, since we don’t have to charge you for the prep. A ribeye that might cost you over $120 at a restaurant can be had for $50 from us—not bad.

But I’ll add, too: make a risotto Milanese with real saffron—why not? It’s simple, and perfect. And the $15-20 container of saffron will make you a good half-dozen dishes if not more, including an epically perfumed whole chicken. Which—while we’re talking about chicken—if you’re going to order chicken at a restaurant, there are only a small handful in the area that buy the same chickens we buy. Our Green Circle chickens were co-developed by some big names in the New York culinary world for use in their own restaurants—Jean-George, Daniel Boulud—and if they’re good enough for them, believe me: they’re awesome cooked simply at home.

  • Elevate Your Pairings: As Karina touched on in her previous blog post: when I’m at a restaurant, I’ll spend $40 on a bottle because that’s the cost of doing business. You’ll get a decent bottle of wine that flatters the food. But if you spend $40 on a bottle of wine at the liquor store—and you get a little guidance from one of the helpful somms working the floor—you will probably get your mind blown.

But also, think about this: if you’re making fish tacos at home (use our halibut: they will be the best fish tacos you’ve ever had) and wanted to pair them with a margarita, make a fresh margarita with real, fresh lime juice. It is literally the perfect drink to make at home (along with its cousins, the daiquiri and the Tom Collins) because the effort-to-enjoyment ratio is incredibly favorable.

  • You can reverse-sear your ribeye: Most restaurants cook their steaks sous-vide because it’s the easiest way to cook at scale. Sous-vide is sort of miraculous, but if you’re asking me: I think reverse-searing flatters the meat more. It’s the kind of technique that is only inefficient at scale; at home, it’s actually quite efficient, and you can multi-task while the steak is in the oven.
  • You can make this Green Chile: It might seem silly to highlight just one recipe in a discussion about general principles, but honestly: after having lived in the mountain west for a couple years, the thing I miss the most is Green Chile. It is very, very hard to find a good version of it in the Twin Cities. If you’re feeling up to some slightly more elaborate cooking, this is a transcendentally delicious dish, probably my favorite of all time, and it’s not that hard.

  • You can make our Cardamom Half Chickens: Okay, okay: one more individual dish to highlight, because it is that good. Make our Cardamom Half-Chickens by browning them on the stove, then finishing in the oven. Deglaze the pan with a quarter-cup of white wine. Throw in a knob of butter, maybe a little extra garlic. Stir, stir, stir. You’ve basically made a poor man’s beurre blanc. Ladle over fresh white rice and an oven-roasted or grilled green vegetable.
  • You can make Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce: Alright, the real last individual suggestion, because this is a prime example of what’s known as a “pantry recipe,” assembled entirely from staples. Canned San Marzanos, a stick of butter, an onion, your favorite pasta, and you are living like the Romans did, my friend.

If you are a pasta-inclined person at all, talk to one of our mongers about their favorite pasta recipes. There is a rich tradition of very simple pasta preps—carbonara, cacio e pepe, aglio e olio—which can often be made out of ingredients you already have at home, combined with a vegetable or a protein, and served with a mic drop.

***

Ultimately, the one thing I really want to emphasize is that if you can be a little mindful ahead of time, you can eat an elevated dinner—like, a meal that you will impress yourself with, and enjoy the heck out of eating—without stressing yourself out, and it will cost you a lot less money than going out to eat. I’m going to go to bullet points again to highlight the key techniques:

  • Fresh, not Fussy: Freshness of flavor is how I personally like to drive the effort level down, when I’m trying to elevate my cooking. Use a mortar and pestle to grind some fresh coriander or saffron—it’s easy to grind, easy to clean, and in the scheme of things is a small, extra step that pays big dividends. Get some fresh basil or tarragon or mint. Use some citrus zest (I use a lot of citrus zest—way more flavorful than the juice). Don’t feel like you need to do something really elaborate in order to feel like you’re experiencing something new. There’s obviously a time to bone out a whole chicken and stuff it with risotto Milanese—that time is when you’re feeling an unstoppable surplus of energy.  If it’s a regular Friday night? Maybe just make a fresh chimichurri sauce, man.
  • Coursing It Out: Getting the timing of your dinner right can be tricky. For this reason, most of the time, I recommend no more than two different cooked/hot components, at most three if the starch is really easy to cook. And I serve things family style—i.e., all at once—so that when you’re done cooking, you’re done cooking. Consider making a salad or crudité plate to go with your meat and potatoes or pasta, or serving a good loaf of hearty bread with your vegetables and meat. Anything you can do to get the degree of difficulty down while keeping the quality high.
  • Self-Knowledge: Many of the home cooks I know fall into two categories: cooks and bakers. Cooks tend to be comfortable improvising; bakers like to use recipes. Both can learn a lot from the other, but the most important thing, in my opinion, is a degree of mindfulness. Cooks: have some semblance of a plan, mainly so that you don’t get carried away and end up dumping the entire spice cabinet in your dish in a fit of enthusiasm, but also so that you don’t wind up unexpectedly in the weeds. Bakers: go into things with the mentality that a B+ effort relative to the recipe will still sparkle, because ultimately it’s not just about the food—the big picture is absolutely about keeping things mellow.

In conclusion: there are a lot of ways to cook something that is legitimately awesome, that can give your palate some much-needed variety, and that can bring a smile to your face, and we would love nothing more than to help you set the menu. So do some mulling, maybe a little research—or maybe, don’t do any research—and hit us up. We’ll get you ready to roll with something really, really good. Scout’s honor.

Style Spotlight: Cream Ales

Written by Bennett

Revived in Minnesota’s beer culture by Castle Danger Brewery from Two Harbors, cream ales have a rather mysterious ethos for such a simple beer style. It probably has to do with the name. For those who are still unsure, these beers do not contain cream or dairy products of any kind. They can, however, be as smooth and satisfying as a fresh dollop of cream.

Cream ales were born amidst a monumental shift in beer-drinking tastes during the latter half of the 19th century. The sensational pilsners and golden lagers from Europe, glowing with clarity and thoroughly quenching on the palate, had hopped the pond with the help of immigrant brewers, making quite a splash. American beer consumers quickly developed a fondness for this crisp, cold, bottom-fermented beer. Domestic ale breweries, forced to compete, began employing a variety of techniques to serve lighter ales that mimicked these qualities.

So what makes a cream ale then? The style offers broad parameters in which to work from. Cream ales are pale, golden beers fermented from a grist of six- and two-row barley and maize (or rice) used to lighten the body. They are fermented and conditioned at colder temperatures than normal for ales, producing a cleaner profile with less esters. In somewhat confusing fashion, brewers are allowed to employ ale yeast, lager yeast, or a combination of both to achieve this result. You can think of cream ales as a fuller-flavored, more characterful sibling of standard American lagers.

For those who are old enough to remember (not myself), the first post-prohibition revival of the cream ale style was in 1960 when Clarence Geminn, a brewmaster in Rochester, NY, created the recipe for Genesee Cream Ale. It briefly was the best-selling ale in the United States, topping one million barrels of annual production. Still in production today, Genesee Cream Ale is a benchmark on which others can be judged. Lucky for us, Minnesota’s abundance of quality breweries has allowed me to present four cream ales that I believe surpass this benchmark. Check them out below!

Castle Danger Castle Cream Ale — $9.99/6pk Cans

A beer that has defied convention and remains a personal favorite of mine, Castle Cream Ale has become ubiquitously popular in a market flooded with hazy IPAs. It is consistently in our top-5 best selling beers, and for good reason. Golden-hued with biscuit-y malt with a dash of spicy hop character on the nose. This mellow, rounded-feeling ale has notes of graham cracker, honey and biscuit with a prickly of hop to balance the light sweetness on the finish.

Bent Paddle Classic Ale — $8.99/6pk Cans or $17.99/12pk Cans

Another up north brewery known for consistent quality, Bent Paddle recently released the Classic Ale as a complementary option next to their Venture Pils. It’s a beer that tastes like beer. Pale straw and clear in appearance, it features notes of cornbread and biscuit on the nose. Light and creamy on the palate with a grain-forward finish.

Urban Growler Cowbell Cream Ale — $9.99/4pk Cans

The flagship offering from this woman-owned brewery in St. Paul is meant to be “transitional” enough to lure lager fans into the delights of the craft beer world. Extremely pale straw in appearance, it has a welcoming malty nose and super creamy mouthfeel. Delicate sweetness on the palate begs you to come back for another sip. 

Indeed Pistachio Cream Ale — $9.99/4pk Cans

It works, trust me. I honestly think pistachios were meant to be in cream ales.  We are so happy that Indeed pushed forward with brewing this, it’s a craft beer lover’s delight. A creamy almost frosting-like nose of pistachios leads a nutty, sweetbread like palate. Noticeably thicker, creamier and sweeter than the others mentioned but totally worth it.

Tonic Water: A History and Modern Trends

If you told us in March what two items would be difficult for France 44 to procure throughout a global pandemic, pre-mixed margaritas and tonic water would have never crossed our radar. Every week is a new adventure in discovering if distributors even have any tonic water, and if they do, what formats and varieties they have. However, this has led into a continued question from customers that is actually quite intriguing: what is tonic water? Obviously there is the simple answer: a mixer. But today we delve a little deeper into the history of tonic water, its surprising medical roots, and a few variations we carry.

Quick Science and History Lesson about Tonic Water

Samples of cinchona bark Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Tonic water is carbonated water with added sweetness from natural and/or artificial flavorings, with quinine as the defining flavor. Quinine is an alkaloid from the Cinchona (sin-cone-ah) tree bark, which grows naturally in forests in South America and Africa. For those of us who did not take organic chemistry in college (or don’t remember it), an alkaloid is just an organic compound, stuff in nature. According to tradition, the Jesuit missionaries observed the Quechua people of Peru and surrounding countries use the tree bark to stop shivering. It was soon discovered that quinine, the specific alkaloid, could be isolated and used to treat malaria, a large issue across the British colonies in Africa and Asia. Soon after this, cinchona trees were grown and seeds brought to Indonesia, India, and other similar climates and environments for the medicinal effects of quinine.

However, there are a few side effects to quinine (why it is no longer recommended for treating malaria). Cinchona bark powder is incredibly bitter and difficult to swallow on its own. As such, the Quechua people would mix the powder with sweetened water for a more palatable consumption. This practice was translated worldwide for quinine consumers, and soon British soldiers in India were putting quinine in water with soda and sugar to offset the bitterness. Tonic water, now sweeter and carbonated, also mixed well with gin, the preferred libation of the British in the 19th century. Additionally, scurvy was another plight upon the British soldiers, and cured by limes. Now, throwing the limes in the mixed drink, the gin and tonic came to be as a medicinal cure for a multitude of maladies. Although quinine is no longer used for medicinal purposes (nor should gin be used for curing your problems either), its usage as a beverage is now a worldwide sensation, being used in aperitifs, soda beverages, and of course, tonics.

Tonic Water Today

Like many other liquids, the West’s 20th century obsession with high fructose corn syrup in place of real sugar struck tonic water as well, leading to a cheaper product by price and flavor. Because of this, we are believers in one particular brand: Fever-Tree.

Fever-Tree is the classy and bougie tonic option, using all natural flavorings and real sugar (or real fructose for the light tonic). They usually have a beautiful lineup of multi-colored tonics from cucumber and elder flower to sparkling lemon and citrus. The price is substantially higher than classic grocery store brands, but we stand by the quality. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different uses for each:

Indian Tonic or Light Indian Tonic: the classic tonic, using quinine from the Democratic Republic of Congo and oils from bitter oranges, this is exactly what you want to use for your gin and tonic. Go light if you want to cut down on calories, I (the author) personally use light at home. Good for any gin and tonic, but in particular ones with a very interesting or flavorful gin. Fever-Tree is not trying to be the star of the show, and it lets the true one shine.

Mediterranean Tonic: This tonic is designed to match better with vodka, where the purpose is to be a neutral spirit. Fever-Tree infuses less quinine and adds lemon, thyme and rosemary for a beautifully splendid drink.

Elderflower/Citrus/Cucumber: Following the same format as the Indian tonic, these tonics bring a particular flavor forward. These tonics can act as a nice compliment or accent to a gin of similar botanical profile, or, it can liven up a cheap or more boring gin in your cabinet. I feel bad writing this, but these are currently out of stock at France 44. We hope this will change soon.

Sparkling Grapefruit:  Technically not a tonic (no quinine), this is the newest addition to the lineup.  Light and effervescent, the sparkling grapefruit will liven up any drink with a few bubbles and less juice. If you are making a Paloma, a spritzer, need something to throw into vodka, this is perfect. But honestly, if you just want a delicious grapefruit flavored drink during a hot afternoon, this is the ticket.

Unfortunately we are out of stock (at a distribution level, there is none in the state!) of multiple products. Even more unfortunate, I just told you the great uses for these. Frustrating as this is, we still have cans of the classic Indian, bottles of the light tonic, club soda, and good stash of sparkling grapefruit.

We also carry Jack Rudy Tonic water. While not as neutral and nuanced as Fever-Tree, a lemon citrus forward flavor is apparent on the taste, and will go perfectly with your next gin and tonic, especially if you are one of the dissenters who prefers lemon to lime as their garnish, or insist on glass over aluminum for your tonic container.

Now that you are well versed on tonic, and the dog days of summer are in full swing, it’s the perfect time to find a new and wonderful gin. When you do, highlight it with some excellent tonic water, and be thankful that we can drink a gin and tonic not for a medicinal reason, but as a simple pleasure.

Restaurant Experiences With At-Home Prices Volume I: Permission to Eat & Drink Better

By Karina Roe  •  Read time: 5 minutes

There’s a certain commitment that takes place when you decide to set foot inside a restaurant. You’ve decided to go out instead of staying in for your meal, because you’ve decided that you want that special experience that going to a restaurant promises. Someone has agreed to cook delicious food and pour amazing wine for you, do all the dishes, and make you feel special and well cared-for. You, in turn, have agreed to pay (sometimes quite handsomely) for all that to happen.

I love going out. I love the “specialness” of my experience. I love that when I get to my favorite wine bar, I’m going to come in contact with someone whose job is literally to make sure I enjoy myself. And when I’m seeking after that sort of experience, an interesting psychological shift happens: I don’t tend to think about price in quite the same way that I do when I buy wine to consume at home. When I see my favorite bubbles on the wine list for $25 a glass, I don’t think twice. I may even order two glasses, even though I know it’s not in the best interest of my bank account. The wine is served at the perfect temperature, in the perfect glass, and prior to being in that glass it had been stored correctly. I savor that glass to the last drop, and I assign a lot of value to my experience with it. Those 5 ounces of pure bliss were worth my $25 to the very last drop, because I decided it was worth it.

The next day, I stop by my wine shop because I haven’t yet had my fill of bubbles (ultimately impossible, if you ask me). I scan the shelves with a miserly eye and end up grabbing a bottle of $17 cava. I know I won’t have nearly the same experience with this bottle that I had with my $25 glass, but I’ll be “satisfied enough.” The value has become monetary instead of experiential.

This moment illustrates a curious discontinuity in how we experience wine. Why is it that we are nearly always ready to pay significantly more for wine in a restaurant, and rarely willing to pay even a few dollars more at a retail store? Could it be that we don’t allow ourselves the same kind of pleasure that drinking at a restaurant gives, in our own homes? Of course, there are special occasions where we are willing to shell out significantly more money for wines purchased to drink at home. But by and large, there’s a sizeable discrepancy in what we’re willing to spend at restaurants versus retail shops.

We know that wines on a restaurant list are always more expensive than what you’ll find them for on retail shelves. However, that doesn’t stop us from buying them; remember, you’re committed to having a certain experience when you step into that restaurant, so you’re also committed to the financial cost that experience comes with. Sometimes when you seek after that same wine in a retail store, you’re shocked to find that it’s half the price you paid.

Here’s some breaking news, and the real point of this piece: you can have a restaurant wine experience for an at-home price.

It requires a couple things from you, the thoughtful wine drinker, but it’s completely possible to drink as well (and better) as you do at a restaurant:

  • Bring the “specialness” home. You took a picture of that bottle at the restaurant for a reason. There’s a great memory attached to it, because you probably drank it with people you really like, and in a comfortable environment that allowed you to sink into the full experience of the wine. There’s nothing that says you can’t transport the singularity of the “restaurant moment” into the comfort of your home and the everydayness of life. The first thing you have to do is simply give yourself permission to bring the specialness home. Serve it at a proper temperature and in proper glassware. Treat your wine with the same sort of care and respect that an excellent server does in a restaurant.

What about the notion that there are some wines that only restaurants get access to, and not retail stores? By and large, this is a myth: even though a good restaurant might be blessed with a cellar they’ve been cultivating for decades, any good wine shop with a well-educated and passionate staff will get their hands on the same sort of bottles that are so lauded at restaurants.

  • Commit to a $30-40 price point. For a lot of consumers, $20 is a pretty standard average for a bottle of wine. At this price point you can expect the wine to be well-made, but to taste pretty simple and straightforward. Once you hit that $30-40 range, you’re much more likely to get the complexity, balance, and je ne sais quoi we all crave in a memorable bottle of wine. The deep care and thoughtfulness in winemaking choices begins to show itself in tangible ways. It’s difficult to replicate that attention to detail on lower-priced bottles. And when you consider that you’ll easily pay $60-80 at a restaurant for the same $30 bottle of wine at a retail store, it makes that “specialness” a lot more attainable.

  • Do your homework (or have someone do it for you). So much of the magic of a great wine moment comes from knowing who and where your bottle came from. A great sommelier or wine steward takes a lot of care to pair your food with a perfect wine, and likely they’ll give you some background on the wine to elevate your experience with it. Similarly, a knowledgeable wine specialist will help build the story around your wine and give context to what makes it unique. Putting five minutes into learning about your wine will immediately deepen your connection with it, and it’ll be that much more enjoyable as you pour it into your glass.

Give yourself permission to drink excellent wine more often. Recognize what your dollars will get you. Learn about the people and places behind your wine, and the details of what’s gone into the making of your wine so that it could give you that special-occasion restaurant experience—no matter where you drink it. The current state of fine dining affairs is a perilous one, and the future is anything but clear as to when (if ever) we’ll be able to get back to enjoying “normal” restaurant experiences. Don’t give up the celebration of excellent food and wine, because these things are catalysts for connection with each other. Make the extra effort with your food, bring home the good wine, and create intentional, thoughtful experiences for yourself and your people.

CLAUDE RIFFAULT ‘LES BOUCAUDS’ SANCERRE | $34.99 

We all know ‘Sancerre’ is the not-so-secret code word for “world-class Sauvignon Blanc,” but this small family-owned estate takes things to another level. Unlike most Sancerre producers, current owner Stéphane hand-picks 100% of his certified biodynamic fruit and sorts the grapes extensively before crush. He ferments and ages his wine in both stainless steel and old oak to add a bit of texture and complexity. A bottle of Riffault Sancerre brings forth a heightened level of all the characteristics we’ve come to love in Sancerre: fresh minerality, crisp acidity, and precise, perfectly ripe fruit.

FAILLA SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR | $39.99 

Ehren Jordan has been at the forefront of cool-climate Pinot Noir production in California for almost two decades. He’s first and foremost a farmer instead of a winemaker, and prefers to spend more time on his tractor than in the cellar. This preference shows in the pristine quality of the grapes he grows, and subsequently in the impeccable balance that is so elusive in Pinot Noir. His Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a benchmark wine of vintage, variety, and place, and showcases the distinctive soils, fog, and ocean influence that only the wild Sonoma Coast can provide.

VOIRIN-JUMEL ‘TRADITION’ BRUT CHAMPAGNE | $34.99 

In terms of Champagne, this small négociant bottling is an incredible value with its modest price point and high-class vineyard sources. But in terms of the larger category of sparkling wine, this is where you begin tasting the real difference in winemaking technique and quality fruit. These two historic families came together after World War II to pool their resources and create world-class bubbly from several parcels in 11 different villages, and today the house is still run by the younger generations. A blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, this classically-styled Champagne is accessible to the palate but has no shortage of character. 

 

Style Spotlight: The Gose

Gose (pronounced go-suh), the historic German beer-style hailing from lower Saxony, can now be found sprinkled across the shelves of our walk-in beer cooler thanks to a steady comeback aided along by American craft brewers. While some examples honor its traditional roots, many modern takes push the boundaries of the style into a new dimension.

Dating back to around the year 1000, Goses were first brewed along the Gose River in the small town of Goslar, Germany. Said to have a perceivable saline quality, the river is noted for imparting this natural characteristic into the local beer. The style got its name from this town, but really took off in popularity further east in the larger city of Leipzig, where local demand caused most of the production to migrate. Like other historic German beer styles, the Gose nearly went extinct on multiple occasions. Firstly from the booming popularity of bottom-fermented lagers in the late 19th century, again through the world wars and finally during the collapse of eastern Germany. Luckily, this lovingly-unique beer style has survived, as it is wonderfully refreshing in the summer heat and quite versatile when brought to the dinner table.

Salinity is the defining characteristic of this style, fanning across the palate like a refreshing sea breeze. Modern examples substitute high-quality sea salt for locally-saline water sources with a peppering of coriander for a citrusy herbal twist. A typical split of 50/50 to 60/40 malted wheat and pilsner malt is acidified with lactobacillus during wort production (occasionally later), adding a restrained, balanced sourness. The beer is fermented very dry and left unfiltered for a perceivable haze.

On the aroma, Goses show notes of pome-fruit, delicate herbal citrus peel, and a sourdough-like yeast. The lively, dry palate features flavors of citrus, stone fruit, and a doughy malt base. Finishing with a mouthwatering saline quality, balanced sourness and cleansing carbonation, the Gose plays well as an aperitif alongside fresh chèvre or shrimp ceviche, sitting sidecar with a summer salad, or on the big table with grilled seafood and smoked meats.

You’re feeling a little thirsty now aren’t you? Check out some of these France 44 favorites next time you stop by.

The Classic: Bayerischer Bahnhof Leipziger Gose — $4.99/btl

Revived in the space of a former train station, the Leipziger Gose is a relic of the traditional goses from Saxony. Brewed with 60% wheat malt, 40% barley malt, coriander, sea salt, and lactobacillus, this is a benchmark to which others may be judged. Apple skin aromas, with plum, citrus and herbs on the palate. Refreshing, restrained salinity and tartness on the finish.

The Remix: Stillwater Artisanal Gose Gone Wild — $15.99/4pk 16oz Cans

Based on the highly-revered Westbrook Gose, Stillwater Artisanal spun the wheels by adding pungent Citra and Amarillo hops and got funky with a brettanomyces fermentation. A complex nose of grassy herbs, lemon, and musty Brett funk preclude a palate of explosive tropical, citrus brightness, funky complexity and a briny, acid-forward finish.

The Twist: The Brewing Projekt Cucumber Guava Cowabunga Gose — $15.99/4pk 16oz Cans

The Brewing Projekt from Eau Claire, Wisconsin has become known for their outside-the-box, adjunct-laden, experimental take on brewing. The newest iteration of the Cowabunga gose-style sour ale combines cucumber, guava and hibiscus and sea salt in a way that will transport your mind to an island paradise. Cooling cukes envelope a palate of juicy, high-toned guava notes and floral hibiscus. A mouthwatering acidity begs you to take another sip.

The Homage: Destihl Wild Sour: Here Gose Nothin’ — $11.99/6pk Cans

Brewed to resemble a Leipzig-style goes, Here Gose Nothin’ features complex acidity and funk from a wild yeast and lactic fermentation. Limey citrus notes are complemented by spicy coriander and a quenching tart finish with hints of minerality from French sea salt. A great price point for a high-quality Gose that resembles the classics.

Other Noteworthy Options: Drastic Measures Purple Nurple Gose-Style Ale ($15.99/4pk), Central Waters Key Lime Gose ($14.99/6pk), Two Roads Passion Fruit Gose ($10.99/4pk).

Where do I start? Part 1: The Whiskey Aisle

“Where do I start?” is a new series of blogs coming out over the next months to help navigate the world of fine spirits.

The Whiskey Aisle

You’re done with college, and you have decided UV Blue, and Naturdays are maybe something you should put behind you like your freshman year friend turned awful sophomore year roommate.

So, you have decided to start getting into whiskey, but as you approach the aisle, you see maybe 300 hundred different bottles. Worse yet, there is Rye, Bourbon, whiskey AND whisky? How is Jameson different from Scotch? Grandpa’s Jim Beam bottle looked a little different than the one on the shelf (and smaller for some reason…). Plus, whatever you had before burned like hell.

Overall, it can be overwhelming to figure out what you may enjoy. You have prices ranging from $9.99 for JW Dant Bourbon to $99.99 for Springbank 15 Year Scotch. And your liquor assistant will tell you each has a great purpose for a different occasion. So, essentially here is the main question:

Where do I start?

  1. What have you had before? Think about different whiskeys you have had before besides Fireball (fireball is an abomination which will receive as little recognition from this author as possible). If nothing stands out, or you do not remember what you may have enjoyed and need a good starting point, here are some nice one word descriptions.

    1. BOURBON – Sweet

    2. IRISH – smooth

    3. RYE – spicy

    4. SCOTCH – classy

    5. JAPANESE – neutral

    6. CANADIAN – cheap (sorrey!)

Now, if you do know more about whiskey, you might find these one word descriptions lacking, but I don’t care. There are a lot more complexities here, but let’s just look at some starting points. I got my personal start with whisky in Scotch, and I’m glad I started there and then progressed to bourbon and then rye before plunging headfirst into the 50% ABV and cask strength liquids.

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon $27.99 – Elijah Craig is made at Heaven Hill Distillery and the signature whiskey to come out of their facility (aside from Evan Williams). Elijah Craig is at a very great price point being sweet and warming with a long finish (a flavor that does not leave quickly [also sometimes called chew, but who cares]).

Woodford Reserve Bourbon $32.99 – Woodford Reserve is maybe the most balanced whiskey someone can find on the market. With some fruit, some brown sugar, some this and some that, Woodford is perfect because you can use it for any purpose, and also just gives you a nice introduction to the wonderful world of bourbon.

Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon – $41.99 – More expensive, this might be a good splash into running with the big boys. There will be a very obvious jump from 40% ABV to 45.7%. If you like that, do it, if not, put a drop of water in the bourbon (like just a drop, not a splash, a drop. Put your finger in a glass of water and let one drop in) and this will drop the proof noticeably. Again, I chose Michter’s here because much like Elijah Craig and Woodford, when it says there is fruit, oak, and sugar sweetness, it is true. This bottle also offers a delicious balance and maybe trying them next to each other, you can see why Michter’s costs that extra $10-12.

Glenfiddich 12 Year Scotch – $44.99 – I chose this bottle because yes, this was my first bottle of Scotch. The second reason is Balvenie 12 Doublewood has skyrocketed in price in the last year. The third, and most important reason, is that Glenfiddich 12 is a well made highland (most Scotch is highland) which will show you the classic profiles of a bottle aged in Sherry, with notes of pear, cream, and oak. There’s a distinctive flavor to a Scotch you will not find in any other style of whiskey. However, because most good Scotch sits in casks for an absurd amount of time, Scotch is expensive, and you need to usually spend $50 to start finding good stuff outside of Islay (what Ron Swanson drinks). This Glenfiddich 12 will tell you quickly if you are going to be a Scotch person, or not.

I could go on from here, but I believe I will stop for now. This is the introduction to Bourbon and Scotch; just getting your feet wet. Here are some of the other good ways to do it:

Go to a WHISKEY bar, not a bar – Bartenders will be able to help you figure out what you like, and if you found a good one, they will not try to bullshit you or make you buy something overpriced. For $10-15 a pour, you can figure out pretty quickly some different whiskeys you really enjoy, and others you can pass on moving forward.

Find a nice liquor store with a good whiskey selection – In a similar manner, find a local liquor store (not a Total Wine) that has a good reputation. It may be a little out of your way, but talking to a professional who is really passionate about the product will always be worthwhile. These people have more than likely had restaurant or other previous industry experience, and have chosen for one reason or another to work at a wine shop (or whatever fancy title they give it).

With each of these, ask the bartender where they shop for their libations, and ask the liquor store what bars they like to frequent for selections. More than likely, they have a connection somewhere and can make a good recommendation.

 

Father’s Day Essentials

Beer to meet you, I’m dad. 

Dads can be hard to buy a gift for sometimes (most times) (all the time). He knows what he wants, or wants to be the one to make that decision, or just simply does not want to make that decision. His interests may range from new power tools, golf clubs, top end meat and cheese, but it can still be hard to make the right decision for what he wants.  The one thing your dad probably wants more than anything, is just a nice cold one to enjoy on his Sunday.

That is where we at France 44 come in. We have scoured the store in Air Monarchs, a health insurance sponsored golf outing polo from 5 years ago, and cut a mullet like he did back in the 80’s to find the perfect Father’s day libations. Between wine, beer, and liquor, we have found the perfect pairings for a lazy or eventful Sunday, whatever dad is feeling like that day.

WINE

Piaggia Wines

Maurio Vannuci runs Piaggia with his daughter Silvia in Carmignano, a tiny region located just north of Tuscany. Maurio founded Piaggia in the 1970s, grew his production and holdings throughout the 1990s, and has now passed ownership of the winery to his daughter.

Piaggia has continually topped our list as one of our favorite Italian wineries for many reasons. They focus on quality and are committed to championing their small appellation of Carmignano that tends to sit in the shadow of the more popular Tuscany. Each time we come back to Silvia and Maurio’s wines, we’re met with balance, depth, and incredible length that can only come from hands that truly care about their craft. Check out their 100% Sangiovese

Pietranera, their Il Sasso Carmignano blend, or the rare 100% Cabernet Franc Poggio de’ Colli. Each one is full-bodied with incredible flavor, and will stand up to any hearty Italian dish or a Tuscan-inspired meal on the grill.

This winery is a standout example of a father’s vision and hard work, of raising a daughter with the same passion and zeal for wine, and of passing along the dream to the next generation.

Old Westminster Winery Take it Easy Rosé

Take it easy with this funky, sour beer-esque rosé from one of the most obscure states for wine in our store: Maryland! This fresh, unfiltered and unfined pink wine comes from Old Westminster Winery, owned and operated by the Baker family.

The family focuses on minimal-intervention winemaking, choosing not to add or subtract anything from the wines and letting the wines speak about the land they come from. “Take It Easy” Rosé is a blend of cold climate grapes like Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid grape known for being a hardy cold weather variety.

For the cool, hip dad (do those exist?) who’s up for trying anything twice, this bottle is a refreshing and unique addition to any picnic, grill-out, or patio hang. Drinks best out of a cracked “#1 Dad” coffee mug.

BEER

Steel Toe Split-Point Pilsner – $4.99/22oz

For the dads who enjoy the simpler things in life such as a finely mowed lawn, a fresh haircut, or a crisp refreshing lager. Brewed in traditional fashion with all German pils malt and noble hops. With its clean, cracker-y malt, delicate floral hop aroma and brisk, cleansing bitterness it checks every box of a top-grade pilsner.

Black Stack Double Dry-Hopped Dad Jokes Double IPA – $17.99/4pk

For the dads who always find a way to lighten the mood. Black Stack’s Dad Jokes makes its return with double the dry hop and double the pun.  Jam packed with juicy Citra, Mosaic, Cashmere and Vic Secret hops and 8.6% alcohol by volume, this mighty brew will have dad cracking jokes in no time.

Pryes Course Correct Citra Pale Ale – $9.99/4pk

For the hop-lovin’ dads that never ask for directions. Course Correct always keeps dad on the right track. Bold, dank hop aromas and tons of juicy hop flavor from all Citra hop additions. Notes of tropical fruits and citrus peel lead to a gripping but pleasantly bitter finish.

Humble Forager Gypsy Outpost Imperial Porter – $15.99/2pk

For the adventurous, outdoorsy dads that willingly trek into unknown territory. This Imperial Pastry Porter tastes like a big, delicious Samoa® Cookie from your local Girl Scout troop. Humble Forager takes an unctuous, cake-like base brew and conditions it on toasted coconut, vanilla beans, cocoa nibs and cinnamon to elevate it to the next level. A great treat for an evening by the campfire.

SPIRITS: WHISKEY + CIGAR PAIRINGS

Woodford Wheat Whiskey – A new spin on the classic Woodford Reserve at 52% wheat in the mash bill. This sweet, light, and balanced whiskey brings forward fruit and floral notes. We paired this with the Undercrown Conneticut Shade Tubo 6*50. Light, creamy, and caramel, this bouncy smoke will work perfectly as you “tidy up around the place” or whatever you call putzing in the garage in peace and quiet.

Glendronach 15 year Revival was recently brought back into their lineup, this full body scotch expounds the Oloroso sherry casks it slept in for 15-18 years. Smooth, fig, cherry, this is a perfect pour while hitting the links with family or the boys. To pair, we went with one of the best selling Dominincan cigars, Romeo y Julieta Bully 5*50. A smooth and mellow body with prominent notes of herb and cedar, this hour long smoke should last you until the 19th hole when you go out on the course.

Sagamore Cask Strength Rye – Maryland style rye is coming back into vogue. This rye sits between fruit and spice, bold and bouncy, with a corn added to bring it a slight sweetness. Sagamore is one of the best in this style, and their cask strength brings leather, bright red fruits, and baked goods. To go with this high proof rye, we went with a versatile and matured cigar, the Gurkha Platinum 12 Robusto. Earthy, pepper, and chocolate notes make this cigar perfect with almost any medium or full bodied whiskey, but should go great with something as complex as maryland rye from Sagamore.

Maker’s Mark F44 Private Select – Our pick from Maker’s Mark, this bourbon was aged with three American staves and four French Mocha staves. Notes of vanilla and cocoa on the nose, and a big body full of caramel and dark fruit. This is best matched with the Rocky Patel Sungrown Maduro, a full bodied cigar of Nicaraguan tobacco. Sweet, full, and intense, this is a perfect smoke for prepping the porterhouse on the grill. You know what, actually, throw a second on there. You deserve it.

To Future ‘Remember Whens’: A Commitment To Hope

photo credit: Dan Zeller, Minneapolis, May 2020 | @lacroixboix_

Recently our staff has taken to sharing ‘remember whens’ with each other. We’re not even halfway through 2020, and we’ve already experienced (and reminisced about) what seems like several lifetimes’ worth of events.

The biggest kick of wry nostalgia for our industry came during the early days of the COVID-19 emergency when we recalled, “Remember when our biggest worry was what the new tariffs were going to do to wine and whiskey prices?” We slowly adjusted to a new pandemic-induced normal, which included adding a new Curbside Pickup arm of our business, sanitizing everything we could think of, Virtual Happy Hours, and required face coverings. 

And then, our ‘remember whens’ became a lot more somber. 

Suddenly, our city became flooded with grief, anxiety, fear, and anger. We bore witness to yet another horrific, senseless and brutal death in Minneapolis’ black community. Our city, followed by our nation and then the entire world, responded with calls to action and demands for justice for the murder of George Floyd, along with countless other names before him.

How do you get nostalgic about the absurdly “light-hearted” days of Social Isolation Cheese Boxes and Restaurant Relief Wine Packs? Where do those things now fit into this complicated, seemingly unsolvable puzzle that our community is trying to work out? How in the world does one find oneself in a situation where the ‘remember whens’ only dealt with one crisis?

It’s not easy to hold both a pandemic and a city on fire in one’s consciousness. But it’s important to remember that the fires (both literal and metaphoric) didn’t just “begin” a few days ago—the dry kindling has been growing for longer than any of us have been alive. At this point, can there be any doubt that our efforts to live up to the great promise of our country have fallen woefully short?

Sorting through the debris (again, both literal and metaphoric) will be painstaking. The aftermath of this past week will be felt for a long time to come. Communities and small businesses have experienced deep wounds and extreme loss as the result of a week of rioting and looting. But what we know and have already seen is that our city is not one to back down from fighting for change and growth, as hard and painful as it may be. 

Every small business is a dream being made real. They provide the texture, personality and richness of a place. As a member of this beautifully complex community, we are committed to supporting these fellow small businesses as they pick up the pieces and rebuild. In doing so, we can also help the communities that cherished them and now miss them so dearly.

From loss, growth can emerge if only we allow it. We, at France 44, stand beside those striving for justice and progress. We resolve to listen to and acknowledge the experiences of black and other POC leaders and communities. We will share our strength to help lift up those who need a hand. We will strive to support a diverse community, based on mutual respect and admiration, that draws strength from many voices, backgrounds, groups, and identities. We will add our voice to all people of good will who seek to bring about this reality of real opportunity and equal justice for all.

We will do our part to add a more hopeful tone to future ‘remember whens’: Remember when Minneapolis came together after a devastating tragedy and started really acknowledging and addressing the grievous injustices endured by our black neighbors? Remember when we helped fellow family-owned, small businesses rebuild their livelihood? Remember when we came together in the name of inclusivity and diversity? Remember when we helped build a city where everyone can make and enjoy their best life? 

Remember when we stopped being afraid?

It is in all our power to make this dream a reality; all it takes is for us to choose it.

In the time ahead, France 44 will be partnering with and supporting a number of organizations to help create this future in Minneapolis. We know our actions will speak louder than our words, and we hope our continued and active involvement over time will show our commitment to a more unified community. We invite you to participate, and hope you’ll follow and take part in our efforts on this blog and through our social media channels.

 

EFFORTS TO CONTRIBUTE TO:

Modist Brewing – a daily update on what donations/supplies are needed; collection site at the brewery

Surly Brewing – Surly Gives A Damn has ongoing events to collect/distribute supplies, serve meals, participate in blood drives, and more at several locations in the Twin Cities and in suburbs

Resources to Support Minneapolis’ Protests & Community – a master list of volunteer opportunities, assistance, relief funds, petitions, educational resources, and more

 

 

 

Virtual Happy Hour: Volume 5 with Jon Olson

It’s the fifth week of Live from France 44: Virtual Happy Hour! Tune into France 44’s Instagram, Facebook, or Zoom (see below) for a live Happy Hour cocktail demo with Jon Olson of Libation Project on Wednesday, June 3rd at 6:00pm.

WHAT: Virtual Happy Hour with Jon Olson

WHEN: Wednesday, June 3rd at 6:00pm

WHERE: Your house! (with a live feed hookup from the France 44 Classroom)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: Make sure you have all the ingredients on hand for the cocktail(s) you’ll be making along with Jon. Then, find us on Instagram (@france_44), Facebook (@france44mpls), or the Zoom login below at 6pm next Wednesday and join in on our live feed. Easy!

ZOOM LOGIN: ID: 713-380-5554 | PW: Libation

Jon will be showing you how to make two different cocktails using some of our favorite small-batch products. Try one, or try both! Here are the ingredients that you’ll need on hand to make drinks along with Jon next Wednesday:

OLD FASHIONED

JAMAICAN JUNGLE BIRD