Summer Ginspiration

by Tom

Looking for some Ginspiration? We have you covered!

The weather is finally warm, the sun is shining, and gin season is in full swing. We’ve all got our stand-bys, go-tos, and classics for gin cocktails, but if you’re looking for something different to spice up your gin game, we’ve got a few fun ideas…

Hakuto Japanese Gin

Japan has emerged as a prominent location for a few of our best selling gins. A few follow very similar botanical builds: yuzu peel, sansho pepper, green tea, and cherry blossom. Two things separate The Hakuto: Japanese Nashi Pears and the intensity of the yuzu peel. The nose has huge citrus zest and the pear comes across afterwards cooling it off a bit. It works great with lime and a splash of tonic or soda but where it really shines is in a negroni. The citrus and fruit show up well wile being accented by a lighter bitter like a Cappelletti or Negroni Aperitivo. Here’s a recipe:

The Hakuto Negroni

  • 1oz Hakuto Gin
  • 1oz Fot-Li Spanish Vermut
  • 1oz Negroni Apertivo (similar to Aperol, but better!)

Stir with ice, strain into a coupe or rocks glass, and add a twist of citrus peel.

Bimini Coconut Gin

Bimini is a gin distillery out of Maine making a fresh take on American gin where they are toning the juniper down while enhancing flavors of grapefruit, coriander, and hops. Bartenders took notice of the gin’s citrus-forward flavors and began substituting it for light rum in tiki drinks, leading the company to make a coconut fat-washed version of their gin (essentially, the gin is combined with coconut oil and strained).  This is not a coconut bomb, no fake flavorings or additives have been added. It is fresh and tropical but still very much gin. It makes killer classic cocktails, gin and tiki alike. Here’s a recipe for an Army Navy, a gin riff on a Mai Tai:

Bimini Army Navy

  • 2oz Bimini Coconut Gin
  • 1oz Lemon Juice
  • ¾oz Liber & Co. Orgeat (basically almond simple syrup)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel.

Cotswold Old Tom Gin

Old Tom Gins have a complicated and storied past, but to boil it down, they date back to the 18th century when England was consuming boatloads of poorly-made gin. Many were sweetened with a pinch with sugar or licorice root just to soften their rough edges, but the sweetener also nicely balanced the citrus and juniper flavors. The name “Old Tom” now can connote a wide range of styles, including some that are barrel-aged, but almost all are richer and slightly sweeter than your typical London Dry. Cotswold is a fresh take on an old classic, using licorice to lend a soft sweetness, a bit of fresh ginger, orange citrus and classic cardamom. It’s perfect on its own but it also makes a stunning gin and tonic and a super refreshing Tom Collins. Our pick is the ultimate old-guy drink, gin and bitters:

Gin-n-Bitters

  • 2oz Cotswold Old Tom Gin
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine ingredients in a rocks glass with a large ice cube.

Drie Fonteinen

by Bennett

The complex, mystical nature of traditional Belgian lambic justifies its reputation as one of the more befuddling beer styles in existence. Born in the gently sloping farmlands of Payottenland and the Senne River valley that surround Brussels, Belgium, lambic beer is a rarity that offers a lense into the past. Unlike most beer styles whose fermentations are metabolized by a cultured yeast strain, lambic is fermented spontaneously by the ambient microflora around the brewery. Lambic brewers and blenders strive to harness the unpredictable, unique nature of wild fermentation to craft astonishingly complex, beautiful beers.

Spontaneously fermented beer has existed in this region since before Julius Caesar’s advancement into Northern Gaul over two millennia ago, when the campaigning Romans drank beer made from locally-grown wheat that surely underwent a non-controlled fermentation. After all, early brewers had no knowledge of the microbiology behind fermentation. Flip back to almost two millennia later, Louis Pasteur and Emil Christian Hansen were just making their breakthrough discoveries of fermentation and pure bred yeast cultures in the late 19th century.

Today, a vast majority of breweries have adopted the advancements of science, using pure cultured yeast for a controlled, predictable end product. And why not? The concept of making a living off years long, souring fermentations in expensive barrels, sometimes with whole hand-picked fruit, all to potentially end in disaster is a frightening prospect. I’d guess these lambic bottlers would say, “I’ll risk it for a biscuit.”

Of the less than 15 remaining brewers and blenders of lambic, Drie Fonteinen from Beersel, Belgium is highly revered. Established in 1953, the Dutch “Three Fountains” is an ode to the three hand pumps that once served lambic at the original 19th century inn and lambic blending business on the property. Anton and Raymonde Debelder built a respected lambic blendery and restaurant over the next three decades, eventually handing the reins to their sons Armand and Guido.

Until 1998, Drie Fonteinen operated strictly in lambic blending—purchasing lambic from the surrounding breweries to age, blend and bottle at their own discretion. Armand finally took a leap of faith and installed a leased brewhouse, becoming the newest lambic brewery in almost eighty years. Drie Fonteinen’s most distinguished lambics are now produced fully in-house under new successors to the Debelders, but they still source from other local lambic breweries. You can typically determine if the beer is 100% Drie Fonteinen or a blend from other breweries by the color of the bottle—brown for proprietary lambic, green for blends. 

Making traditional lambic at Drie Fonteinen is a much different process than your average beer. A grist of pale malt and raw, unmalted wheat is used to make a turbid mash, producing a low conversion, cloudy wort with abundant levels of dextrin, proteins and complex sugars—perfect food for wild yeasts and bacteria. 15 year aged Challenger and Hallertauer hops are added to the boil, lending their antimicrobial, preservative qualities but minimal bitterness or discernable hop character. After a lengthy boil, the lambic is transferred to the coolship—a large, open, shallow vessel where the wort cools quickly and begins inoculation by the local non-cultured yeasts and bacteria. Old French oak red wine barrels are then filled with the fermenting lambic and moved to age in a climate-controlled environment. The lambic will age for one to three years in the barrel. During this time, the beer will undergo a series of overlapping fermentations by competing microorganisms that metabolize the nutrients in the wort. In the case of fruit lambics, ripe whole fruit will be macerated with a younger lambic until the desired characteristics have been achieved. 

When barrels are ready, it is time for blending and bottling. Blending lambic is more art than science, something done with experienced instinct. Younger lambics, which offer freshness and the residual sugar necessary for bottle conditioning, are blended with the matured lambic, which brings drying complexity. The best lambics are funambulist efforts—high-risk, high-reward beers that display a sure-footed balance of lactic tang and animalic funk.

Drie Fonteinen lambics are a curious indulgence that every adventurous beer drinker or natural wine lover should consider when that “risk it for a biscuit” mood strikes.


 

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze 750mL – Lighthouse Canton

 

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze – $14.99/375ml

A traditional oude geuze blend of one-, two, and three-year-old lambic sourced from Boon and Drie Fonteinen. This masterfully-made geuze is a great entry point into the world of lambic. 

 

3 fonteinen Frambozenlambik 2018 ass 68 | Belgian Whalez

Drie Fonteinen Frambozenlambik – $36.99/375ml

This traditional raspberry lambic uses whole, hand-picked raspberries to macerate for four months with a young lambic. Each bottlecontains over half a cup of raspberries. The raspberries add a gentle pink hue and a bright fruitiness that opens in the glass.

 

 

3 Fonteinen Schaarbeekse Kriek 75cl | Beer MerchantsDrie Fonteinen Schaarbeekse Kriek – $69.99/750ml

Schaarbeeks are a tart cherry variety indigenous to the area northwest of Brussels. The fruit has a long history in Belgium but is seldom grown, the diminishing number of cherry trees falling victim to suburban sprawl. Drie Fonteinen crowd sources these special cherries from local family orchards. The handpicked fruit is macerated for 14 months in the barrel with one- and two-year-old lambic. Each bottle contains over a cup of these Schaarbeek cherries. 100% Schaarbeek Kriek is considered a limited specialty from lambic producers.

 

3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston – CraftShack - Buy craft beer  online.Drie Fonteinen Cuvée Armand & Gaston – $99.99/1.5L Magnum or $34.99/750ml

This cuvée, named after the son and father who have led Drie Fonteinen throughout its history,  is a traditional oude geuze made from a blend of one-, two- and three-year-old lambic all brewed in-house. No two bottlings are alike, as there are many variables in the blending process.

September Spirit of the Month: Aquavit

Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit that is traditionally flavored with ingredients such as caraway, cardamon, fennel, or dill.  You can easily substitute aquavit into your favorite whiskey, gin, or vodka drinks for a tasty new variation.  Through September we will feature some of our favorite aquavits and show you how versatile it can be!  Let’s leave the lutefisk to the Nordics and broaden our savory cocktail arsenal with that dusty bottle of aquavit instead.

Week 1:

Aquavit Mule, aka Dala Horse

In a copper mule mug filled with ice, combine:

Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint.


Week 2:  Local pairing 

Aquavit can also be enjoyed chilled or over ice. This week we recommend trying Skaalvenn Aquavit with Northern Lights Blue Cheese from the Cheese Shop.  Each batch of Northern Lights Blue is hand crafted in small batches with fresh ingredients and milk from local Brown Swiss cows who are allowed to graze on pasture all year long, which helps create a rich creamy texture and delicious flavor.  The cheese is aged for a minimum of four months, longer than most blue cheese, which adds to its creamy texture and peppery taste.  This cheese will pair nicely with Skaalvenn’s Aquavit, which is distilled from wheat and flavored with caraway, fennel, orange peel, and aged in oak barrels.


Week 3: Nordic Summer Cocktail 

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill ¾ with ice, shake until chilled, strain, and serve with an orange twist.

 

 


 

 

Week 4: 

AkvaCran & Tonic 

Fill a tall glass with ice; add aquavit, cranberry juice, and lime juice; top with tonic water and garnish with a lime and sprig of mint. 

August Spirit of the Month: Mezcal

Each week for the month of August we’ll bring you a different cocktail recipe or food pairing featuring Mezcal (tequila’s smokier cousin). Mezcal comes from 9 different regions in Mexico, the most common being Oaxaca. Similar to tequila, it is distilled from the heart of the Agave plant. Unlike Tequila, any type of Agave can be used. It is also most commonly pit roasted prior to fermentation, giving the final product its distinct, smoky flavor. If you haven’t tried mezcal before, this might be just the nudge you need to get a bottle to experiment with!

Week 1:

Smoke on the Water
In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine:

Shake until well chilled and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.


Week 2:

Smoky Negroni 

In a mixing glass with ice, combine:

Stir until well chilled and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


Week 3: Mezcal Food Pairing! 

This week we are going to pair mezcal with a fun snack from the Cheese Shop! We recommend trying Xicaru Silver Mezcal with Jamon Serrano and goat cheese (Order online HERE). Jamon Serrano is a dry cured Spanish ham sliced thin and one of the most iconic Spanish food products. While mezcal is from Mexico, the smokiness will highlight this meat well, and the goat cheese adds a nice creamy finish. Xicaru is available in 375 ML bottles so it’s a less intimidating purchase if you want to try mezcal for the first time. This is the perfect pairing to take along to a happy hour or picnic gathering to introduce your friends to the amazing world of mezcal (and the fun things you can find at our Cheese Shop)!


 

Week 4: The Final Week! 

This week we’re going to make the easiest cocktail pairing ever.  Last weekend at the cabin?  Quick pairing to wind down after a busy week?  We’ve got you covered.  This week’s mezcal is going into Summer Lakes Bootleg mix, which will create a very tasty twist on a mojito.  We recommend trying Derrumbes San Louis Potosi, which uses above ground roasting methods for a less smoky mezcal.  You’ll get hints of bell pepper, minerals, and a little funkiness that’s going to pair great with pimento dip and some crackers from the cheese shop.  Quickest shopping trip ever, and you’ve got an easy but delicious cocktail and snack covered for wherever life takes you.

A Taste of the Tropics

Written by Bennett

Just about every Minnesotan right now: “Well what in da heck, Barb! Jeepers it’s been a doozy of a cold spell, I almost ran out of hotdish for cripes sake. Ope! Better go check the oven. Tell your folks I says hi.” 

Yes, indeed. It’s been one of the most frigid winter spells we’ve experienced—almost record-breaking—if not for a few intermittent hours up in the positive degrees. Almost two weeks spent sheltering indoors has felt like a monotonous slog; a sort of Groundhog Day-esque alternate reality. And unfortunately, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow again this year. *Sigh* Guess we’re not out of the woods yet.

I don’t know about you, but this frigid weather has me daydreaming of tropical vacations. While actual travel hasn’t been encouraged recently, I urge you to take a mental vacation. You deserve it. Close your eyes—Imagine big-sky sunset vistas, toes curled in sand still warm from the day’s light, no problems in the world. I can’t fly you there, but these tropically-inspired craft brews can take your senses on that trip.

Modist Fruitropolis Imperial Smoothie Sour — $20.99/4pk Can

Double of this, double of that! Pineapple, passion fruit, raspberry, you name it—Modist is doubling it in this smoothie brew. Fruitropolis features gobs of fruit with a swirl of milk sugar on top of a smooth wheat and barley malt base. A snap of sourness keeps everything in balance.

BlackStack Ken Burns Presents — $21.99/4pk Can

Ken Burns is back with a new episode on BSB public beervision—pineapple, passion fruit, and mango! BlackStack takes their inhouse foeder-fermented mixed culture Berliner Weisse and lays it down on fruit, vanilla bean caviar and milk sugar. Roll the can to stir the juicy bits then serve in your best tiki glass. 

Untitled Art Florida Seltzers — $15.99/6pk Can

Currently available in three distinct flavors—blood orange pomegranate, prickly pear guava, and raspberry lime—the Florida Seltzer lineup takes you beyond the conventional sense of seltzer. Mega-brand bubbly water will be a distant memory after you take a sip of these. Vibrant fruit with a pop of acidity almost puts these in sour beer-territory, but without the gluten.

Junkyard Keep Me Cold Rainbow Sorbet — $10.99/Crowler

Just look at the label, how cute. A happy little luau-dressed penguin safe from circling killer whales atop a floating iceberg. This flightless bird has the right idea. Keep Me Cold features orange, raspberry and Tahitian lime, creating a delicious sweet and sour balance.

Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Virus: What to Drink when Home Alone this Holiday Season 

written by Chaz

There is no reason to inform you about what you already know: COVID-19 is awful, and so many more things that come with it. 2020 is not the year we envisioned, but France 44 still firmly believes we still have reason for some holiday cheer. Hope is around the corner, and we believe there are many reasons to celebrate. The snow is coming, people are finally done debating if Die Hard is a Christmas movie (I really hope), and there are plenty of fun new libations to try here are France 44.

Wine

Marc Hebrart Cuvée de Réserve Champagne

Nothing quite adds to the holiday spirit as Champagne does. Marc Hebrart has long been one of our favorite producers of Champagne. The Cuvée de Réserve is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and spends about 2 years aging on the lees to add complex notes of almond and brioche. This is a bright and balanced Champagne that bats well above its price point.

Poggio Antico ‘Lemartine’ 

Lemartine is a rich and hearty Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It is loaded with bold blackberry and currant flavors.  Leather, oak, and spice round out the palate.  Grippy tannins are present on the finish making this a great pairing with a hefty cut of beef!

Domaine Laroche ‘Saint Martin’ Chablis

Saint Martin is a blend of some of Domaine Laroche’s best vineyards throughout Chablis. It offers bright acidity and notes of green apple, citrus, and chalk. This wine’s acidity and flavor profile make it very food friendly. Try it with oysters, seafood, and lemon herb chicken.

Spirits 

Tattersall Bottled in Bond Bourbon: France 44 High Rye Single Barrel 

Our friends at Tattersall have waited four years to deliver us this fantastic bourbon, feature a mash bill of 55% yellow corn, 35% AC Hazlet Rye, and 10% malted rye. Minnesota white oak barrels, Minnesota grains, and aged just over four years in Minnesota, this is through and through a true Minnesota whiskey. This single barrel has big emphasis on black pepper, graham cracker, and nice dried fruit. Following the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, this four-year-old bourbon sits at 100 proof, just where we like our bourbon.

Vikre Amaro Superiore 

Up in Duluth, Vikre has been working on a new bartender series. To kick it off, they have brought us a new amaro bitter liqueur. Distilled with water from Lake Superior, this amaro is crafted to be used like Campari or a classic sipping amaro. Citrusy marmalade topped with nutmeg and cinnamon flavors remind us of home baked goods. The finish is balanced with pleasant herbaceous bitterness. A beautiful bottle label and wonderful spirit inside, this is a fantastic liqueur for everybody this season.

Dashfire Hard Coffee Canned Cocktails 

Dashfire came out with six different canned cocktails in 2019, which were a huge success last year. This year, they have partnered with Five Watt Coffee to bring us three new coffee cocktails, perfect for the morning, afternoon, or after dinner. Bourbon Cold Brew Coffee has notes of chicory and vanilla. The Golden Latte uses rum, espresso, cream, and a few other flavors to bring out sweet nutmeg goodness. And finally, the Rum Café Mocha (the liquor team’s favorite of the three) is rum, cacao cream, and espresso, the mocha is chocolate perfection in a can.

Beer 

The beer world has only grown more complex in the last year. It seems every time we promote a beer, it flies off the shelf before most people can buy it. We did our best to choose beers with higher quantities at the time of publishing, but these all still come in limited quantities.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale 

This beer has been around since 1992, almost three decades. Every year, Great Lakes delivers a fantastic Christmas Ale to drink during the cold winter nights around the fire. Honey, ginger, and cinnamon spices all permeate through this beer. It pairs perfectly with roast duck, spiced holiday desserts, and of course, another Christmas Ale. We only have six packs available, so you might as well grab two if you can.

Drekker Ectogasm 

If you have any family coming home for the holidays, more than likely somebody will be going to be a big hazy IPA drinker. Drekker Ectogasm is one of our most popular hazy IPAs in the cooler, and beers overall. Tropical fruit burst out of this can with citra and mosaic hops, and the oats create a pillowy soft feel. Whether you are a big fan of new school beer or not, this beer will certainly be one of the first to go in the fridge.

Indeed Pils (Pils Pils Pils Pils Pils Pils Pils) 

A classic German lager but with a brand-new recipe in a brand-new package from a great brewery, Indeed is bringing old world beer to a new world audience. The hops resonate throughout this beer, making it one of the hoppier lagers with some juicy citrus notes, but this is a true classic, delivering clean, crisp, refreshing flavor. Perfect for someone used to Coors Light and the New England IPA fan.

With that, we wish you a Happy Holidays. Enjoy this season with the ones you love, and watch out for those Wet Bandits!

Scotch Gift Guide

It is officially December 2020, and we have made it through the year. The spirits team at France 44 has officially decided Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the cocktail of December. Single Malt Scotch usually spends a decade in the barrel, slowly turning into a fantastic, flavorful, and complex whisky. Even if you know nothing about Scotch, you know it is the king spirit of the world. For good reason.

But now that December is here, and gift giving abounds, what Scotch should you buy? Most people know Macallan, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig (and the prices to match their reputation), but what are the other 100 bottles doing on the shelf? So we created a guide to find lesser known, unique, and just as delicious Scotch for your Whisky loving gift receiver. Whether they love light fruit and vanilla, or big peat and smoke, we can guide you in the right direction.

These are a few off the beaten path options that we love.

GlenAllachie 12 Year – $57.99

GlenAllachie is one of the few remaining independent distillers still standing in Scotland. This scotch is newer to a lot of people, but it is very well worth knowing. Aged for 12 years in Pedro Jiménez and Oloroso sherry casks, as well as Virgin oak casks, this expression has rich notes of vanilla, dark fruit and oak.

Kilchoman Machir Bay – $59.99

Kilchoman brands themselves as the farm distillery of Islay, growing all their own barley through the spring and summer to begin malting and distilling after September harvest. This peated style is made up of 90% bourbon cask and 10% sherry cask aged whiskey. Featuring notes of vanilla and peat on the nose, dried fruit on the palate and a smoky finish. This bottle comes with two branded lowball glasses.

Benriach 10 Year – $44.99

Three cask matured for at least ten years in bourbon barrels, sherry casks and virgin oak, to create layers of luscious orchard fruit and sumptuous honeyed malt and toasted oak. At less than $50, this is the perfect introduction to the classic Speyside style. This scotch contains all the flavor you want in a single malt at half the price.

Benriach 12 Year Horizons – $59.99

One of the few triple distilled whiskies from Scotland. This expression is first matured in ex-bourbon casks and then is finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The palate is smooth, creamy and nutty with subtle dried fruit notes. Unfortunately, this scotch is being discontinued. We will not have this scotch for next year, but fortunately, we have more than enough for the season. Get it while you can!

Port Askaig 110 Proof – $59.99

A classic example of Islay Scotch, this peated whisky is aged exclusively in American oak, adding some spicy notes with the smoky peat. It is bottled at 110 proof to retain as much flavor as possible, this is the scotch to quote “put hair on your chest and then burn it all off”. The perfect balance of smoke and sweetness. This bottle also comes with two branded Glencairn glasses. Believe us when we say, a scotch drinker can never have enough Glencairn glasses.

2,000 Years of Wine Tradition Gets a Facelift at France 44

written by Dustin

France 44 would be remiss if we didn’t share our new treasure trove of German wines with you. Over the past year our market had lost one of the most famous German wine importers that had serviced the US for over 40 years. We worked tirelessly to get any news of what happened to these wines, phone calls, emails, the ever so important Zoom calls, and now we have finally found a new life line to bring us back some of our favorites.

Last week, we were lucky to land 14 new German wines. The, all important, and fan favorite Frtiz Muller Rose has reclaimed its spot in our rosé section. The Von Buhl Bone Dry Riesling and Rosé are now smiling back at us from their once empty shelf spaces. If you have never tried any of the aforementioned wines, you must, but please do not look over some of the other house favorites that have come back.

German wine is and always has been historically known for Riesling. Riesling once rivaled the storied wines of Champagne and Bordeaux in demand amongst world leaders, it has been known to be one of the most versatile food wines, and has a history of making some of the most age worthy wines of all time. The grape itself gets a bad rap due to the possibility of it having a high residual sugar content. But please, look no further, we have brought in several dry expressions for those who love a crispy white wine!

Maximin Grunhaus Riesling Monopol Mosel, Germany $25.99/ bottle

“A blend of fruit from the three grand crus that opens with clear, aromatic mango fruit and, after a while, lots of flinty notes of crushed stones. Silky, pure and enormously salty on the palate, this is a stunning, complex, tensioned and almost challenging Estate Riesling with lingering salinity and immense complexity and charisma.” – Wine Advocate

Becker Family Pinot Blanc Pfalz, Germany $21.99/ bottle

Looking past just Riesling there are many other white wines produced throughout Germany. Unfortunately, many of these other expressions of white wine are scarcely imported throughout our country. Lucky for you we have acquired wines from a small estate called Friedrich Becker Family. The winery specializes in pinot noir, pinot gris, and an exquisite pinot blanc.

“Prominent notes of toasted barrel and nut accent crisp white plum and grapefruit here. It’s a briskly composed and easy-drinking but elegant Pinot Blanc made completely dry.” – Wine Enthusiast

Meyer-Nakel Estate Pinot Noir Ahr, Germany $39.99/ bottle

One of the many hidden treasures of German wine is pinot noir. Sharing a close border to France, Germany has a history of making pinot noir that some suggest could rival its neighboring red Burgundies. Just like many of the non-riesling white wines, pinot noir is ever so difficult to procure in the US. These wines embody the vigor and opulence of world class expressions of pinot noir and are definitely worth a try.

“Bright and tangy, delivering black cherry, currant and raspberry fruit on a juicy profile. The long, spicy finish echoes sweet berry and toasty oak notes.” – Wine Spectator

Drink Local!

The holiday shopping season officially commenced last Friday. Small Business Saturday and Small Brewery Sunday were friendly reminders to shop local businesses over the weekend, but continued support will be most needed in the coming months.

We are entering winter amidst an untethered pandemic, and yet another (rightfully) consequential shutdown. As tough as that is, many of your favorite food, beverage, and service providers will continue to face an uphill battle through the core of winter. Indoor dining and drink service will return to a mitigated-state at best. From a brewery’s perspective, with bars and restaurants closed or offering curbside-only service, the kegs aren’t flowing, thus a large portion of sustaining production volume is simply being lost.

*cue the Sarah McLachlan music*

But in all seriousness–There are many faces behind the pint in your glass. Minnesota’s breweries support thousands of families and annually inject over $2 billion into the local economy. This amazing local beer scene was not built on greed but a joy of sharing a craft, a hobby, and yes, a pint. So please consider who you are supporting with your own hard-earned money through this holiday season and beyond. It’s as easy as buying a few growlers, gift cards, merch or what have you! And definitely stop by the beer cooler for some local goodness next time you’re in the neighborhood. I, for one, would like to make it to the other side of this with our local food and beverage (especially beer!) culture intact.

Check out some recent local favorites that are stocked in our cooler now. Cheers!

Falling Knife Cumulonimbus Fruited Sour Ale – $14.99/4pk Can

Take your taste buds on a tropical vacation this winter with this pink guava, pineapple and passionfruit-infused kettle sour. Light and fresh body with a nectar-y core and tart, bright finish.

Modist Campfire Jeans Smoked Helles Lager – $11.99/4pk Can

The latest iteration in Modist’s lineup of oak-aged lagers. This helles features the beautiful simplicity of pilsner malt with a dash of Beechwood-smoked malt for a campfire jean aroma and just enough smoke in balance with the biscuity malt character.

Barrel Theory Rain Drops NEIPA – $10.99/750ml Crowler

Barrel Theory has gained widespread respect and acclaim over the last few years for crazy delicious hazy IPAs and absolutely decadent stouts. A BT flagship, Rain Drops bursts with juicy aromas from Citra and Mosaic hops. Silky smooth, softly sweet malt and combines perfectly with a tropical hop character and seamless bitterness.

Bad Weather Ominous Double Brown Ale – $10.99/6pk Can

A personal wintery favorite. Ominous has a wholesome nutty, bready malt character. A bit of candi sugar brings a Belgian-like undertone with notes of dried fruit and plum.

Absinthe Minded

written by Chaz

Absinthe is a lesser-known spirit with a well-known aura of mystery. The preferred drink of Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh, it has conjured a devout yet specific following historically. This liquor has actually only been legal for 20 years in America and is still confusing to many today. Why? Let’s take a trip.

 

Artemisia absinthium L. (absintalsem) by Photography workshop Hortus Botanicus Leiden. Image found here

What is Absinthe

Although at France 44 we keep absinthe in the cordial section, actual absinthe is a stand-alone liquor with no added sugar, generally high ABV, and contains three defining botanicals. Typically, absinthe runs anywhere from 90 – 148 proof, but many sit approximately between 120-130 proof, one of the highest ABV items you can find on a shelf. The main botanicals are star anise, green fennel, and the enigmatic wormwood. Artemisia absinthium, the scientific name for wormwood, is where absinthe derives its name, but also its centuries of misinformation. Wormwood contains a ketone, thujone, which in higher doses can lead to muscle spasms and convulsions. For years, wormwood and thujone were associated with THC and other cannabinoids. With some help from wine makers and other anti-absinthe bodies of power, the general public came to believe wormwood consumption would induce hallucinations. However, the amount of thujone in absinthe never approaches the toxicity level it takes for any of the adverse effects to take place. The notoriety, accompanied with propaganda and bad science, ultimately leading to a world abstinence from the “Green Fairy”.

The Green Hour

Most accounts mark absinthe’s invention sometime around 1790 by either Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, or the Henriod Sisters. Regardless, the wormwood botanical elixir was sold as a medicinal cure, and the drink began to catch on in the 19th century, with the Henriod Sisters starting the Pernod Fils distillery. The second half gave way to an explosion in absinthe drinking. Absinthe, due to its anti-establishment nature of high ABV and misunderstood botanicals, became the symbol of European bohemianism. Bohemianism was a movement of aesthetics, artists, and counter-culturists who poked the eye of the mainstream. Five o’clock was renamed the “Green Hour” in France, because behind wine, absinthe was becoming the drink of choice for many. French wine makers and the law makers began to take notice, and action.

Bad science made people believe absinthe contained toxic levels of thujone inside, causing hallucinations, seizures, and death. Looking back, we see how horribly inaccurate this is. Reports of 19th century absinthe containing lethal levels of thujone have been disproven, and any outrageous or immoral actions could be closer associated with the loose social values of its main drinkers and the high ABV (absinthe drinks easier than 60% ABV). In Edgar Degas portrait L’Absinthe, the melancholy patrons drinking the green drink were vilified by art critics and considered a ghastly portrait of its real drinkers. By the 20th century, laws to ban the drink for its dangerous levels of thujone were introduced. By 1915, America, France, and England had banned the drink. How closely this was followed is questionable, especially with the ease of movement of distilleries to Czechoslovakia and Spain, but for the next 100 years, absinthe struggled to stay around and became a faint infamous drink of another era.

The Return of the Green Fairy

Fast forward to 2007. Absinthe is illegal in America and other parts of Europe, but not impossible to find across the Ocean. The growing cocktail scene in America makes people reopen old cocktail books from before 1900. While anise liquors to replace absinthe were available, people wanted to true thing.  Lucid Absinthe Superiore negotiated with the USDA to keep thujone levels to a low level in the absinthe, and other countries soon followed. In 2007, France and the United States had both lifted their ban, and for the first time in 95 years, absinthe was available for sale in America. In the years prior, St. George spirits in California had been distilling and experimenting with absinthe (distillation was legal, sale was not). When the ban was lifted, St. George released the first American made absinthe in almost a century. 12 years later, more imports have been coming and craft distilleries in America are beginning to experiment more and more.

Although some bad science and lore still follows absinthe in 2020, its comeback is something to note. With a better understanding of chemistry, less judgment on what people drink, the green fairy is here to stay and clear you head.

Absinthe to try after reading; 

Pernod Absinthe 136 proof Liqueur 

St. George Absinthe [200 ML bottle] 

Two James Absinthe Nain Rouge