Cured + Crafted – A Prosciutto di Parma Tasting & Craft Beer Pairing


Sometimes I think that I am the luckiest man alive. That’s the feeling I got when I was asked to judge the Cured + Crafted event that’s happening this Thursday, July 31st at the Muse Event Center in Minneapolis. How could I refuse the invitation to sample and evaluate eight different beer and food pairings prepared by some of the Twin Cities’ best chefs, all incorporating Prosciutto di Parma. I mean seriously, who doesn’t love Prosciutto di Parma?

And then they sent me the menu. OMG! Someone hand me a napkin. I’m salivating all over myself.

Barbette with Boom Island’s Saison
Prosciutto-wrapped veal sweetbreads, fava bean tabbouleh, charmoula sauce

BoneYard with 612’s Gateway Park lager
Summer Shandy Infused Compressed Watermelon with BBQ’ed Prosciutto Crisp – Summer shandy made with 612’s gateway park lager, fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon infused vodka infused into watermelon cubes and vacuum compressed, served with a BBQ spice rubbed oven baked prosciutto crisp.

Broders’ – Terzo with Indeed’s Shenanigan’s Summer Ale
Prosciutto mousse with pineapple mostarda, grissini breadsticks

Haute Dish with Bauhaus Brewery’s SkyDive Midwest Coast IPA
Prosciutto wrapped smoked pineapple, aji amarillo mayo, pickled fresno, cilantro, farofa

Porter & Frye with Dangerous Man’s Belgian Tripel
Crab cakes with a roasted fennel Yukon hash and prosciutto olive sofrito

Rinata with Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine IPA
Bruschetta with Prosciutto di Parma with a spicy beer mustard, arugula and fresh sliced peaches, adding this to our house made sausage, Tuscan bread, and spicy mustard.

Union with Bent Paddle’s Venture Pils
Saffron corn pudding agnolotti, heirloom tomato smoked jam, thyme powder, crispy prosciutto

Wise Acre Eatery with Indeed’s Day Tripper Pale Ale
Minnesota Sushi – Proscuitto Wrapped Tater Dots with Wise Acre Eatery Rhubarb Ketchup

I’ll be judging with an all-star group of MSP foodies – Jeremy Iggers from Twin Cities Daily Planet, Sue Zelickson, Food Writer and James Beard Award winner, and Stephanie March, Editor Eat + Drink at Mpls St Paul Magazine. WCCO’s Jason DeRusha is MC.

But you too can live the lucky life. Tickets are still available for the event. And there will be plenty to do besides eat cured ham (as if you really needed more).

  • VOTE your paired-pick via social media to enter to win dinner for two at the winning Chef’s restaurant.
  • DRINK Craft Beers from Bauhaus Brew Labs, Bent Paddle Brewing, Boom Island, Dangerous Man, Fulton, Indeed and 612Brew. Head upstairs to the Parma Party Loft and see what’s brewing at the Summit Sampler Bar.
  • SIP specialty craft cocktails served by two of the city’s rock-star mixologists: Tyler Kleinow of Marvel Bar and Johnny Michaels. Featuring hand crafted, small batch spirits provided by Norseman Distillery.
  • BE A VIPP (very important prosciutto person) and enjoy the decadent specially aged Prosciutto di Parma hand-sliced by our Master Slicer Francesco Lupo, direct from NYC, paired with delicious cheeses provided by Broders’ Cucina Italiana.
  • GROOVE with DJ Jake Rudh who will be spinning tunes all night.
  • HAM-IT-UP in our Slo-Mo Video Playground.
  • GET INKED Tattoo Artist Garrett Rautio will ink the iconic Parma Crown logo onsite to adventurous guests. That’s right; you can get an actual tattoo at the event. Tattooed guests will be rewarded with a whole leg of Prosciutto di Parma to take home!

I mean really, how can you pass this up?

Fulton Beer’s New Production Facility

I first interviewed the guys from Fulton Brewing about four years ago. They had come out of nowhere to put beer in bars all over the metro. No one knew who they were or what they were up to. The interview was conducted in a garage in the Fulton neighborhood of South Minneapolis. We drank beers poured from corny kegs in a chest freezer. At the time they were contract brewing their beer at Sand Creek Brewing in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.

They have come a long way since then. I just a few years they opened their taproom near target field, taking over the brewing of all of the kegged product, while moving bottled beer production to Point Brewing in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Last year Fulton’s total production was around 15,000 barrels. That’s a lot of beer. This year they will complete construction of a new 7 million dollar facility in Northeast Minneapolis that will increase their capacity to a point that they don’t even know. For the first time Fulton will be producing all of its own beer in-house.

I had a chance to visit the facility last night. Quite impressive.

Recap of Firkin Fest 2011 at the Happy Gnome

Saturday afternoon saw the return of Firkin Fest to the Happy Gnome in St. Paul. This was the fourth year for this annual celebration of cask-conditioned beer. Unseasonably cold weather didn’t discourage beer-lovers from turning out. There were at least a billion people there (okay, not really). It was damned cold for us non-VIP-ticket-holding schlubs who arrived early to be near the front of the line. After nearly an hour waiting, my toes had gone numb. It took a while to stop shivering despite the heated tent. A big barleywine was definitely in order.

Last year I took the Happy Gnome to task for a load of logistical issues that marred the fest. This year some changes were made that fixed many of the problems. The line was handled much better this year, as staff worked their way along it early checking IDs and giving out wristbands. This really sped things up once the doors opened. Despite huge numbers of people swilling large amounts of beer, the wait at the port-a-poties was nominal. In fact, a female friend of mine said that she never encountered a wait. Well done!

The only blot on an otherwise fantastic fest was the crowd. The organizers took a step in the right direction this year by limiting the number of tickets sold and increasing the size of the tent. The number of people was still way too high. By mid-fest one really couldn’t move. I started choosing which beer to taste next based on what booth was closest instead of what I really wanted to try. Getting from one side of the tent to the other was just too daunting a task.

Think about it. At Winterfest the MN Craft Brewers Guild has three floors of the History Center. They sell 700 tickets. Autumn Brew Review and The St. Paul Summer Beer Festival both take place in large parking lots. They sell around 1500 3000 tickets. The Happy Gnome sold 1600 tickets for Firkin Fest; a festival that took place in a tent not quite the size of a football field. It was simply too many people for the space. I got into the tent at 1:00. By 3:00 I could no longer stand it. I was out the door by 3:30, despite the fact that there were still a number of beers I would like to have sampled. I know that I was not alone. As I was making the decision to leave a number of friends were doing the same, and for the same reason.

I’m sure that the Happy Gnome calculated the number of tickets they had to sell in order to turn a profit. In future years, however, they really need to either further restrict the number of attendees (I would say by half) or double the size of the tent to take up the whole parking lot. As it is, it’s really unpleasant. For about the same amount of money I’d rather drink five pints of cask ale in the relative calm of the Town Hall Brewery.

There was more beer (always a good thing). While last year’s fest featured 65 casks, this year’s was projected to include more than 80. I don’t know the final tally, but there was a lot of beer. Another plus – I didn’t witness any gross mis-handling of firkins this year, at least during the time that I was there. Last year was a cask-lover’s nightmare of firkins turned on end to get the last sludge-filled drops. It may have happened at the end, but I didn’t see it.

Fulton Beer Company took the Golden Firkin award this year with their War and Peace, a Peace Coffee infused version of the Worthy Adversary Imperial Stout. Along with their Beer Dabbler win last summer, this should give some of the haters out there pause. In the industry it isn’t about whether a gaggle of nattering beer-nerds think a beer is the best example of such-and-such a style. It’s about whether or not people want to drink it. Given Fulton’s upward sales curve and recent People’s Choice recognitions, clearly they do. I didn’t try War and Peace this year, but I’m told it was good.

My picks for best-of-the-fest this year went to British and British-style beers. Bitter & Twisted from Harviestoun Brewery and “Jaipur” IPA from Thornbridge Hall both went down well and brought me back for seconds. Bitter & Twisted was a nice session bitter with a floral “heather-like” character that really set it off for me. Jaipur was a great English IPA with a bigger, grainy-sweet malt backbone and balanced hopping. It was surprisingly light-colored, which made the big flavor even more surprisingly pleasant. Sticking closer to home, Summit’s Gold Sovereign Ale was every bit as good on cask as I had expected it to be.

In addition to these, I really enjoyed Rush River’s Lyndale Brown with pomegranate and green tea. It was like nutty, chocolate green tea with a strong hazelnut finish. Crispin’s Desert Noir cider was also a favorite. Stronger and sweeter than I expected, it was strong, yet fruity and refreshing with nice notes of agave. I like that Crispin keeps trying new things with cider.

The award for most unusual beer has to go to Psych-Oasis from Tall Grass. What happens when you infuse an Extra ESB with candy cap mushrooms? You get something that tastes like fenugreek and dirt, but in a good way. This was another one that brought me back for more. I liked it. Although I wouldn’t probably want to drink a pint of it.

All in all Firkin Fest was a good event this year. Fix the crowding problem next year and it will be a great event.


Fulton Beer Buys A Brewery

On their newly re-vamped website, just launched this morning, Fulton Beer has announced that brewing equipment has been ordered and should arrive sometime this summer. I have reported in greater length on the City Pages Hot Dish Blog. Read it! Congratulations guys.

In other news, Harriet Brewing will be having it’s first growler sales at the brewery tomorrow (Saturday) from 1-5 PM. 3036 Minnehaha Ave, Mpls, MN. Be there!

Fulton and Harriet Brewery Updates

The Twin Cities metro beer and brewing scene continues to heat up. A while back I reported on the progress Lift Bridge is making with their new site in Stillwater. But Lift Bridge isn’t the only one moving into a space of its own. Both Fulton Beer and Harriet Brewing are pushing forward with their Minneapolis breweries. I had the opportunity to meet with Fulton’s Ryan Petz and Harriet’s Jason Sowards to get the low-down.

The Fulton space is on 6th Ave N in the shadow of Target Field. Looking out the front window in the future brewhouse area one can almost hear the roar of the crowd. The building is currently just a nearly empty industrial space. They have a long way to go before beer will start flowing. The equipment from the Fulton garage brewery has been moved in and the initial demolition phase is nearly complete. They still have to secure financing before a brewery can be ordered.

In the center of the space will be a tasting room and gathering spot with windows looking in on the brewery. The plans for the space include a 20-barrel Newlands Systems brewhouse and five fermenters. There is plenty of room to expand add fermenters for increased capacity. Rounding the corner from the brewery there is an area for keg filling and storage. Beyond that is planned the cool-room and distribution loading dock. Ryan showed me renderings for improvements to the outside of the building. It should be an attractive space once it’s completed.

For now the plan is to eventually move kegged production and small-batch, big-bottle beers to the new space and contract bottled production of their flagship beers at Sand Creek where they currently brew.

The Harriet Brewing space in the Seward Neighborhood is further along. Jason has moved the brewery in and is in the process of getting everything plumbed and electrified. Pipes, couplers, tools, and random bits of equipment are scattered all over the large brewery area. Jason bought a German-made Wachsmann system from a defunct brewpub in Japan. Two open fermenters came along with the brewhouse and additional closed fermenters are on the way. Before moving in the brewhouse, the entire floor was sanded and coated with epoxy paint.

The brewery is in the back of the building. As you move forward there are a number of rooms that will serve as tasting room and office. A while back Jason expressed an interest in having a small art gallery where local artists could display work.

Jason had planned to have his first batch brewed by now. Local bureaucracy and regulation has delayed that goal, but he still hopes to crank things up before the end of the year. Best of luck.

Fulton Photos by Mark Roberts.

A Bit More on the Fulton Beer Lease Signing

The guys at Fulton Beer have been taking some heat recently, in part because they currently contract brew in Wisconsin. The argument goes that if they contract brew they aren’t really a brewery, and if they contract brew in Wisconsin they aren’t really Minnesotan. Thus, a group of guys who all live and work in Minneapolis, registered their company in Minnesota, and put forth the effort to make a regular 3:00 AM trek to Black River Falls in order to make their beer themselves are not Minnesota brewers.

While I understand this argument, I don’t altogether buy it. There are many ways to reach the goal of being professional brewers. No matter what route one chooses to take, a sound business plan is a must. If contract brewing allows you to keep the business operating while you build the capital to invest in your own brewery, that’s a sound business decision. If you find the contract opportunities in Minnesota to be limited, especially if you want a hands-on contract relationship as opposed to one in which you are just having your beer brewed for you, and you choose therefore to head to Wisconsin, that is again a sound business decision.

But all of this should soon become moot. The Fulton guys have taken a big step that will take some of the wind out of their critics’ sails. On August 18th they signed a lease on a building that will house their future brewery, possibly the first packaging brewery in Minneapolis in nearly a decade.

According to a press release that I received today, they have researched brewing equipment and plan to purchase a 15 to 20-barrel brewhouse soon. Initial production from the new facility will be limited to kegs and growlers, but will eventually include limited run 750 ml bottles. They will host tours, tastings, and special events at the brewery.

So where is this brewery-to-be located? Other than to say that it is in Minneapolis, the exact location remains a closely kept secret. According to the press release, “Fulton is withholding details on the building location until the conclusion of a contest in which the first person to find the new brewery space will be rewarded with the very first growler produced in the brewery. Instructions and clues to the contest are available at Fulton’s Facebook page.”

Congratulations guys. I look forward to eventually bringing home a growler of Fulton Beer.

With Lift Bridge in the process of putting together their Stillwater brewery, Fulton signing the lease, and Harriet Brewing not far behind, (I’m not sure how far along the 612 Brew folks are.) things are heating up for the Minnesota brewing scene.

Local Brewers’ Beers of Spring

Spring arrived early this year. We lived through the first snowless March since records have been kept and April has been even better. Warmer weather and longer days call for a shift away from the heavy, dark beers of winter. Spring means lighter beers, but beers with enough body to tackle the lingering night time chill. Spring is when I begin to crave the bitter American Pale Ales, their citrusy hops flavor giving a bracing wake-up call to the senses. The traditional old-world beers of spring, German maibock and French biére de garde, have sturdy malt backbones supporting spicy hops and yeast character, contrasting flavors to match the seasonal temperature swings. Several of these springtime beer styles are crafted here in the metro by our great local brewers.

Minnesotans love hops, the source of bitterness in beer, and there are plenty of locally produced bitter brews to satisfy these springtime cravings. The most balanced of these is Sweet Child of Vine, the debut India pale ale (IPA) from newcomers Fulton Beer. Only available on draft, the floral hops flavor, moderate bitterness, and balancing caramel malt make this one of the easier drinking versions of the style. More bitter but still balanced, Lift Bridge Brewery’s Crosscut Pale Ale features subtle citrus notes from abundant Cascade hops and grapefruit zest added to the brew. St. Paul’s Flat Earth Brewing calls its Northwest Passage IPA the “bitterest beer in Minnesota.” A step up the ladder in bitterness, body, and alcohol content, Northwest Passage is bracing enough to snap one out of winter hibernation, but has enough warmth and comforting caramel to take the bite out of those sudden springtime temperature drops. Topping the list for hops intensity is Abrasive Ale (formerly 16 Grit), the double IPA from Surly Brewing Company. This nearly 9% alcohol bruiser of a beer is aptly named. The aggressive bitterness gives way to massive citrusy hops flavor that is supported by full-bodied sweet, grainy malt. This is one for hops lovers. Surly is making Abrasive Ale available in cans this year for the first time. The release date was April 12th, but don’t tarry, this one won’t last long.

For the traditional spring beers look no further than St. Paul for Summit Maibock and Flat Earth Ovni Ale biére de garde. Bavarians still celebrate the annual May release of maibock, a hoppier, lighter-colored version of the malty-rich bock style. Summit’s version is appropriately malt forward with grainy sweetness and a quiet toasty background. The sweetness is balanced by moderate bitterness and floral hops flavor.  Biére de garde, a traditional farmhouse ale from Northern France, was originally brewed in early spring and cold-cellared for consumption by farmhands as the weather warmed. Ovni Ale is another beer for malt lovers. On the sweet side for the style, it features rich caramel malt and hints of chocolate with low bitterness and only the lightest touch of spicy hops flavor.

The long-term forecast looks good, so grab one of these great local beers and celebrate spring’s return before summer creeps in.