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B1G 2018: Minnesota Mailbag Responses

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All this wisconsin is just awful. Let’s break up the monotony with some Minnesota!

Here to save you from followers of a pantsless skunk wearing a popcorn box!
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Howdy friends! As you know, it’s wisconsin week. I’m sorry. I realize that it sucks, but until the “institution of higher learning” gets shut down to a lack of funding we’re obligated to do it. But I also realize that I never got around to posting the responses to Minnesota week. And that was intentional. Because everyone needs a reprieve from wisconsin and their fans when we’re forced to deal with them more than once a week. So without further ado, here’s some shared wisdom from the esteemed MN Wildcat and myself as a gift to you all.

Is there any part of Minnesota that the rest of Minnesota makes fun of? What is the best part of the state to visit in Summer (and why is it the north Superior coast and hills)? What is the best local fish to eat and how should it be prepared / what restaurant does it the best? Any great recent microbrews that none of us seem to be aware of (i.e. not Grain Belt)? Basically, if I’m going to road trip to the state this summer (and I might) and I’m spending time someplace other than Minneapolis, what should I do and what should I avoid? - GTom

WSR: Wow, there’s quite a bit to unpack here. Let me get you a plate of hotdish while we go over this. Being from central Minnesota, I have to strongly recommend that you avoid Stearns County. Being that they’re responsible for Michele Bachmann and questionable family tree roots, it’s pretty much the Mississippi/wisconsin of the state. Just drive through it and don’t stop. Keep your windows rolled up and avoid eye contact with people driving around you.

The best place to visit in the summer is anywhere on a lake. While I’m sure you have a great reason for liking Lake Superior (which I prefer in the winter), I’ve always been partial to the Alexandria area in NW Minnesota. The lakes are clear, the weather is crisp all year around with a nice breeze, and you can sit and watch the storms roll in from miles away. It’s great for the repressed farm kid in me that’s yearning for an escape. And as for fish, it’s whatever somebody else cleans for you after you’ve caught it. I like walleye and sunfish, and both can be prepared the same way: beer battered with saltine cracker crust and some salt and pepper for seasoning. Easy and delicious. And as for who does it best? My step-grandfather. He’s losing a step and accidentally leaves a single bone in meal prepared for 30 people (which he takes as a personal affront when it’s pointed out), but his lakeside cooking of fish is still just amazing.

If you’re looking for a microbrew and are going to the Duluth area, hit up Castle Danger brewing in Two Harbors. I’m a huge fan of their Cream Ale (a beer from a microbrewery that isn’t being smothered in hops? **swoon**). It’s outstanding, and the folks at the brewery are just as friendly as helpful as can be. Actual Minnesota Nice in practice!

MNW: Grab a sixer of Schell’s and get comfortable, kids, this one’s gonna take a while. [Special thanks to WSR for letting me bore you guys with my commentary!]

I think, like any state with a substantial rural-urban divide, there’s a lot of crossfire in the “making fun of someone else” department. For example, growing up in a suburb of Saint Paul, I know jokes about St. Paul and Murderapolis were common parlance. For people closer to the city, farm country not just like WSR’s talking about, but also in the southern third of the state was a source of some derision (WSR: Like my sister still being afraid of driving in the cities). And of course you have to make fun of the crazy fucking Finns on the Iron Range.

Speaking of, that’s the best place to visit: the Iron Range. Let’s be clear: the North Shore is beautiful, and you should definitely hike Gooseberry Falls or go see Split Rock Lighthouse. Hell, there’s amazing beer in Canal Park. BUT. Hop on US-53 or County 4 (Rudy Perpich Memorial Highway, named for the best fuckin’ governor that side of Jesse the Mind) and head up where the lakes are long, skinny deposits of glacier water. Rust red, ringed by pine trees, gorgeous. Head to Biwabik in the winter for Giants Ridge skiing; stop by Eveleth for the Hockey Hall of Fame; go to Chisholm and see Ironworld (complete with a massive statue of an ironworker) and the Moonlight Graham mural. Hell, head a little northeast and take the Soudan mine tour. You won’t be sorry. If you need something more glamorous up there, find a resort on Lake Vermilion.

WSR has hit the nail on the head with fish. Pull it out of the lake, have someone infinitely more qualified than you clean it, and prepare simply and quickly.

Let me start BEER PARAGRAPH with my greatest Minnesota beer grievance/hottaek: Do not waste your time on Surly (WSR: I WILL FIGHT YOU!) unless (1) you are going to the brewery and drinking mostly their draft-only offerings, or (2) you like your tastebuds being annihilated with hops and nothing else. Drink their sours/gose/lagers in person. They are Good. Don’t bother with a 4-pk of Surly; there’s much better fare on the menu. (WSR: Cracks open Coffee Bender, posts **Dr. Cox shouting WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.gif**) (MNW: Alright, I’ll concede Coffee Bender. Yum.)

Alright, we’re done with that? I’ll give you a place for each region of the state (that I know and/or care about):

  • St. Paul: Flat Earth Brewing Co., in the old Hamm’s building. I’m biased. They’re amazing. Go during PorterFest, in which they infuse their excellent Cygnus X-1 Porter with something new each week for, like, 2 months. Get the S’mores. Thank me later.
  • Minneapolis: Fair State Brewing Cooperative. I am also biased, as a member/owner of the cooperative. PAY ME YOUR BEER MONEY. Also if you like sours, this is the place for you. Failing that, my wife recommends Indeed Brewing Co. for their Strawberry Fields and Stir Crazy Winter Ale.
  • Suburbs: By where I live, go to Robbinsdale’s Wicked Wort Brewing Co. Amazing space, good beers, get Pig Ate My Pizza from across the street. Don’t come find me.
  • Northeast: The one thing the Iron Range is slow to pick up is beer; there’s just now a brewpub in Hibbing (and another in Ely, but reports are mixed). So stick close to Duluth and check out Blacklist Artisan Ales. They do a spicy Wit that I don’t hate, and the brewery is cool, too.
  • North Central (think Brainerd Lakes and north from there): I’ve never visited the actual brewery, but I enjoyed the hell out of Big Axe Brewing Co.’s StoneHouse Coffee Stout at Beer Dabbler. I really want to go there for their Fire Cat Habanero IPA. Good beer, at the very least.
  • Northwest: Not even close. Junkyard Brewing Co. in Moorhead. Go there, and go there now. Wide variety on tap, from their kettle sours to a milkshake IPA you won’t regret to a delicious and hair-raising imperial stout. Excellent and friendly service, as well, right down to deftly handling the question of the man next to me: “What’s most like a Miller Lite?” and pointing to the brochure HE WAS HOLDING where it said (next to their Scrounger Light American Blonde) that if you liked light beer, this was for you. Awesome place, cool patio, live music, Moorhead’s the place to go.
  • West Central: [/RECORD SCRATCH] Go to Osakis. Take in the first craft distillery in Minnesota, Panther Distillery. Cool little tasting room only 2 miles off I-94 (and it’s signed for your convenience!), nice folks happy to have you in town. Get a bottle of the St. Paul Bourbon or, if you’re more of a shooter, grab the Spiked Apple. I’m looking to get back for their Minnesota 14 Maple. Holy shit.
  • Southeast: I’ll be honest: I haven’t been out a ton in Winona, and I don’t see much of a need to visit Rochester. Instead I’ll push you toward a trip down scenic US-61, following the Mississippi River into the bluffs of the Driftless Area. Just stay in Minnesota--it looks generally the same in Iowa and wisconsin, but the people are shittier. On the way, stop in Red Wing for Red Wing Brewery, right off the highway. Get a pizza or their Italian fries, then wash it down with either one of their “Historical Lagers” (the old 1940s recipes from local breweries) or the Anderson Wheat. Crisp finish, cool brewery space.
  • South Central: I want to cop out and say Schell’s, because you need to go to Bockfest or just walk the grounds, see the peacocks, etc. Oldest family-owned brewery in the nation after Yuengling, I think. But that’s a better-known spot. Hit up Mankato Brewery, and try the Mint Stout. They do a lot of pales and IPAs, too, if those are more your speed.
  • Southwest: Brau Bros in Marshall. Full goddamn stop. It’s in an old Runnings, for Pete’s sake. There’s a fire truck inside. Bancreagie Scottish Ale, Moo Joos Stout, Ringneck Brown, Thresher Pils, kettle sours in a bunch of flavors. Go. Go now.

This got out of hand. Sorry.

Who’s your favorite example of Minnesota’s impressive contributions to American culture? - Hollywood Hawk Hogan

WSR: While it would be rather easy to say F. Scott Fitzgerald for enabling mopey average white guys to dream about becoming rich and chasing down their unattainable dream girl, I’m going to say Charles Schultz. The dark, bleak early days of Peanuts are clearly shaped by his time in Minnesota before the family moved to California. Life is cruel, unjust, and unrelenting with occasional rays of sunshine. Now that more people are recognizing and embracing this mentality, it feels like this early popularization of it should allow Minnesota to take credit for being a forward-thinking people once again.

Also, as always, The Replacements and Hüsker Dü.

MNW: I was about to chastise you for lack of The Replacements, but I see you’ve gotten there. And Charles Schultz is a particularly inspired pick.

One of my favorite examples is Minnesota’s tradition of electing unqualified hacks to office before it was cool. That’s right--my elementary school closed because a wrestler was my governor LONG BEFORE any kids were getting put in detention centers. My problems are clearly more important because they happened earlier, damnit.

With the Gopher football team now rowing boats, what happened to the Gopher crew team?

Are they playing football? - HoustonBoiler

WSR: Amazingly, there are no pictures of P.J. Fleck etched into the side of the boathouse down on the East River Flats. But the rowing team is still out there doing their best, and I’m doing my best to not fall down the steps next to it when I walk up to the Stadium after tailgating down there.

MNW: Has Fleck not done a photo op with the crew team yet? That seems...like a really missed opportunity.

I have little to add to this section, but I would like to note that the new Minnesota uniform reveal was terrible (it should be Taconite, not Anthracite), “Farmer’s Alliance” is one of the worst butcherings of Minnesota history I’ve ever heard, and knowing a former Gopher crew rower, I’m not going to fuck with them. She could kill me.

Is this the year Minnesota beats Wisconsin? - cmart102

MNW: No, but this year they might score and have a quarterback who’s trying.

WSR: Nope. Being good, charitable Midwesterners requires us to find a way to give something to the far less fortunate. And since we’re not going to do any Russian-style tampering with their elections to help those idiots right the ship, we may as well let them have one little victory for their football team. Keep talking about the streak, kids. That’s all you’ve got in life.