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B1G 2021, Minnesota Potluck #1: Sugar Beers and Red Bull Branding in PJ Fleck’s Year...Three? Four? Five?

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The Minnesota State Fair is back! Come try a specialty beer—or a Red Bull, Coach Fleck—and wonder what year it is.

Syndication: The Coloradoan
The only face that matters in Minnesota football. Well, besides Mike Zimmer. And about 53 other guys in purple. Plus the practice squad. And the medical staff. And a few of the radio “personalities”. But other than that, the only face that matters!
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Well, well, well. It’s Minnesota Week.

WhiteSpeedReceiver has the bulk of your Minnesota #Content this week, but finally, I’m on some footing I can confidently talk about in this week’s Potluck: the food of the greatest state—though not the greatest team—in the union!

So socially-distance yourselves from your neighbors, take a plate with a little of everything, and be prepared to say “Oh, that’s interesting!” if you don’t actually like the food. It’s Minnesota Week!

Food: Beer and Sugar

We get a State Fair this year! Jobu be praised.

As the Great Minnesota Get-Together is the cream of the crop as far as state fairs are concerned, and as I cannot wait to put down about 6,000 calories while telling myself “It’s OK, I’ll walk it all off,” let’s get started with some fair food this week.

Much to the chagrin of my wife, I like to start the Fair off, when possible, with a drink. And while Minnesota’s Lord and Savior Peejus Fleck might prefer to have five Red Bull before getting to the gate, then sprinting around the Fair shaking hands with anything that moves, I prefer something to both take the edge off and get me going for the morning.

Meet the State Fair’s specialty beers:

Yes, you are looking at the (formerly Flat Earth Brewing) Grand Design S’mores Porter and Excelsior Brewing Maple Bacon Brown Ale, and yes, those are garnishes with a marshmallow and bacon. Mmmmmm. And there’s more! While Flat Earth has been replaced by Excelsior’s S’mores Ale, there are a lot of specialty beers with a unique garnish or style:

  • Tin Whiskers Deep Space Brine Dill Pickle-Style Kolsch
  • Bent Brewstillery Snaquiri (tropical ale)
  • Lift Bridge Mini Donut Beer (garnished with cinnamon sugar)
  • Schell’s Red Sangria Lager
  • Big Wood Chocolate Chip Cookie Beer (rimmed with cocoa nibs)
  • Sweetland Orchards Minnesota Mule Cider (floating lime wedge)
  • Sociable Cider Werks Caramel Apple Cider (floating apple ring)

But tell us, writers:

(1) Would you actually try any of these?

(2) Is drinking at a state fair something that appeals to you in any way?

(3) Do you have a go-to novelty beer — whether a beermosa, a specialty ale, or doing something really weird like putting a pickle in a beer?

BRT: I’d definitely try them—the maple bacon one sounds pretty good! The problem with some of those is that they feel more “wintery” to me - I don’t usually feel like drinking something akin to boozy syrup in the summer. So if I were at the fair — sorry, The Fair— I’d probably go for one of the ciders. In general though, drinking at a state fair is not usually something I’m that into, mostly because there are so many other novel ways to consume calories that beer doesn’t clear the top of the list on that particular occasion.

Naturday is my novelty “beer” of choice, duh. ;)

Zuzu: Well, I don't like beer (it's the carbonation). If I did like beer, I guess the flavor profile of the chocolate chip cookie one is something I would try.

State fairs are so fun and growing up in Sussex County, NJ, I had the privilege of having THE New Jersey State Fair, called the Sussex County Farm & Horse Show. I haven't been in years! Probably not since I was pre-21 so I think hell yeah I'd drink at it, ride rides drunk, eat fair food drunk, and drunkenly scream cheer for my favorite show animals and rodeos.

No, no go-to novelty beer, sadly. If someone could point me to a super flat type of beer that is sweet and not skunky please let me know. This beer-less life is tough as a paleontologist.

Beez: Of course I’d try these. I’ve tried a thai chili and lime beer that I think also had some sort of shrimp or seafood tie in? It was bad. I’d try each of these with the expectation that they’re generally going to be mediocre beers with flavors ham-handedly added late or at the end of the process.

Pass on state fair drinking. Sure, I’ll get a beer to sip between bites of delicious fair foods, but walking and drinking together is not my favorite, nor is paying like $10 for what’d normally be $4 when the $10 version is identical to the $4 version. In other words, sure funnel cakes are overpriced, but I can’t just go buy them at the local store. Fancy fair beer? Same there as it is at home, and I can get it at home, so why not?

I’m a fan of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time beer from Catawba Brewing here in NC. This is what it looks like:

It’s pretty tasty! Very mild fruit flavor with great peanut-y taste.

WSR: Yeah, get the mini-doughnut beer. It’s good.

Depending on the day and my mood, I’d be willing to try nearly any beer. Let’s see what you’ve got and if it works. Just don’t make me go to a state fair to enjoy them. I’m getting pretty sick of being mowed down by double strollers, in spite of the fact that I should be nearly impossible to not see.

I’ve also been ordained by the Church of Naturdays, and I have some Keylightfuls sitting around as well from last summer or 2019 or whenever the hell it was that I drank beer. I can’t remember anymore. Time has no meaning.

RU in VA: I’d try them all. BUT! I just got back from a mandatory Midwest trip and did an evening at Founders in Grand Rapids. I had a few beers - two being the Maple Mackinac Fudge, and the Blushing Monk (Raspberry Belgian Ale). Horrible choices.

Bottom line, my beer ordering skill with a list like that leaves a lot of room to be desired. I’ll follow a session sour with a Belgian Quad. IDGAF.

I’ve also never been to a state fair. Reminder: Grew up in NJ.

I guess my weirdest beer is something I like to call a Supercharger. Drop a shot of vodka (or rum) in a poured out Truly/White Claw. The Gen Y Boilermaker.

HWAHSQB: I’ll try damn near anything once and all those beers fall under the category of damn near anything, so I’m in.

I’d be wiling to bet I’ve drank more beer at state fairs than anyone here. I worked and stayed on the fairgrounds for seven Illinois State Fairs in my teens/early 20s. Made $25/day and spent $10 on fair food and another $10 on Mad Dog and cheap beer and anything left went to concert tickets. Never really made any money, but it was a good time and I saw a ton of good shows (and some really bad ones).

I’ll try anything once, but I generally return to the tried and true at the end of the day. My garage fridge right now has Blue Moon, Stella Artois, Busch Light, and Naturday in it.

Stew:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. Yes

Alright, fine, I’ll expand. But come on, don’t just give me the yes/no out. I enjoy alcohol and will try most any beer once. That s'more one, in particular, looks intriguing. As for novelty beers, gimme Naturdays upon Naturdays during the summer, as widely available. However, I also would like to plug Lion Bridge’s Mallow Gold, which is a s’more stout and it’s impeccably on point and delicious.

Football: What’s my age again?

This is—if you can fucking believe it, which I absolutely cannot—PJ Fleck’s FIFTH year as the head coach of the Minnesota Gopher Gophers.

I know.

Me neither.

Fleck, though, was clear that this rebuild would take some time. He aggressively branded—if you can believe that PJ Fleck would aggressively market anything—the 2017 season his “Year Zero”, going 5-7 (2-7), then followed that up with a 7-6 (3-6) campaign and a Quick Lane Bowl win before an 11-2 (7-2) outing that included an Outback Bowl win over Auburn, a College Gameday appearance in Minneapolis, and some dubious claims on “championship” rings.

Of course, the Gophers followed that up with a 3-4 season in 2020 that...well, WSR asked, can we really count that? (Northwestern won the Big Ten West, so of course we can.)

There’s a real case now, though, that Fleck is only entering Year Three, if we count 2017 as “Year Zero” and 2020 as a “Lost Year”. Or you count 2020 but give Fleck a pass for 2017 (or vice versa), and it’s Year Four. Or you’re a skeptic of Fleck’s usual branded bullshit, and it’s Year Five and stop complaining.

But, if taken on his ability to navigate a complete season, Fleck has undeniably moved Minnesota toward something approaching relevance. The Gophers arrived in 2019 and, with the media-savvy Fleck at the helm, have entered national conversations simply because they made more noise, if not because they got results on the field. Hell, you can even read about how they did it!

(1) Where’s Minnesota at as a program, to you? Year Three, Four, or Five? Assess the state of Fleck’s program heading into 2021.

(2) If your program was a Blink-182 song—or, hell, you can choose another band if you want, but you shouldn’t—what song would it be?

BRT: Oh my god, so many exclamation points. As someone who obsessively counts exclamation points in professional communications to make sure I don’t come off as insane, there certainly is a part of me that envies him his freedom of punctuation.

Anyway, I think Fleck, like any good marketer, will soon forget his earlier, tired “year themed” branding and come up with a new way to talk about where Minny is at. Welcome to “Minnesota: A New Hope - The Gopher Rises, Episode V.” Annoyingly, they do seem to be on a good path, and I’m willing to give Fleck a mulligan for last year. Will I be sad if they faceplant and take a major step backwards? Of course not. But I’m feeling a solid year for them based on nothing but gut feeling, because that’s how I do this.

Nebraska is “PS: I Hope You’re Happy” which is a Chainsmokers song ft. Blink 182. It’s about someone super jealous at how well their ex is doing, but who is trying to pretend they’re not sad and they’re totally ok with how things are now, for real.

Zuzu: 1) I have paid about 0% attention to any of the teams coming out of this hell year, including my own. Minnesota, probably -1% attention. I don't know. I have this feeling that Minnesota is always on the precipice of some breakout year, but since Fleck performs genuinely decently. I'd trade for there records the last few years as a Rutgers fan. Maybe this year is the big breakout? I think it could be.

2) If my program was a Blink-182 song... Misery. Just kidding that was during the Ash Era. Schiano era is... I don't know. Someone tell me in the comments.

Beez: I’d say he’s got Minnesota in better shape than I’d expected, but it’s not exactly great. The ease of Minnesota’s schedules has been underrated by everyone who doesn’t visit OTE, but there’s no denying that he recruited some amazing receivers and a schmoe capable of getting them the ball. They’re not a legitimate threat to do anything, really, and they don’t seem to be on a clear path to anything that the team that likely always finishes top 3, depending on which of Wisconsin, Iowa, or Northwestern has a bad year.

*were a Blink-182 song [MNW note: Oof. Noted.]

WSR: It’s fine. Over the course of multiple seasons, it’s better than pretty much any point in my life except maybe non-consecutive seasons under Glen Mason. And even then, it’s a more complete program than anything he put together. Maybe combine the 1999 defense with the 2003 offense, but yeah. It’s fine.

If Minnesota were a Blink song, First Date wouldn’t be the worst. We never know how to feel about coaches. Sometimes we like the ones that are unrepentant assholes who are secretly terrible people (aw shucks), sometimes we hate the ones that are good. Let’s just be awkward and see where things go.

RU in VA: Ha! Fast forward 20 years, Travis Barker is still making music, Tom Delonge is at the center of the “US GOVERNMENT IS HIDING ALIENS” recent news, and you probably have to google Mark Hoppus to see what he’s up to.

PJ Fleck is my favorite coach in the B1G. I just got back from a wedding of two Western Michigan grads last week - and one of them said “Row the boat”!?!?!?

I IMMEDIATELY SERVED THEM A TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT. No boats at Western anymore.

Yeah, uhh. Rutgers is Dysentary Gary.

HWAHSQB: Year Five. Peejus Fleckin’ Christ! Get over yourself. I think I can honestly say that I am happier to be bad than to win with a douchebag used car salesman head coach. Minnesota is still the fourth best program in the B1G West, which is pretty much where they were before Fleck. They had one good year on the back of a very weak schedule, whatever.

First Date is clearly the answer here as we are testing the waters of life under Bert, but we’re not sure if we’re getting 3-time Rose Bowl Bert or 11-29 at Arkansas Bert.

Stew:

  1. Fleck is a clown and it absolutely seems like he’s been around forever just because he’s so insufferable. But he seems like an actual decent coach. Not great, but decent. He might even win the division at some point. However, my guess is that Minnesota will eventually get bored by losing to rivals more often than not and Taxslayer bowls, and he’ll be out in 5 years.
  2. It probably is “What’s My Age, Again”, as Ferentz is the longest tenured coach in the sport and I still think I’m 27 and it’s 2008. I’m old, is what I’m saying.

Poll

In what year of Our Lord and Savior Peejus is Minnesota?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Three
    (2 votes)
  • 13%
    Four
    (18 votes)
  • 46%
    Five
    (64 votes)
  • 38%
    Whatever year My Lord and Savior Peejus claims it to be, he surely knows best
    (53 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now

Bonus: Row your boat...to Blacksburg?!

If Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters is to be believed (and no doubt WSR will begin with an ad hominem before transitioning to his own sources), Fleck could entertain a $6 million/year offer from Virginia Tech in 2022.

(3) Would you put ANY stock in Fleck going to Virginia Tech—or anywhere else?

(4) Any concerns about your coach getting poached? Where and/or why?

BRT: Sure. Fleck is enthusiastic, but he strikes me as opportunistic. It could happen. As for my coach, no, I’m not particularly worried at the moment. I’m guessing you can all figure out the why for yourselves.

Zuzu: If Fleck leaves the Twin Cities for Blacksburg he is an-- wait let be nice.... *breathes in* BLACKSBURG IS A TERRIBLE PLACE. But hey, I'm not P.J. Fleck. Everyone has a price. And maybe he wants to go to conference where he may have only one absurdly good team to try and overcome (Clemson) instead of like... four. So yeah it's possible.

No one is poaching Schiano. Not because he isn't a solid coach, but because he is so Rutgers. And Rutgers is him. Ask again in ten years if he makes us good by then.

Beez: I’d put some stock in it. Minnesotans aren’t gonna want positive-ass Fleck gone anytime soon, especially if he keeps the team about 0.500 regularly. He might want to go, though.

I have no concerns about Paul Chryst getting poached to go anywhere. I do have concerns about Jim Leonhard getting poached, but at this point I have no idea if it’ll be (a) an insanely high-paying job at an SEC school or one of the other 3 schools who might make the playoff someday, (b) an NFL DC spot, or (c) a small-time college HC position.

WSR: Shooter was better at being a pitcher than he is a columnist. He should have followed that lead and quit (been fired) after one season at the Pioneer Press as well.

All right, now that I’ve got that out of my system I can just come out and say that if you want to know what Fleck’s up to, just see what Pete Thamel says. He seems to get the information rather quickly, and it’s almost always right. Funny coincidence, I’m sure.

That being said, of course I’m worried about Fleck getting poached. He was very interested in Oregon twice, and USC as well. If a job opens up in a major media market (or Oregon, for very clear and obvious reasons) he will probably get his name involved. So that’s just something we’ll have to deal with until either he goes to Miami or USC or UCLA or he retires. Or gets fired. Whatever.

RU in VA: No way. VA Tech isn’t a step up. Alumni and current students would love to have you believe it, but they don’t even own their best recruiting grounds. Best player from VA Tech in the last 10 years?

I’d say he’s more likely to leave for a slight rehab job - like Missouri, Arkansas, UCLA/Cal, etc. TBH - he’d probably be real fun at UCLA.

This is Schiano’s last gig. The university already pushed their chips in when they initially passed then re-looked. He can command whatever salary is reasonable, whatever program upgrades he wants, and (from recruiting rankings) has an army of bagmen.

HWAHSQB: If Minnesota had any self respect, they’d be pleased if Fleck got poached. He has midwestern roots so maybe it won’t happen, but I’m guessing he won’t be able to pass up brighter lights and shinier toys at some point.

Man, if only Illinois could have a coach get poached. John Mackovic was the last coach poached from Illinois 30 years ago. I would love for Bert to get poached in 5-8 years by ______ SEC school. That would mean that Illinois actually was good. Honestly, I never understood people wringing their hands over coaches leaving potentially. If you hire good coaches and they succeed, occasionally, one will leave. That’s okay. It’s pretty rare to hire someone really good who doesn’t have any desire for a bigger stage.

Stew:

3. For that type of scratch and VaTech’s history, I could see it. Fleck is obviously ambitious, and hasn’t been afraid to bounce when he get’s what he feels is a better opportunity. That being said, I think he also values a place that would allow him to be himself and give him plenty of rope.

4. Lol, no. 10-15 years ago there were always rumors about Michigan, the NFL (specifically the Chiefs), and possibly Penn State. But those ships have all sailed. Ferentz is Iowa’s coach as long as he wants, which seems to be until he retires.

MNW: RU in VA hit it on the head—I don’t know why you’d make the lateral move of Virginia Tech unless it’s because you thought you could get more fans to buy into your “culture”. I would wonder if the Minnesota cynicism—and being sixth or seventh fiddle in the Twin Cities media market (all depends how you feel about the Minnesota Lynx)—gets to Fleck.

Next year is totally the year Pat Fitzgerald becomes head coach of the Chicago Bears.

And after that, when he doesn’t, it’s totally the year after that.

You just wait and see.

Poll

In three years, is PJ Fleck still the coach at Minnesota?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Yes
    (99 votes)
  • 48%
    No
    (95 votes)
194 votes total Vote Now