cabin drinking – mojito, cider, saison

Part of my stowaway cabin liquor supply consisted of choices other than traditional summer beer. I wanted to put a spin on my favorite cocktail (and the closest I get to a tiki drink): the mojito. I also threw in my favorite cider both for myself and my mom. Finally, I was truly looking forward to enjoying a hoppy saison given to me by one choice Texan.

so close to "gueuze" but no place to play it!

so close to “gueuze” but no place to play it!

I have never been able to re-create my favorite mixed drink to the level of that served to me in Freida’s Bar in Antigua, Guatemala. That mojito, overflowing with muddled mint and local sugar cane, will never be replicated, it seems. But I am pretty good at making my second favorite. In order to put a twist on the summery drink, try one of two variations – Joia Lime or jalapeno.

cabin joia mojitoTake Cat Cora’s classic Mojito recipe (makes 4) : 4 tablespoons cane sugar, plus more to rim glass / 4 cups ice / 6 ounces light rum / 10 to 12 mint sprigs / 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice / Club soda / 4 slices lime

Rim the glasses. Place ice in shaker and add the rum. Add half the mint, the lime juice and sugar to the shaker. Muddle the mint with the end of a wooden spoon. Shake well and serve over ice in a funky glass. Top off each glass with a splash of club soda, remaining mint, and garnish with lime slices.

I used the best-quality rum I could find in Northern Minnesota which was dark, but still tasty!

Now try taking a few julienned strips of jalapeno and mince them very finely (and throw in a half-dozen seeds if you like heat). Add while muddling the mint. Enjoy!

Or – sub out the the splash of club soda and half of the lime juice for the Joia Lime, Hibiscus and Clove soda pictured above. Reduce the sugar by about half or to taste. The clove is quite strong, so be sure not to add more than an ounce or two. Yum.

cabin schilling oak agedPerfectly paired with a light or substantial lunch is the Schilling Oak Aged Cider. For wine lovers and apple lovers alike, this cider delivers the perfect amount of flavor with refreshing crispness and lack of sweetness that plagues most American cider. The oak notes are just fascinating and so rarely found in cider.

It would pair beautifully with pork or grilled chicken, but cabin life is not always about perfect pairings. I also recommend this one while swimming or enjoying a rope swing.cabin ropeswing

Finally, don’t forget a treat beer while on vacation. Mine was the Prairie Standard, defined as a hoppy farmhouse ale. I was very pleased with this beer, which I admit I should have not waited so long to enjoy due to its hop component. The cloudy appearance alludes to the hazy, farmhouse characteristics and the aroma is very wild, almost barnyard. I did catch a whiff of bug spray, but I fear the environment was interfering.

I have never opened a Prairie bottle and had a mediocre experience, and this was no different. The emerging Motueka hop made its presence known, much more in the taste than the aroma – a fairly unique feature, in my opinion.

While it would play well with vast numbers of flavors, I suggest simply sitting on a porch, a deck, or most preferably, a hammock, and allowing yourself to appreciate this one, or whatever special vacation beer you have been holding out on.

Happy summer!
cabin prairie saison

cabin cheers saison

cabin drinking – SPF, Dog Days, and lots of stairs.

I am here to tell you what I have been drinking lately, including some summer gems, frequent recommendations, and what I simply can’t get enough of.

credit: BSL Lodge

credit: BSL Lodge

I spent almost a week up at my family’s cabin in McGregor, Minnesota for the Fourth of July holiday. When I was a kid (and had nothing but free time) we spent nearly every weekend up north. Now that the three of us are all adults on separate schedules, it is hard to find time for everyone to visit together.

I was looking forward to binge-reading Real Simple Magazine and Martha Stewart Living plus sailing our Hobie, wakeboarding, and of course enjoying some summer beer! I’ll admit to speeding quite a bit on my journey north.

cabin zeke computer

after getting a bit screen-tired, the northwoods will set you straight.

Our cabin is located on Big Sandy Lake, Minnesota’s 31st largest lake. We are in the far right on the map, in the southeastern bay.

I had packed up about a case of beverages – craft soda, beer, Vikre gin, and cider – mostly for myself. I also packed the cat, who was not pleased about being in prison but loves the cabin.

cabin cat prisonChoosing summer beverages isn’t always as easy as it seems. For someone who tends to like dark, flavorful beer, summer ales and blondes can at first seem unappealing for vacation drinking. But once I spent some time lakeside in 80 degree weather, refreshing becomes a key quality.

I kicked things off with a lager by Two Brothers Called Dog Days in honor of the animals. I had been holding onto one for a few weeks and had only heard average comments about it. Knowing that Two Brothers is a reputable place, I cracked it open with high hopes and this Dortmunder style definitely did not disappoint.cabin dog days lager

The cousin of the German Helles and Bohemian Pilsner, this beer is characteristically bright and spicy with slightly more alcohol than its relatives. The style was born out of a German response to the foreign Pilsner but utilizes more of the malt profile of a Helles. It went on to become quite popular among working class drinkers at the time and generally followed the same trend as those industries, such as mining. Therefor it is no surprise that the popularity of the Dortmunder took a nose dive at the end of the 20th century and no longer finds favor among modern American (or German, for that matter) brewers.

I recommend pairing this beer along with some good old fashioned hard labor, as is tradition. With no mines available, I tried launching a sailboat, climbing several dozen flights of stairs to and from the beach, or when that wasn’t enough, watching my dad do some lumberjacking.

cabin shoreline lumberjack

If a working-class beer doesn’t quite put you in the summer mood, try one of my unexpected favorites – the Abita Strawberry Lager. As I have said before, Abita knows what they are doing with fruit, and this extends beyond the Purple Haze. Considering that Louisiana gets far more sun throughout the year than Minnesota, I have no problem turning to their expertise in the warmer months. Strawberry Lager is full of fruit flavor without being that “fruity beer” that everyone is referring to when they say “Oh, I don’t like fruity beer”.

Abita Strawberry pairs well with less industrious activities like long boat rides, making ice cream, or generally sitting around, preferably in the sun.

Indeed Mexican Honey

[This is an article comissioned by the Minnesota Beer activists and was originally published at MNbeeractivists.com]

indeed mexican honeyThe Indeed Mexican Honey Imperial Lager is in a league of its own, especially among other summer beers. While honey lager conjures images of straw-colored beer in a clear bottle with or without a lime sticking out, imperial leads to thoughts of viscous, motor-oil like substances. Somewhere in the middle, and containing elements of each, is this unique flavor bomb.

With aggressive honey character from start to finish and just enough alcoholic heat to get its point across, the Mexican Honey Lager will probably take you by surprise.

First, the Mexican orange blossom honey doesn’t add much sweetness. In fact, this beer is very dry and even a bit bitter in the finish. The dry finish allows the honey to come through, in contrast to one of Indeed’s other honey beers, the LSD, in which which the honey simply reads as “sweet”.

Furthermore, the orange on the nose is accompanied by a pleasant fruity-grape note and the malt delivers a graham cracker element — a very intriguing combination.

Mark Joseph, off-premise account manager, explains that the beer would age very well. “We just tried one that was a year old, the honey still came through. It was great.” With that, he took me back to the barrel room, where the Mexican Honey Imperial Lager is sitting in Don Julio Anejo tequila barrels. The aging brew will become Mexican Cousin in early 2015.

Worth the wait? I have no doubt. But for now try the Mexican Honey, available at the taproom and in bottles next week.