This feature article is sponsored by Indulge: A Craft Beer and Food Tasting Event.
When words fail, sometimes numbers can step in to do the heavy lifting. Attendees of the June 20 Indulge craft beer and food event will be confronted by the following slightly overwhelming statistics: Thirty-one brewers. Sixty-one beers served in two-ounce pours, all carefully paired with bite-sized morsels of food. And a mere four hours in which to run the gastronomic gauntlet.
The idea of founding a Minnesota-based beer and food fest occurred to Stub & Herb’s managers Jonathan Landers (below) and Teshon Dyer (right) after they attended a Washington, DC-based event called Savor.
“The owner of Sam Adams, Jim Koch, was pouring his beer for guests… and the Dogfish Head was being served by [author and craft beer legend] Sam Calagione,” recalls Dyer.
Four hours was barely enough time to experience the event. The two made their circuit with a mere 20 minutes to spare, and then circled back to revisit a couple favorites before the night ended.
“Some of the samples were as simple as a piece of cheese,” says Landers. “But you’d talk to the fellow at the booth who was someone who cared quite a bit about the beer — an actual brewer, or owner — and they’d say: ‘Try this, then take a bite of the cheese — do you notice the notes and undertones…?’ It was a unique experience. There were a lot of people who were dressed up in suits, there were guys wearing kilts… It was something different.”
With the creation of Indulge, Landers and Dyer have reinvented the DC-based fest with a distinctly Midwestern twist. Of the 31 brewers who will be serving samples at the Radisson University Hotel, 18 are Midwestern… 19 if you count Missouri. Many of them are from just around the corner: Lift Bridge, Summit, Surly, and Flat Earth will all be in attendance, among others.
“We worked hard to keep it local, especially after we teamed up with Chef Ron [Huff of Slow Foods] — we decided, that’s just a cool angle to work,” says Landers. “It’s something we can be proud of. Right now, the Midwest is producing some massive beers. We’re no slouch. California and Colorado produce some great stuff, but Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin — we should be really proud right now of what we’re doing.”
The link to Slow Food is more than casual — any profit from the event will go straight to the organization, which promotes small family farms, gastronomic artisans, and sustainable food. It’s fair to say that Indulge will be one of the most sophisticated beer festivals in the area.
“We get a lot of the beer crowd in [Stub & Herb’s] to try things — what we’ve heard from them is they don’t appreciate some of the other events that go on around town,” says Landers. “This past weekend was the City Pages beer festival, and what I hear from liquor industry folks is that they don’t want to be at that kind of rip-your-shirt-off, pound-your-chest, pound-your-Mich-Golden-Light type of event.”
The unique relationship that craft beer hub Stub & Herb’s has developed with brewers has given Landers and Dyer a good bargaining position in terms of creating an all-star lineup for Indulge. “Some of the breweries that will be participating in our event haven’t participated in other, bigger events in town — like Flying Dog, a great brewery out of Maryland,” says Landers. “They’re bringing a bourbon-barrel aged Gonzo porter, named after Hunter Thompson. It’s a very expensive beer — I’m surprised the kegs came to Minnesota period, and the fact that they’re saving one for our event is great.”
The emphasis on food / beer pairings and novel experiences will set Indulge apart, he adds. “We’re looking to do something very different — we’re looking for more of a sophisticated crowd to come and actually enjoy some of the flavors. It’s not so much about getting hammered. It’s a good opportunity to learn.”
That learning extends to the team creating the event. As of press time, Chef Doug Taylor was furiously working on the many pairings that will define Indulge. “I have always been a connoisseur of good food, and I’m definitely into drinking my fare share of tasty beers,” he says. “I have never really paired them together, other than a beer with pizza or your typical bar food. It has really forced me to slow down and appreciate the complex flavors that a well-crafted beer has to offer and how they interact with the different flavors in the food.”
Taylor is bringing a broad, multi-ethnic approach to the menu. “I am looking at doing some Thai-influenced food and maybe some flavors from India along with more traditional American fare,” he says.
On the beer end of things, event patrons will get a chance to meet a healthy-sized group of beer industry insiders, both local and national.
“Everybody coming is going to be knowledgeable about the beers,” says Landers. “Like the Lift Bridge guys — two of them and their wives are coming. Dark Horse from Michigan, they’re sending Scotty Karate… they named one of their beers after him. He works for the brewery and plays for a band — he does kung-fu and sings folk… I guess he’ll be in his kung fu garb pouring beer behind his station.”
The event is likely to pack its share of surprises, if the enthusiasm of the chefs is an indicator.
“After a lifelong love affair with food with craft beer as my mistress, this opportunity to invite the two to get along together couldn’t be more exciting,” says Jeremy Tremblay, the event’s sous chef. “It’s great to see artisan beers brought forward to be taken seriously.”
Saturday, June 20
Radisson University Hotel Ballroom
615 Washington Ave. SE
Discount Price: $50 when you mention the Heavy Table and order from Stub and Herb’s at 612.379.0555