I See Dead People: Rochester, Minnesota's Forager Brewery
After Sunday's early show at Broken Clock I had a couple of days off, and was scheduled to play next at Forager Brewing in Rochester, MN on Wednesday. After the Broken Clock show I checked in to my hotel in Minneapolis and spent the rest of the day working on the various work that goes along with this tour... booking/logistics issues, doing the blogs, doing promotional work and media for upcoming shows... basically boring but very necessary work, and stuff that consumes a surprising amount of time. It being Sunday I also watched the new episode of Big Little Lies on HBO, in which Meryl Streep has joined the cast to play a wonderfully passive aggressive psychotic mother-in-law.
I wasn't sure what I was going to do with my Monday and Tuesday off. The region has been dealing with a lot of rain and flooding issues, so that was a bit limiting. Monday I ended up spending the day catching up more on the tour management work, and got totally caught up on the blogs, which felt great for that brief snapshot in time. Because I spent Monday working, I told myself that if the weather was good Tuesday I'd do something fun outdoors, but I didn't know what and didn't even try to figure it at this point.
Forager Brewery - Rochester, MN
The beers are available strictly at the brewery, as well as to go in growlers and crowlers. Played: 7/17/19
I worked for a bit Monday night, but decided to take advantage of the second night in a nice hotel bed, and went to bed at like 9pm to get a serious stretch of deep sleep. Sometimes I go several nights in a row on the road w/out sleeping particularly well or much, so opportunities like this can be the difference between enjoying the week or struggling through it. The funny thing is I also don't usually get a stretch of several off days (and with Sunday's show being early, it seemed like I had 3 days off, which NEVER happens)... so between the time off, being holed up in a hotel, and getting some real sleep, I lost track of where I was in time...
The next morning I woke up, did some more work at the hotel until checking out at noon, and then headed down the road for the 90 min drive to the Forager gig in Rochester. All was well until I got about halfway and realized that it was only Tuesday, not Wednesday, and my gig wasn't until Wednesday. Shit. So now I'm in somewhere in rural Minnesota with no hotel, no gig, and nothing to do for the next 30+ hours!
A few minutes after coming to this realization I happened to pass over a raging little river, and noticed rafts on it, and with the sun out I thought I'd rescue this day by going kayaking. I don't travel with mine, so I stopped at an outfitters to rent one... and they said the river was too high for kayaking, and wouldn't rent me one. ARGH!!! Back to nothing to do. As luck would have it another storm moved in shortly thereafter, so it was probably for the best, but I basically spent the rest of the afternoon in a public library. Then I thought I'd see the new Tarantino movie... but it hadn't opened yet. Just can't win. As night approached I found a park on a lake, founding a camping spot right on the lake, played a little guitar and drifted off of the night.
I don't really remember what I did the next day prior to the Forager gig, but I was just grateful to have a plan for the evening. Oh, actually I do remember... I spent most of the day in Rochester's library, and unexpectedly did a little online chatting with a long lost and recently recovered friend.
For being a rather small dot on the map, Rochester has a surprisingly metropolitan feel to it, probably because they are the home to the Mayo Clinic and its headquarters. I had no idea... when I'd see their logo with the 3 locations listed, I always assumed they meant Rochester, New York.... nope! As such, they had a very nice library, and their downtown looked like that of a much larger, progressive U.S. City.
Forager Brewery seemed like it took up the better part of a city block. The taproom/restaurant/brewing facility was expansive, and the beer garden was also impressive. The walls inside feature the artwork of rotating artists, and one of the long halls has all of the original drafts of their various beer labels (see photo below). We debated whether I'd play outdoors or inside, but it was hot, and storms were forecast, so I was relieved to play inside to the taproom. As another unusual aspect of this leg of the tour, Forager was the 2nd of 4 venues that had their own sound system that they preferred I use, and lucky this one was in working and was setup so that I could hear myself, so it was all good, and I didn't have to haul my own gear.
I'm just going to cut right to the chase about Forager's beers: they are all fantastic. I jumped all over the place, tasting all sorts of beers, some pints and some just samples, and I was excited by all of them. I should also mention that on this night I actually got some food after the show, which I never do, and had a delicious pizza (pizzas are made late, the kitchen closes a little earlier for their non-pizza menu).
Being hot and thirsty I started with the Dream Cycle (6.5%) milkshake IPA. Just read their own description, and you'll quickly figure out why this one was so spectacular: “We brewed a combination of our IPA recipes and boiled the beer with lactose sugar and Styrian Dragon Hops. Conditioning on vanilla beans and tangerine juice created flavors of orange dream pops. We then dry hopped the beer with Centennial for more citrus zest.” Right? A little hazy, yellowish orange pour, smelled like an orange creamcycle, and tasted enough like one to make you smile, but also had some nice light hoppiness to balance it out. I could have just kept drinking this on for the rest of the night, but my work had already been cut out for me...
In the same ballpark, yet still pretty dramatically different, was the Tight Lips (5.5%) double dry hopped hazy IPA. I love their descriptions, so I'm going to steal another (BTW, these guys have a thing for gummy bears): “Brewed barley, wheat, and oats then 100% Australian Vic Secret hops. Aromas of sticky pine sap, white gummy bears and passion fruit drip from this juicy IPA. Enjoy this crushable IPA while telling your deep dark secrets.” I don't think I unveiled any dark secrets, but I did enjoy sipping this one through my set. Obviously not nearly as fruity as the Dream Cycle, this one was hoppy in a more traditional way, with the hops balancing between floral overtones and dank pine flavors. I nice hoppy beer for people who like nice hoppy beers.
My next two were smaller samples, and probably a good thing, as these were some hefty brews. Again, I'm going to keep using Forager's own descriptions, as I think they're funny, and these beers are complex enough only the maker is qualified to explain exactly what you're dealing with. The first one, called Pudding Problems (12%), is an Imperial Pastry Porter. Yes, that does say 12%. “Inspired by a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich, we brewed this with chocolate malts and a sticky kiss of honey. We conditioned this ale on roasted cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and dehydrated strawberries. Flavors of smooth vanilla, rich chocolate and bold strawberry drip from this imperial pastry porter. When life gives you problems make pudding.” Indeed. This thing poured almost black, and was rich, malty, choc-lately, a bit of vanilla, a hint of the alcohol, and then out of nowhere about halfway through the sip the strong strawberry comes in, takes over, and gives you a strawberry finish. I don't know how they pulled of this, I don't know what kind of wizardry they employ to have a bold beer's flavor completely switch gears mid-sip, but they did, and it does. Wild.
The next one was equally a heavy hitter, albeit in a rather different way: the Pastry Chef (10.3%) Imperial milk stout. “Inspired by a coconut chocolate macaroon, we brewed this pastry stout with loads of chocolate malt and lactose sugar. House-toasted coconut was added with vanilla post-fermentation layering flavors. We love baked goods and have fun imitating their delicious flavors in our pastry ales.” I've had tasty stouts with hints of coconut before, but this one tastes like a Mounds bar....the coconut is very out front (not a bad thing), cutting through an otherwise awesome stout. I could have easily enjoyed sipping on a pint of this one, but then I'd need a blanket and my dog and curl up for the night.
Forager, and this happened at a few other breweries I played in this region, seems to be a hangout for closet Deadheads. They don't particularly look like Deadheads (although many of us assimilated years ago) so I'd never guess it before playing, and the Dead I don't think played regularly in these parts, but once they hear a few notes of Dead that's what they want you play for the rest of the night. Each night I sound checked with Garcia's “Althea” (for a variety of reasons that tune allows me to quickly get a handle on the mix) and once they heard that it was requests for Dead all night long! That's fine, I can play Dead all night... but I don't, I still shake it up and play a fair number of my own tunes and traditional tunes and so on... but it is fun to uncork the bottle and throw in more Dead than usual from time to time. On this night it culminated with a group that hung out in the back of the brewery (and at least one of the bartenders) and prompted me to play a block of Dead that took my second set a good half-hour beyond my scheduled stop time. I don't recall the whole finale block, but it went something like: Birdsong, Wharf Rat, Me & My Uncle, Black Peter, Good Lovin'.
I capped the night off with a Forager pizza, and headed back to Minneapolis for a double header of shows Thursday night, playing an early evening show at Finnegans and a late show at Day Block Brewing Co., which were both downtown, just a few blocks apart....