State Fairs are often an afterthought. A relic of times past when most of us lived in rural areas and guessing the weight of a pumpkin was the best entertainment of the month. They offer variations on the same rides, foods and entertainment that you find at your local Memorial Day Carnival or County Fair and, I mean, how many people even go to those? But the Minnesota State Fair is so far from an afterthought that it seems to be on the minds of Minnesotans for the 50 weeks of the year in which it is not in operation. Plans are made, new foods are devised and longed after; then, just like that, it’s over again. This year, however, the Unvegan paid a visit to see how it would all stack up.
Colorado is definitely a beer state, and not just because Coors comes from the Rocky Mountain State. No, it is also home to New Belgium (of Fat Tire fame) and seemingly countless other micro and craft breweries. While in Breckenridge for a ski weekend, I decided I had to at least try one of these, and because it turned out to be the only one available at dinner, my choice happened to come from the creatively named Breckenridge Brewery. The brewery, by the way, is actually no longer in Breckenridge, having expanded and moved to Denver in 1992.
In the Cook Islands, 90% percent of the beer consumed is imported. Sure, most of it just comes from New Zealand, a mere three hours and International Date Line away by flight, but it is still shame when you consider the small island of Rarotonga has not one, but two breweries. One of these is the Cooks Lager Brewery and it is nothing like any brewery you’ve seen before. It resides in an old supermarket in the town of Avarua and has only existed for less than two years (replacing a defunct Cooks Lager brewing company that had shut down years before). Yet, in those two years, the five-man operation of Cooks Lager has begun to make its dent in the local brew scene.
In my continuing quest to enjoy the delicious beer flavors of the Northwoods here in Southern California, I found myself staring at a large can of beer at Whole Foods. How I wound up in Whole Foods is a sad, sordid story, but I was intrigued by a beer out of the Cold Spring brewery in Minnesota called Honey Almond Weiss. Surely, this would be the closest I could get to Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, brewed in Minnesota’s neighbor, Wisconsin. Plus, it didn’t hurt that this beer can contained one entire quart of beer.
Ever notice that the Summer Solstice is never actually the hottest day of the year? You would think being the longest day would correspond with being the hottest, but you would be wrong. Those crazy hot days never seem to come around until July or August. But during some of those hot non-solstice days I found a beer called Summer Solstice, from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Could it make up for the misleading real Summer Solstice by being the hottest (by hottest I mean greatest, not literally hot because that would presumably taste terrible) beer of the year? I intended to find out.
Ordinarily, I avoid the stouts. Why, you ask? Well it’s not only because they come with ridiculous names like Karl Strauss 22nd Anniversary Vanilla Imperial Stout (you don’t exactly see bock or ambers like that). No, the real reason is that I consider beer a sort of refreshment. And being a refreshment, there should be something inherently refreshing about the beer. Sorry, stouts, you are not exactly refreshing, and it’s not just because some of your subtypes are Oatmeal, Chocolate and Coffee.
But refreshing or not, when I was offered some 22nd Anniversary Vanilla Imperial Stout, I had a hard time turning it down. Why? The vanilla. Like I said earlier, Chocolate Stout is a pretty common stout choice and I have no need for chocolate in my beer or otherwise. But vanilla is a completely different story. I claim Cream Soda as one of my favorite non-alcoholic beverages and the chance to drink that flavor combined with a high ABV percentage was too good to pass up. But first I had to get in the bottle.