Shrinking the World in Minnesota

hhbc-1When I was in Louisville earlier this summer, my last evening there I had dinner at a place called Eiderdown. I also had a couple beers I really liked called “Flaming Longship” from a small brewery in Minnesota, Hammerheart Brewing Company. This is what they are all about, per their Facebook page:

Two brothers (in-law) brewing hoppy, smoky, and often oaked beers that are influenced by the beauty from the lakes of Minnesota to the wondrous mountains of Norway.

We love good beer, Nordic history, vast forests, epic mountains and of course, the lakes. We have made it our mission to keep the flame of craft beer burning by brewing great beer in our own style and supporting the spread of craft brewing world wide. BREW STRONG!

While in the Minneapolis area last week for work, one evening I decided to drive an hour to Lino Lakes and visit the brewery. It’s a cool place; wood floor that clumps nicely underfoot, exposed beams, a dragonhead prow over the door, Nordic flags out front, etc. I ordered a beer, told the bartender the story of how I’d heard of them, then took a seat at a long table to soak it all in. A few minutes later a long-haired, bearded guy sat down across from me, introduced himself as Austin Lund, and proceeded to question me re: where I’d gotten the beer in Louisville. Turns out that not only is Mr. Lund one of the two brothers (in-law) that own the place, but he’s also the Master Brewer. AND he is from Louisville, and has only been in Minnesota a couple years.

We spent the next 90 minutes or so just swapping stories. Talk of the outdoors, wildlife, beer, beer culture, his trips to Norway, things like that. Bottom line is that if I didn’t have a friend in Louisville I’d never have encountered Eiderdown, never would have had the Flaming Longship, and never would have ended up having a great evening in a strange place that made me feel good about the people I share the world with and my place in it. That doesn’t happen often. When it does it’s pretty cool.

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I had a free afternoon before the morning of my departure. There is a company who makes canoe paddles I’ve had my eye on for some time now called the Sanborn Canoe Company. They’re about three hours from Minneapolis, but I figured what else was I going to do? I pointed my rental car south and east. The day was gray and rainy and blustery as hell, but that didn’t bother me.

I’ve made the drive on I-90 where Minnesota and Wisconsin meet a couple times before and it’s gorgeous. It’s not flat at all, there are plenty of rolling hills covered in trees. This time I also hooked up with Highway 61, which runs sort of N/S along the Mississippi River. This terrain is nothing short of breathtaking, particularly on a wet and cloudy day like mine, where the bluffs and cliffs appear and disappear in the mist. I enjoyed it immensely; it reminded me of the Columbia Gorge in Oregon in many ways.

Sanborn is just a wood shop that sells paddles and other stuff. I was maybe there all of 20-30 minutes. The guy I talked to — a younger dude, his name escapes me now — was one of the founders and also very friendly. I don’t think they get a lot of drop-in visitors, but I got the grand tour and had their manufacturing process described to me. These guys are another example of the type of people I find so inspiring: folks who pick something they love to do and figure out a way to make a living doing it.

I’d like to get down through there again. There’s never enough time to explore these places, it seems.

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A Lunch in the Life Of

Noon Central and I pull up Yelp on my phone to determine the food options near me in Hopkins, MN. Hopkins was a town of its own at one time I’m sure, now it’s just a zip code so close to Minneapolis that if someone from out of state asks where you live, you probably just say “Minneapolis.”

The Main Street Bar & Grill is only 5 minutes away, on Main Street (amazingly), and reportedly serves the “best burgers anywhere.” It sounds worth a try.

On the way there I witness a collision between two cars, both turning left. One apparently veers into the other’s lane and they glance off one another with a plasticy crunch that startles me from looking at my driving directions while waiting for the light to change. One of the drivers, a big-haired woman, looks directly at me and mouths, “What the fuck?!”

I make it to Main Street without further incident.

Inside, the lounge is straight ahead, the restaurant is to my left. Another big-haired woman sits at the bar rolling knives, forks, and spoons into napkins that she has stacked in front of her. I ask her if I should seat myself and she says, “You go right ahead, honey.”

I move into the restaurant and sit down, positioning myself so that I can’t see any of the flatscreen televisions ringing the room. I order the Main Street burger, minus the thousand island dressing. I open my book, Gaining Daylight by Sara Loewen, and start to read.

At the table to my left a man is regaling his two companions with the stories of how he has blown out both of his knees — one of them twice — playing hockey. Meanwhile Loewen is describing in an essay how she realized she still had mustard-colored baby shit caked on her wedding ring.

A couple comes in and takes the table directly in front and to the right of me. A younger man pushing an older woman in a wheelchair. She stands up from the wheelchair and sidles around the table, bumping one of the vacant chairs at my table hard enough with her ass so as to make the water in my glass slosh over the lip. I can hear the woman breathing heavily as she drops onto her chair. From the corner of my eye I sense her face turned in my direction, but when I glance up I see she is merely staring at the TV screen above me.

The young man gets up and walks away. The woman pulls her foot up and across her leg, removes her shoe, then her sock, and proceeds to scratch and rub her foot. I try not to look, but it’s hard not to considering it is maybe four feet, if that, from me.

“That must be a good book,” the woman says. “Do you like to read?”

I look up. This time she is looking directly at me. “Yes,” I say. “I do.”

“You’re like me then,” she says.

“What do you like to read?” I ask.

“Mysteries mostly.”

“Yeah? Who is your favorite mystery writer?”

“Oh, I don’t care much for the writers,” she says. “I just like the mysteries.”

The young man returns, excited to report there are two pool tables on the other side of the restaurant. The woman puts her sock back on, then her shoe. Their food arrives. She takes a little kit out and measures her blood sugar with some electronic device.