Drinking Local: All Things Minnesota

Pictured: Minnesota in June

Ah, the North. Home to hot dish, Spam sandwiches and sub zero temperatures for 13 months out of the year. It’s like Winterfell but the locals have a different accent, dontcha know. Yes the food is weird and the weather feels like it should be spelled in all capitals but there’s a lot more happening here beyond those two talking points! For one, (and the focus of this weeks post) Minnesota is home to a healthy amount of distilleries, breweries and scenic wineries. after all we need something to warm us up in the winter and to keep us cool in the summer!

Outside of the high quality, small batch and craft distilled products under the vomFASS label, we also stock quite a few MN products!

Vino:

Carlos Creek winery in Alexandria, Minnesota (easy to find, hard to leave) has been producing wine since 1999. Here at vomFASS in the Mall of America you can track down a number of their products available for purchase. Minnescato is an inspired homage to the much loved Moscato. It sparkles, shes sweet and any hot dish would be lucky to pair with this wine made from local Minnesota grown grapes. For red wine lovers who don’t have that sweet tooth, Carlos Creek produces a Marquette from the grape of the same name which was developed by the University of Minnesota…It really doesn’t get more Minnesotan than that.

Also on our shelves you can find Round Lake Vineyards Frontenac Gris and Brianna. Two semi sweet options made for those long summer nights up at the cabin. Brianna has a decidedly tropical personality while the Frontenac Gris is packed with explosive notes of cranberry. Round Lake Vineyards is located just North of the Iowa border but that doesn’t stop them from frequently visiting us to drop off a sample bottle or two, come on in and give their wine a try!

Beer & Cider:

Beer is my first love. I’ve never met a brew I didn’t like. Okay maybe not that habanero IPA I had in Manhattan but that’s neither here nor there. A local Minneapolis Brewery, Boom Island, stole our hearts here at vomFASS Twin Cities. We carry their Dubbel, Tripel, Quad and Saison Belgian style ales as well as their Russian imperial stout, ‘Kollusion’ which is made with Dunn Bros. coffee and aged in Tennessee Whiskey barrels. Seriously consider picking some of this up, I don’t know where else this is still in stock other than our shelves.

Our Ciders are from Milk & Honey out of Cold Springs. ‘Alchemy’, an ice cider made from MN’s own Chestnut crab, is mellowed in bourbon barrels and sports a hearty, sweet and smooth personality. We also carry 4 other drier sparkling ciders also from Milk & Honey. If you’re on the lookout for ciders with a bit more depth and less of that alcoholic apple juice quality, be sure to check out the Milk & Honey products in our store!

The Hard Stuff:

Far North Spirits, Panther Distillery, Vikre Distillery and Rockfilter Distillery. All hand picked by us to stand tall on our shelves here at MOA in Bloomington.

Far North Spirits you will find…well far north up in Hallock, MN. Basically put your toes in Canada and fall backwards and you’ll land in Hallock. We carry their Nordic style spiced rum, ‘Allander’ and it would seem like the distillers unlocked the secret of distilling holidays because this tastes just like Christmas. Also on our shelves is ‘Rokknar’ a rye whiskey from Far North (which we will be discussing more in next weeks post all about rye) that was bottled specifically for vomFASS after we tasted through their single barrels and picked our favorite! Panther Distillery from Osakis, MN in near the dead center of the state is well represented on our shelves. We carry ‘Saint Paul’, a three year old straight Bourbon, ‘Pike Street’ which is another three year old bourbon as well as ‘Spiked Apple’ and ‘Minnesota 14 Maple’ which are both sweeter and flavored two year old corn whiskeys. Vikre up in Duluth utilizes water from the mighty Lake Superior to produce their alcohol. If you are a fan of gin or absinthe or just happen to be a curious drinker, come in for a sample of ‘Ovrevann’. Meaning Lake Superior or Upper Lake in Norwegian, ‘Ovrevann’ is Vikre’s Aquavit. Definitely worth a taste. Finally from as far south and as far east as you can go here in the North Star state you’ll find Rockfilter Distillery in Spring Grove, MN. We carry their two year old bourbon, ‘Giants of the Earth’ which has a mash bill made up of corn, winter rye and sorghum. This one is for the fans of the bolder bourbons.

Minnesota is home to hard working bunch. Here at vomFASS MOA we stock the fruits of all that labor. I find that Rockfilter’s mission statement says it best,

“Our Norwegian ancestors fled a cold, hard place for a colder, harder place. It didn’t make them bitter, just busy. Like them, we continue to make the best of it. We farm. We make bourbon. Happily ever after”

Whichever Minnesota beverage you choose to enjoy this Summer take a moment to appreciate who and where it came from. Happy drinking everyone. Skol!

Will O’Reilly is a Minnesota native who enjoys Minnesota spirits, wines and beers. Find him at vomFASS Twin Cities.

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Oh What a World…of Whisk(e)y! Pt. 3

Our final foray into the wold of whisk(e)y takes us home. So don your reds whites and blues and tell Johnny to strike up the band because baby it’s time to talk about America!

Corn, barley, rye and wheat. The usual suspects of whisk(e)y production across the globe. The United States is to be thanked for taking those ingredients and birthing a few of her own original spirits. Namely, Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Like Scotland and Ireland we have our own set of regulations to follow when producing America’s finest. Though you will notice they are…shall we say, more relaxed? This is a reoccurring theme with alcohol production here in the states. Comparing Americas craft beer market, responsible for IPAs incorporating habanero peppers as well as Rocky Mountain Oyster Stouts (if you are unaware of what this means, do yourself a favor and keep it that way), to brewers in Germany, you will notice QUITE the difference. The Purity Law of 1516 firmly regulates beer production in Germany. It declares that that the only ingredients to be used are water, barley and hops (yeast as well but no one knew what the heck that was in 1516).

This is all to say, we do things our way and tend to let innovation and ingenuity run a little wild!

Bourbon! Originally crafted in Kentucky and now made as far and wide as Minnesota, is a spirit whose mash bill (or recipe) must be comprised of at least 51% corn and can be distilled to a proof no higher than 160. The remaining 49% is up to the distiller and can vary dramatically from producer to producer. Upon entering the ageing stage, this spirit must be no stronger than 125 proof Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. New barrels. Every. Single. Time. The luckiest of those bourbon barrels make their way to Scotland to be used in Scotch Whisky production. It is important to note that there is no minimum age requirement for Bourbon. Many enter the market at no older than just a few months. More often than not you will find Bourbon to be a fuller feeling, sweeter spirit on the palate with kisses of char, smoke and vanilla. We currently carry several different Bourbons at our MOA location. Panther Distillery in Osakis Minnesota produces ‘Pike Street’ and ‘Saint Paul’, both 3 year old Bourbons. A personal favorite of mine is made as far South and as far East as one can travel in Minnesota. ‘Giants of the Earth’ is a 2 year old Bourbon distilled by Rockfilter all the way down Spring Grove, MN. Produced for vomFASS are ‘Two Georges High Corn’ and ‘Northern Plains’ Bourbons. The former being produced from 81% corn and the latter being a blend of Kentucky and Wisconsin Bourbon.

Tennessee Whiskey! Decidedly NOT bourbon in the way Cremant is not Champagne. Varying by a small margin technically but worlds apart in history, these two spirits have one key difference: Charcoal. Here we go with the weird America stuff again. Tennessee Whisky is produced the same way bourbon is but just before barreling the clear corn spirit is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Some people make their own charcoal by burning whiskey soaked sugar maple while others simply soak the charcoal with the soon to be whiskey. Tennessee Whiskey will have a smoother personality, a taste similar to bourbon and of course a rather distinct charcoal presence. Tennessee Whiskey is also a killer song by Chris Stapleton.

To be covered in a future entry you can also find Rye and Wheat based whiskey here in the USA. More specifically you can find them on our shelves at vomFASS Mall of America! Next time you find yourself in our neck of the woods be sure to ask about our, ‘Two Georges’ line of whiskey. We can get you a taste of the Bourbon, Rye and an exceptionally unique Wheat Whiskey.

Indeed, whisk(e)y has many faces. Some of which are specific to the land in which they were first born. Others are finding new homes across the world as people strive to satisfy the thirst for high quality spirits we all seem to share. Whichever expression you are to enjoy next we hope you’ll do so with a bit deeper of an understanding and appreciation for the history and labor behind each Whisk(e)y.

Will O’Reilly continues to talk about the world of alcohol long after you stop even listening. Find him at vomFASS Mall of America!

Oh What a World…Of Whisk(e)y Pt. 2

Sláinte!

Welcome back to week two of breaking down the many faces of Whisk(e)y. Today’s focus: Ireland!

With the discovery of perfume distillation 500 some odd years ago, you, me and everyone we know have the Irish monks to thank for turning their noses up at perfume and eyeballing instead those yummy looking ferment hungry grains. The Emerald Isles’ traditional spirit experienced some serious ups and downs in the years between 1890 and 1990. Between an increasing appetite for scotch across the board and effectively being cut off from major markets due to a less than friendly relationship with England, Irish whiskey went from the hot ticket the kid with cooties with relative swiftness. Fast forward through the popularity nose dive and it wasn’t until about the 1980’s that attention turned back to Éire and her beautiful Uisce Beatha (again meaning ‘Water of Life’, only this time in Irish). Indeed, the increased interest in this Irish beauty is certainly palpable. Nowadays t’s a product you can see more and more of on retail shelves not only in the states but all over the world.

Irish Whiskies available exclusively at vomFASS
Photo Cred: My wonderful coworker Lynn!

Commonly triple distilled, generally unpeated (but not always!) and made from malted and unmalted barley and other grains. For Whiskey producers unmalted barley and grains like corn offer a nice price break considering both are less expensive than malted barley. Like Scotch, Irish Whiskey must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. When enjoying a nice glass of Irish Whiskey, you’ll more often than not find it to be on the lighter side than others. With notes of cereal grain, honey and flowers Ireland offers a strikingly different spirit when compared to Scotch, especially Scotch from the Islay region. The key noticeable difference for my palate when comparing Irish Whiskey and Scotch comes from the triple distillation process which creates a lighter distillate with much more subtlety. Irish Whiskey on the whole is more liquid poetry than anything. Light, friendly, approachable, it does not demand that you acquire a taste for it but rather it asks for you to just simply listen and enjoy the song it has to sing.

Here at vomFASS MOA we carry four expressions of Irish Whiskey from one producer in Dublin as well as their Single Malt Moonshine. ‘Against the Grain’ is a corn mash Irish Whiskey aged 5 years in Bourbon barrels and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. This is a beautiful expression of a Single Grain Irish Whiskey, one of the most approachable spirits in the store and a personal favorite. ‘Stephen’s Choice’ and ‘Jack’s Choice’ are 5 and 11 year old old Single Malt Irish Whiskies, respectively. The former being a more traditional approach and the latter actually being finished in Sauternes casks, ‘Stephen’s Choice’ and ‘Jack’s Choice’ are not to be missed. At 14 years, ‘Brother’s In Arms’ is the oldest Irish Whiskey in our store. This expression shows off a wonderfully complex Sherry cask influence through notes of fruit, spice and more gourmand hits of toffee and caramel. While not technically a Whiskey but rather an unaged Irish spirit, our Single Malt Irish ‘Moonshine’ shows an array of explosive herbs, pepper and a rich, crisp backbone. Surprisingly easy going for it’s 55.5% abv. Drop on in sometime and let us pour you a sample or two!

Before you go, let us discuss Whiskey v. Whisky. What is the deal with that seemingly complicated parenthetical ‘e’? The Irish call it whiskey and the Scots call it whisky and stateside we mostly call it Whiskey with the exception of some (I’m looking at you Maker’s Mark). It seems to be a remnant of translation and here in the US of A, it stems from the melding of cultures. That little ‘e’ seems to have been brought over by the Irish during their influx into the great American melting pot. It also found wide spread use in American spirits due to the shrewd attempt at associating American spirits with the, at that time, more expensive and exotic Irish spirits. Today, the ‘e’ finds it’s home in Irish and most American whiskies. Whisky sans ‘e’ can be found of course in Scotland (as it is the law) but also in Japan, Australia and literally every other Whisky producing region in the world.

Next time you’re in have a taste of this 6 year old Indian Whisky.
Photo Credit: Lynn again!

Will O’Reilly likes to talk at length about the world of Alcohol. Come chat with him at vomFASS in The Mall of America.

Oh What a World…Of Whisk(e)y!

Alcohol! With many different cultural expressions all over the globe its often easy to confuse one expression with another. Take Whisk(e)y for example; Whisk(e)y itself isn’t so much a product as it is a process. Or rather a product that is defined by a process. And that process has different rules and regulations depending on the dirt your standing on. Some of us prefer Bourbon to Rye or Irish Whiskey to Scotch Whisky. But do you know the core differences between them? The answer is more than just geography. Breaking down the different faces of Whisk(e)y and what the deal is with this seemingly silly parenthetical ‘e’ will be the goal of the coming weeks blog entries. So stay tuned!

As a general rule of thumb I don’t like to generalize about the vast world of alcohol too much. Lumping things together in one category and slapping a label on it does a disservice to the nuances and creative mold breaking that takes place at, say, different Scotch distilleries. That said, for ease of conversation, I’ll be speaking a bit generally today. So take this with a grain of salt and understand that the alcohol rabbit hole goes deep. There’s always something more to be learned about each one of these products and the people (heroes?) making them. Conveniently, after your thirst for quality Whisk(e)y has been stirred up you will be able to find some excellent expressions of Scotch, Irish and American Whisk(e)y available at the vomFASS Mall of America location.

This week we are going to focus on Scotch. What is single malt Scotch? Single malt Scotch Whisky is a product that comes from one single distillery as opposed to a Scotch blend which is a product containing the Whisky from multiple distilleries. Historically produced using malted barley, and only malted barley for single malts, Scotch begins it’s journey being double distilled in large copper pot stills. Scotch, by law, must be aged for a minimum of three years in Oak barrels. These Oak barrels are primarily former Bourbon barrels (which by law in the US can only be used for Bourbon ageing once) or former Sherry casks. Only produced and aged in Scotland you will find this Whisky being distilled and aged in a few different regions, five of which are officially recognized.

The Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Islay (pronounced, “eye-la”) and Campbeltown make up Scotland’s main Scotch producing regions. Here at vomFASS Twin Cities inside the Mall of America we carry a healthy supply of world class single malt Scotches from almost every region (even the not so officially recognized parts. Cool!). Our selection includes, but is by no means limited to, a 17 year old offering from Auchentoshan in the Lowlands. This is one of the outlying triple distilled scotches. The dram is smooth, warm and delightfully complex. From the Highlands we offer a bold but refined 20 year old Glengoyne. Appropriately, Speyside takes up the most real estate here at vomFASS MOA as it is home to the highest density of distilleries in Scotland. A personal favorite of mine is the dark and mysterious 19 year old Inchgower. I love to pour this for guests looking for a Speyside Scotch that thinks a little outside of the Speyside box. Bunnahabain 26 is our one and only single malt offering from Islay. Next to it’s other Islay brethren, Bunnahabain 26 does not cloud the drinker in a plume of peat smoke. Rather, this unpeated offering showcases notes of the ocean that surrounds the Islay region while caramel and soft vanilla permeate the drinking experience. Should you wish to get to know these beauties better than I can describe them, we not only offer in store samples but we regularly hold Scotch classes as well as wine tastings and Mediterranean cooking classes too!

Aside from being a geographically specific spirit (similar to Champagne, Cognac or Tennessee Whiskey) Scotch is produced under strict regulations established long ago that are still practiced today. True, practices have changed and expanded since the first Scot discovered how to make Uisge Beatha, or The Water of Life, such as the incorporation of Wheat and Rye grains and triple distillation practices at a few distilleries. But at its core, Scotch remains a liquid tip of the hat to the wonder of tradition and the inexorable push of alcohol based ingenuity. All the while instilling in it’s drinker a true sense of place. Cheers!

Check back next week as we continue our journey down the winding Whisk(e)y road to Ireland.

Will O’Reilly studies all things alcohol. You can find him at vomFASS inside the Mall of America.

vomFASS Wins Again!

 vomFASS recently received the results of this year’s iTQi Superior Taste Awards Ceremony which was held in Brussels, Belgium.

 

The International Taste & Quality Institute – iTQi – is the world’s leading organization iTQi 2016.pngdedicated to testing and promoting superior food and drink. Once again, we have received awards for our high-quality fruit balsamics from the iTQi!

The Superior Taste Award is a unique international recognition based upon the blind judgment of some of the most prestigious Chefs and Sommeliers in the world who are opinion leaders and experts in taste.

vomFASS is extremely pleased to announce that we were, once again, able to achieve excellent results with our in-house specialty balsamic vinegars including the following:

  • Apple Balsamic Vinegar –  3 Stars and the Crystal Taste Award (granted to products that have received 3 stars, 3 years in a row.)
  • Blueberry Balsamic Star – 3 Stars
  • Passion Fruit Balsamic Vinegar – 3 Stars (Coming soon to vomFASS at Mall of America)

The star ratings are defined as follows:

3 Stars = Exceptionall products with 90% and more of total marks

2 Stars = Remarkable products with marks between 80% and 90%

1 Star = Notable tasting products with marks between 70% and 80%

Stop by vomFASS at Mall of America to taste these award-winning products and many other superior taste award-winners to decide which are the winners on your palate!

Fair Trade is Good Trade at vomFASS

One of the many reasons I am proud to own a vomFASS shop is the ethics and caring demonstrated by vomFASS International. One example is the relationship vomFASS has and the support we provide for the work of Father Shay Cullen, who is the founder of the PREDA Foundation.father_cullen

Father Cullen was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and other Human Rights awards. Father Shay Cullen founded the PREDA Foundation in 1974 to promote human rights, justice and peace. He strives to eliminate child abuse and promote respect for children’s rights. The purpose of his projects is to:

  • educate for peace
  • free children from brothels and jails and
  • give them a chance to recover in therapeutic homes and be reintegrated and have a happier life free from jails, brothels, traffickers, violence and abusers.

The foundation operates protective therapeutic recovery shelters for the victims. There are 89 professional Filipino staff implementing the 12 projects for Preda. (visit http://www.preda.org for more information).

Filipinos in Mango field
PREDA stands for People’s Recovery, Empowerment, Development, Assistance Foundation

PREDA’S Mission statement

  • To work for just laws and their implementation that will empower the poor, and protect their rights.
  • To protect the weak and the defenseless especially children and women exploited in demeaning labor, especially prostitution.
  • To come to the assistance of the sexually abused and develop Fair Trade programs that will help alleviate poverty and exploitation.

PREDA products are safe and healthy. The dried fruit and fruit purees are chemical free and are fairly traded. Adherence to Fair Trade practices guarantees that the families who make these products benefit directly from them. Fair trade also promotes training and supports farmers by providing benefits such as medical insurance. Customers can be assured that there is no child labor, sweatshop conditions, and exploitation of any kind.

vomFASS is Fair!

vomFASS helps and supports the local economies with fair prices and premium payments to producers to improve working and living conditions. We source the fruit pulp for our customer-favorite Calamansi Balsam Vinegar, Mango Balsam Vinegar and Wild Mango Balsamic Star from a PREDA plantation. A percentage of sales of these products in contributed towards the planting of as many as 2,000 mango trees a year.

As a vomFASS owner, I am proud to be associated with PREDA’s humanitarian efforts. As a vomFASS customer, you can enjoy your food even more, knowing that it is ethically sourced and supports these noble projects.

Enjoy!

Tamra (a.k.a. Tomboy Tam)

Wild about Wild Mango Balsamic Star

We recently added a new Star to the constellation of specialty balsamic vinegars at vomFASS at Mall of America! If you’ve loved our Mango Balsam Vinegar, your palate will leap over the moon when you taste Wild Mango Balsamic Star! Mango Salad

How are Stars made? 

As you may recall, vomFASS makes all our fruit balsamics at the world headquarters in Waldburg, Germany. We use fresh fruit, press it into juice, ferment it  and incorporate the magical vinegar “Mother” bacteria, before it is aged to perfection. Our “Star” balsamics are basically the same process, with one major difference: they have a higher concentrate of fruit (or honey, in the case of our Honey Balsamic Star). The additional fruit results in a sweeter, thicker, lower-acidity specialty balsamic that is to die for (except for the fact that it’s such a healthy condiment!)

Our new Wild Mango Balsamic Star is composed of mango puree and mango vinegar. It has the full, fruity taste of ripe mangoes of the “carabao” variety, grown on a fair trade plantation in the Philippines (read more). You may enjoy it for refining summer salads, meat or fish dishes or as a base for barbecue sauce.  It’s an exotic complement to desserts, oatmeal or cocktails. Personally, I love it in sparkling water and as a marinade for shrimp or pork. It pairs beautifully with any vomFASS extra virgin olive oil, our organic Avocado Oil, Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil and Chili Sunflower Oil. It’s also yummy paired with our Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Blueberry Balsamic Star, such as in this salad recipe.

Mango Blueberry Watermelon Salad ~ Serves 6-8

Watermelon_Feta_Salad

Ingredients: 

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 T. shallots, finely minced
  • 2 T.  vomFASS  Blueberry Balsamic Star
  • 2 T.  vomFASS Wild Mango Balsamic Star
  • ½ cup vomFASS Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • vomFASS Salt and Pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 8 cups salad greens
  • 3-4 cups red watermelon, rind removed, seeded, and cut into cubes
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
  • 2 cups blueberries OR 1 cup black olives
  • ½ cup (2 oz.) fresh mint leaves, minced

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the shallots, vinegars, salt and pepper.
  2. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
  3. Taste for flavor and seasoning. Add a little olive oil if less tartness is desired.  Add a little honey if additional sweetness is desired.
  4. Place the greens, watermelon, feta, blueberries or olives and mint in a large bowl.
  5. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well, but gently.
  6. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
Tip: Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator. To make this dish more savory, use black olives instead of blueberries.

Enjoy! 

Tamra (a.k.a. Tomboy Tam)