It was the worst of times. It was the best of times.
Hindsight was 20/20 on both occasions, but this little monk experiment has shed an even more interesting nuance to the light. A couple of years ago, Michelle and I took a weekend trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota, so I could judge beers at the Upper-Mississippi Mashout. She came along for company, beer, fun and yoga classes.
At the time, I was working the kitchen of our snazzy little burrito joint, and we were busy as all get out the two days before our planned 2 p.m.-on-Friday departure. I had prepped ahead and been slammed and to catch up; I simply found myself unable to get around to eating lunch or dinner on both the Thursday and Friday of this week. We had a few small snacks in the car and headed north to check out Worth Brewing Company. We figured on having dinner there. As it turned out, this 10-gallon batch size brewery wasn’t a full-blown brewpub, as their menu was limited to a series of appetizers. I hadn’t eaten much and my dinner plan didn’t truly fill me up.
We found a motel and crashed. I noshed a couple of complimentary waffles the next morning before setting off off to judge, while Michelle sought out a day’s worth of back-to-back-to-back yoga classes. This was a really good competition, one of the biggest in the country, and I judged two of the best flights of my life. But the lunch was lackluster, and I needed something to soak up all the beer that I was consuming.
By the time Michelle picked me up at the conclusion of my day, I was feeling rough. I wasn’t drunk, just inappropriately saturated. We went to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery for dinner and one more beer. I ordered a cask Scotch ale, quit about halfway down, and ate very little of my food. I just couldn’t. I just felt rotten.
Not enough food on too much beer.
A year or so later, the girl of my dreams and I descended upon Madison, Wisconsin, for the Great Taste of the Midwest. I was better fueled on that trip. We hit the Great Dane for a pre-festival lunch, and I stumbled across what is now my favorite pre-drinking meal. It was the Great Dane’s Brat & Bacon Pretzel Burger: a one-third pound USDA choice ground beef patty and a one-quarter pound bratwurst patty grilled with caramelized onions and topped with Applewood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles and tomato, served on a pretzel roll with a side of their Peck’s Pilsner mustard.
Top that, Ronald McDonald.
This burger was the monster base layer that a semi-professional beer drinker needs to sustain himself through a day of heavy sampling. We went to the festival and I felt like a champion the whole time, including the next morning. That brat-topped love burger has become one of my heroes.
So when I set out on this fast journey, I was quite concerned that I would be, to quote Chris Cornell, “feeling Minnesota.” Not so. It’s been an illuminating experience in more ways than one, and this little story of doppelbock being the liquid bread that sustained these seventeenth century monks surely holds water.
Moderation is the key. Pace. But that doesn’t make it any less amazing.
And it doesn’t make me any less interested in a brat and bacon burger, let my honest, sinning, human self tell you.