Sunday, February 24, 2008
Spirit Mountain and a great brewpub
Saturday found me, Galway guy, and younger brother GuitarMatt schussing down the slopes at the Spirit Mountain ski area in Duluth, MN. You Colorado folks have some great views in the mountains but you ain't looking out at Duluth harbor and Lake Superior as you cruise down the hill. You may have a tad bit more vertical than 800' also, but we won't go into that. After all the cross country skiing the past month we figured it was time for a little lift served fun. GG had conventional dowhill skis, I had telemark skis, and GM was knuckle draggin' (snowboarding). We were a diverse group. Weather was perfect but the sky was a bit hazy. Normally you can see well up the north shore and quite a ways up the south shore as well but today we had to be content with the blue ribbon of unfrozen lake beyond Park Point and the lift bridge. We didn't go down to the water but it appeared that you could have slid a boat in on the lake side of Park Point. I do fear becoming like the kids who are stuck in hockey all year round however, and will continue to keep my seasons straight and stick to my skis and avoid the kayak until an 'appropriate' time. Although the idea of a ski/kayak weekend has a certain symmetry to it......RonO?.
Dusk came and the conditions were far too perfect to quit, even though my aging carcass needed a break. I suggested to my companions, 32 and 34 years younger than me respectively, that beer and pizza might be a good break for my aging legs and then we could head back and knock off a couple hours of night sking. So we headed across the Richard I. Bong bridge to Superior, WI and the Thirsty Pagan brewpub. As some of you may have gleaned from this blog I really appreciate a good brewpub. Two buddies and I went to England a couple years back, expressly for a real ale pub crawl and were so into the mission that I had to pry them away from a pint of Sheperd Neame's Spitfire ale to walk around the corner to view Buckingham Palace. Single minded focus like that can be appreciated. I like good beer and the Thirsty Pagan did not disappoint. As you can see from the beer menu they have a variety of styles from the light 'Ultra Fat Ass' to the very assertive 'Capitalist Pig', an excellent Russian Imperial Stout. This is not the corporate brewpub like the Granite City or Rockbottom chains. You can tell that by the names of the beer. The Thirsty Pagan has that old time Wisconsin tavern ambiance with families eating together, a few regulars, friendly staff that understands customers are the reason they are employed, and vintage beer signs from around the state. It also has no TV, subdued music, and bands on weekends. It is non smoking until 9pm when the bands start, an excellent and refreshing compromise in times when people feel that legislative edict (especially we legislation loving Minnesotans) is the only way to enforce behaviors that they feel are 'good for you'. As the owners put it on their website, "We are a non-smoking brewery until 9 PM. We like it, and since we own it, that's nice". We didn't make it to 9pm though, and headed back to Spirit Mountain for another 90 minutes of skiing, reinforced with pizza and the beer-fueled belief that we were much better skiers than when we had left for the brewpub.
For a thought provoking treatise on the relation of economic theory regarding free beer, please check out No1 son's first blog entry on his EO Update site. And if you're in the Twin Ports check out the Thirsty Pagan as well as Sustenance Artisan Breads down the street in the old City Hall. Both feature wonderful handmade products that will make you swear off Wonder Bread and BudMiller for life.