Sometimes, during the Minnesota winter, it can be difficult to find the motivation to drag yourself out of your house into the freezing temperatures and treacherous icy streets of the city. It doesn’t take much time to start feeling the claustrophobia of a self enforced hermeticism, though. For us, it’s important to get out.
Last weekend, there were a couple of interesting and challenging competitions, each featuring a very different theme, that popped up around town, and we had a lot of fun participating in them, staying warm and staving off that seasonal depression.
The first was Fair State Brewing Cooperative Giant Pasty Stout Mix Off last Friday evening. Fair State is one of my favorite breweries in the Twin Cities so I was intrigued by their competition, celebrating the imminent release of a variant of their Giantsbane American Double Stout, a pastry infusion they’re calling the Duke of Bakefordshire.
My wife, Lindsay, was not really that into beer before I met her. While I myself enjoy drinking a pint now and then, she’s been perfecting her cocktail making skills. Over the years of being dragged to breweries, though, she has found that stouts and porters, especially those heady imperial varieties (double the malts, and alcohol, of a normal brew) appeal to her. So much so, we’ve made a point to check out the various infusions announced at various local breweries and when she saw this opportunity, she jumped on it with gusto.
Mixers would infuse their Giantsbane with a pastry theme of their choosing, and Lindsay wasted no time in concocting the perfect flavor combination. I, being true to myself, frittered away my time. Fair State provided a number of ingredients to choose from, but also allowed each contributor to bring their own home brewed secret ingredients. The resulting mixes were judged on taste, presentation, creativity, and of course, the name (every beer needs a good name, after all). It was a fun, social event as beers with all manner of interesting adjuncts were presented and shared. The results will be released on February 9th.
On Saturday, we were invited by a friend to participate in the Winter Carnival Puzzle Contest held in the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul. We’d never participated in something like this, but after Lindsay introduced me to the cozy winter fun of working on a puzzle while watching comedy or under blankets on the couch, I was intrigued with what a contest would be like, and felt like it was a perfect match for a more relaxed Winter Carnival event, especially as the temperature plunged so much that other Carnival mainstays were being cancelled.
Arriving at the Landmark Center as snow was falling, the cavernous main room was packed with tables ready for contestants to start obsessing over puzzle pieces. I have never before witnessed such devotion to the jigsaw puzzle as dozens of teams worked together to put together a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle in the two hour time limit, each with a twist in how the final product differed from the cover image. It was interesting to consider what events led to the banning of such useful puzzle solving cheats as spatulas and flashlights. It was quite serious, though also laid back and, while were weren’t exactly running with the top dogs (who completed their puzzle within a half hour), we did finish ours before the first hour was done.
All in all, a successful weekend and the feeling of accomplishment will help us through some more frigid weather.