We cut you off because we love you

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Many of you knew me when I was employed at another establishment in town a few years ago. While I was there, I used to joke that I was a lot like the little creatures in the movie Gremlins; I was nice and agreeable – some might even say cuddly – until you after midnight. After 12 am, I was a surly SOB, capable of saying some truly nasty things to people. And if you were drunk and asking for another drink, I was not shy about showing you the door without your feet touching the ground.

Quite honestly, it’s one of the reasons I got out of the bartending business back then. I just don’t have a lot of patience for drunks.

I brought this up when I interviewed for my job at Imminent. Back then the prevailing idea was that we weren’t going to have too many problems with intoxicated patrons because this is a different sort of place than the local bars and pubs. We aren’t a bar, we’re a brewery with a taproom, offering a very specific product. We don’t get people coming in ordering rounds and rounds of tequila shots. We pride ourselves on being a family friendly place.

A year later, I’d say 99.5% percent of the time that prevailing idea has been correct. There have been a couple of incidents that required a person be asked to leave, but those have been few and far between. I truly believe that the vast majority of our patrons understand the kind of place we want to be. We want you to come in and hang out with friends and family. Bring your dog! Have a couple beers, but understand your limitations, and act responsibly. We offer very, very good beer. We want you to enjoy it, but not over indulge.

Mostly this is because we love you. We don’t want you to wake up the morning after a night at Imminent feeling like crap. We don’t want you make decisions with impaired judgment. We don’t want you to get in your car after drinking too much alcohol. We don’t want you to get hurt. We don’t want you to hurt anybody else.

Every now and then, we do have to tell someone that we’ve decided not to serve them any more beer. Sometimes people come in while barhopping and have been served plenty of alcohol already. Sometimes people just drink too much of our beer. However it happens, we have both a legal right and responsibility to cut them off.

That sounds like such a nasty phrase, doesn’t it? Cut them off. Nobody likes being cut off, be it in line, in traffic, in conversation or anywhere else. Being cut off never is never a positive experience.

Actually, that’s not completely true. I once observed one of my co-workers decide that a couple sitting at the bar had had plenty to drink. This person went over to them, delivered the bad news and, hand-to-God, they were laughing and high-fiving not five minutes later. For a grumpy, old-school bartender like me, it was nothing short of shocking. I still marvel at how this person cut these people off and then became best friends with them, and it is now something I hope to achieve, if and when this situation ever comes up for me.

(Not saying who the co-worker was, but her name rhymes with “poor-a-buyers”)

We don’t want to stop serving you. We’re in the business of selling beer, so NOT selling you beer would be counter-productive. Except when it comes to your own safety.

So, if it does happen to you, we really hope that you can understand that we aren’t trying to insult you, we aren’t picking on you, and by no means are we judging you. We’re cutting you off to do you a favor. Plus, we’re going to offer you a non-alcoholic beverage on the house, and we might even offer to pay for a cab to get you home. 

It’s important that you know, by the way, that this post was not inspired by any recent occurrence or incident. In fact (knock-on-wood) things have gone very smoothly of late at Imminent. In fact, that’s why we’re posting this now. We don’t want to point a finger at anybody. This is just sort of a “by the way” kind of notice.

We’re looking forward to a fantastic summer. We hope you’ll come join us, and that you’ll do so frequently. We have some very, very good beers on tap right now, with more to come, including our first Hefeweizen and the glorious return of R&R Ale. This is just a friendly reminder to keep everything together, and don’t get carried away.

And if we do have to stop serving you, we hope you’ll be our best friends five minutes later.

know your front-of-the-house manager: Laura Meyers

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Yep. Front-of-the-House manager. Those of you in the service industry are well acquainted with the term, but those of you who have never been a server/chef/bartender/restaurant worker are probably unfamiliar with the phrase because it hardly is ever used out of our little service world.

The Front-of-the-House manager oversees all operations that don’t have anything to do with preparation of food (or beverage, in our case). She manages the staff, handles all special events, schedules the entertainment and pretty much just makes sure that everything you see is running properly. It’s a big job, and one that is perfectly suited for Laura Meyers.

She grew up in Englewood, Colorado, and then lived in Tucson, Arizona, then Brookings, South Dakota, then Northern Wisconsin, then back to Colorado, then London, then Spearfish, South Dakota, then San Francisco and then Northfield.

“We moved once when I was growing up, but Englewood was the longest I’ve lived anywhere,” she said. “Since then I moved every two years until we got to Northfield.”

The other half of that “we,” of course, is her husband Derek, and the two of them make up 50% of the Imminent Brewing Ownership group. The couple have been in Northfield since the fall of 2013, but their roots to the area are deeper than that. Her brother has lived around here for quite some time (which is, in fact, one of the reasons she transferred from the University of Arizona to South Dakota State in 2004). While living in London, the two were in Northfield to be with family at Christmastime, when Derek popped the question. Laura, obviously, said yes.

This is where things get interesting.

Laura had been living in London for over a year and was unable to find a job because she didn’t have the proper visa. Derek, in London pursuing a PhD at the London School of Economics (we’ll get to that in a later post) had an idea about that.

“Derek said, ‘We should just get married now. Because then you can come back to England with me on a visa, and you could find a real job.’ We thought we were going to be there for another three years for Derek to finish, so we decided to just do it.

“So we got married, officially, in Faribault at the Rice County Courthouse in early 2010. My brother and sister-in-law were there as witnesses.

“And then we celebrated afterwards at El Tequila.”

The perfect Northfield marriage: practical, yet spur-of-the-moment; hopelessly romantic, but celebrated in jeans over tacos and margaritas.

It’s almost like they were destined to run one of Northfield’s most popular establishments.

Laura really is the perfect person to be the public’s point of contact for Imminent. While she will quietly debate her popularity, there is no doubt that everybody who knows her adores her. People just kind of love Laura Meyers. Among the reasons for that is her love of community and her desire to make the world a little bit easier for everyone.

“I really love people and I love taking care of people,” she said. “What I enjoy the most is doing events here for the community or working with somebody who is going to put that on. Working with the musicians is fun. It’s definitely stretching an edge for me because I’m not super familiar with that world. But for me this place has been as much about the space and the atmosphere that we’re creating as it is about serving good beer.”

The special events have, in fact, been a distinct point of pride for her.

“The joy for me comes from somebody walking in here and saying ‘I want to do this thing. Like, could I play music in your space, or could we do yoga in your space. Could we have an event here and celebrate so-and-so’s retirement or birthday, or We want to raise funds for this thing we want to do in the community.’ To me, creating a space for connecting with people to come together to do really good things is what this is all about for me. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it, so let’s try to give each other a little bit of kindness and generosity. Let’s give people some joy, because nobody is going to remember how much money you made, but they might remember that there was this really cool place where we got to go and hang out with our friends and make some new ones. Our friends were there, our family was there, our dogs were there, and there was really cool music, and we got to drink really good beer and eat good food.

“The thing we want,” she continued, “is to have a space that is warm and inviting to everybody. So for all of that stuff to come together, that’s what I love about doing this.”

The Extra Medium Effect

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Most of you know that I used to run SouthernMinn Scene magazine, and maybe some of you will remember this. A couple years ago, when Adele put her album 25 out, my music columnist published a column entitled “The Adele Effect,” essentially making the case that this new album had made the world a better place. People were happier and nicer to each other. The colors were deeper and more vibrant. Food tasted better. The air seemed cleaner.

Two weeks ago, we tapped our first keg of Extra Medium beer. This is a collaboration between Imminent and Subzero brewing, especially Josh Wilhelm who really developed this particular beer. Ever since we put Extra Medium on our rack, it just seems like things have gotten better.

The sun came out. The snow melted. And suddenly there are leaves on the trees and flowers are blooming.

People are smiling at the brewery more. There’s more laughter. There also seems to be more people hugging each other. The dogs are wagging their tails more. Even that big grumpy guy behind the bar has been in a better mood lately.

I’m sure that the food is tasting better, because we’ve had more than one food truck flat out run out of food while parked on our patio.

The Twins have started winning again.

The stock market is up.

Heck, after almost 70 years, the Korean War finally officially ended.

You guys ever see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Bill & Ted were a pair of 80’s slackers who formed a band called Wyld Stallyns, and their music eventually became the foundation for 1000 years of peace and prosperity in this world.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin. Why couldn’t one beer change the world?

If you haven’t indulged in the Extra Medium, you’re going to want to get over to Imminent as soon as possible. All of our beer is really good, but this is a really, really good beer. Our descriptive menu says this about it:  “An unfiltered wheat beer with local honey, and drawing a distinct orange character from 4 hop varieties with mandarin/tangerine/clementine flavor. This beer is both dry hopped and “dry peeled” with bitter orange for maximum face-punching aroma and flavor. Not too light and not too heavy, this beer is the ultimate in medium.”

It’s really the perfect beer for Minnesotans. We don’t like anything to be too extreme, but at the same time we demand things be done properly and with care. That’s maybe the most spot-on description of this golden beverage.

And that reminds me, come in during the afternoon while the sun is out, get a pint of Extra Medium and then take it out onto the patio and hold the glass up to the sun. This beer gives off a glow unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Could this be a sign that the Extra Medium is a gift from the Heavens? Anything is possible, I guess. They have beer in heaven, don’t they? I mean, after all this time, don’t you think the powers that be have gotten a little tired of wine? Martin Luther was a home brewer, wasn’t he? I’ll leave the theological debate to people smarter than me. Regardless, this beer looks really cool in the sunlight.

Look, I’m not saying that Extra Medium will make your life perfect. I’m not even promising that it will make your life better. But, if there’s a chance that it might, isn’t that worth coming to our place for a pint?

Tim's Gravel Grinder, perceived bitterness and this whole gluten reduced thing

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I stopped by the brewery the other day in search of answers, and I knew the Beer Geeks would be able to explain things to me.

Please understand that I use the term Beer Geek in a loving and respectful manner. Randy Clay, Justin Holden, Jared Allerson, Tessa Rogers, Stephen Vander Wal, Derek Myers and Laura Myers all know quite a bit about beer either from their experiences with home brewing or from their education, or combination of both. I myself have a pretty limited knowledge of the ins-and-outs of beer and what makes things what. These people are a tremendous resource for a guy like me, so I have a nickname for their little group. They are Beer Geeks.

Anyway, I was confused. Last week we unveiled our newest beer, Tim’s Gravel Grinder. It’s a Chinook IPA, which means this is a very hoppy beer made exclusively with Chinook hops. It’s also a gluten reduced beer, but we’ll get to that in more detail a little later.

My problem was that I didn’t like Tim’s Gravel Grinder and I couldn’t figure out why. My palate was telling me that this beer was far too bitter for my liking, but it was only hitting about 40 on the IBU (International Bittering Unit) scale. I don’t know much about beer, but I do know that 40 IBUs means the beer isn’t overly bitter.

So, when I got to the brewery, the first person I bumped into was Jared. I told him why I was there, and he attempted to explain the concept of “Perceived Bitterness” to me. Now, I realize that this is a little bit technical speak for many of you, but work with me here.

“IBUs aren’t necessarily going to tell you how bitter a beer tastes,” he said, “because it’s a scientific scale that measure the amount of [iso-alpha] acids. The acid content will have a lot to do with how bitter a beer is, but you also have to factor in things like malt character and some of the other ingredients. It could also be that you just don’t like the flavor of the Chinooks.”

Okay, so that made sense to me. Even though this beer doesn’t really rate high on the IBU scale, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to have a bitter flavor.

Eventually, Randy and Justin came over and joined our conversation. I still was a little unsure about using bitterness as a reason for not liking the beer. I like a good IPA. In fact, our double hopped Double Down IPA is one of my favorite beers ever. So, after a while, Randy asked me when had I tried the beer, and I told him that it was probably a week ago. He pulled a small sample of the Guard Down IPA and a sample of the Gravel Grinder for me, and asked me to compare the two. I tried the Guard Down, of which I am very fond, first. It was just what I expected. Guard Down is not what they call a “hop forward” beer; most of its flavor is in the aftertaste.

So, then I tried the Gravel Grinder again, and lo and behold, this was almost a completely different beer from what I had first experienced. It had mellowed, and in fact tasted sort of like the exact opposite of the Guard Down. All the flavor seemed to be up front, and it finished very subtly.

Randy has tried to explain this to me before: when beer ages, it changes. The flavors open up and evolve a little bit. I had tried the Gravel Grinder almost as soon as it was ready to be tapped, and didn’t care for it. A week later, whatever was going on with that beer was working for me. This was suddenly a very good beer.

The moral of the story is this: don’t be so quick to judge a beer. You might not like something on your first visit to Imminent, but try it again the next time you come in. You might be pleasantly surprised.

We should also discuss this Gluten Reduced thing.

Tim’s Gravel Grinder has been treated with something called Brewers Clarex. Essentially, it’s an enzyme that breaks down the gluten proteins in beer. The additive has been used by brewers for a long time to eliminate haze and make the beer look clearer, but only recently have people figured out just exactly what it’s doing. By eliminating the amino acid chains that create gluten proteins, not only is the beer clearer, but most of the gluten has been removed as well.

We cannot legally use the term “Gluten Free” for reasons that pass my understanding, however I can say that the FDA calls anything with less than 20 gluten parts per million as gluten free. The Gravel Grinder came in at less than 10.

We’re also in the process of having the Gateway Cream Ale tested for gluten as well, and we anticipate that it will come back with the same results. Stay tuned for more information there.

So, that’s the story on Tim’s Gravel Grinder. Far more complicated than one would think for such a simple beer, but it made for some interesting conversation and I learned some stuff I thought you guys should know.

We’ll be open at 4 pm today. Come get yourself a Gravel Grinder.