It's a Wee Heavy

Ode to a thistle.jpg

Scottish accents are fun, aren’t they? You get to talk in the back of your throat and say even the happiest, prettiest things while sounding like a maniacal lunatic. Robin Williams was never funnier than when he was talking about Scottish accents, or Scotland in general (I’m not going to link it here, because it is decidedly R rated, but go find his bit on YouTube about Scotland and golf). I once tried to walk into a pub in Edinburgh, and it took me three minutes to understand that the doorman wouldn’t let me in because I was wearing blue jeans. Ask me to tell you the story sometime. Writing it just won’t do it justice.

Accents aside, there’s plenty to take seriously about Scotland. Like booze, for example. The Scottish people take their alcohol very seriously. And while they may be best known for their whiskey, they’ve been brewing beer in Scotland for about 5000 years, so one would think they know what they’re doing there, too. The typical Scottish ale is strong and hearty, dark, malty and full bodied. It’s also generally high in alcohol content. Like the Highlands themselves, a Scottish Ale is not for the faint of heart.

As the temperatures continue to fall, then, and as we brace ourselves for the coming winter, it makes sense that Imminent Brewing would pick this time to introduce our very first Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Ode to a Thistle.

“This ale is very malty and rich,” said Brewmaster Randy Clay. “It’s also pretty high gravity. It’s 10.7% ABV, so it’s definitely a Wintertime sipper.”

“A Strong Scotch Ale, particular this one, is very malty beer that has notes of toasted bread and toffee. It’s not earthy or peaty like in scotch whiskey. There’s no smoke to it. At 10.7% there is definitely a pronounced alcoholic warmth that you get when you drink this beer, but it’s not harsh or unpleasant. You can’t smell it. You don’t get it until you drink it, and then, it’s like ‘Whoo, now that’s a 10% beer because now I’m all warm.’”

It’s called a Wee Heavy because, in Scotland when beers get to be so high in alcohol content like this one, they’re only sold in small amounts. A “Heavy” is a strong beer. “Wee,” of course, means small. A Wee Heavy is a beer that won’t take much to get you going, so you don’t need a lot of it. (This is all according to Wikipedia, by the way. You can look it up.) As such, we’ll be following Scottish tradition with this beer.

“We won’t serve it in pints, and we won’t serve it in Growlers,” said Randy. “This is more of a beer lovers beer. This is for the educated pallet. It’s not a Gateway. You wouldn’t hand someone a 10.7% Wee Heavy and say, ‘Hey this is what Craft Beer is all about.’

“This is for the smaller glasses and the Howlers.”

There’s a story behind that name, Ode to a Thistle, by the way. It’s a way for us to give credit where credit is due.

“Our friend Steve Finnie is a Scottish brewer that owns Little Thistle Brewing in Rochester. The Thistle is the national symbol of Scotland. When I was coming up with this idea for a Scotch Ale, I called Steve to pick his brain. I was asking him about the yeast, because usually when we brew we have two different kinds of yeast that we use, but on these one-offs you want to a yeast strain that is specific to that style of beer. So while I was asking for input, Steve just said he has more yeast than he knows what to do with, and he offered to give us some. We accepted, and it made this big giant beer that we’re really happy with.

“In honor of Steve and his generosity, we’ve named the beer Ode to a Thistle.”

There are big plans for the big beer, too. For quite some time now, even before we opened, the plan has been to offer some high ABV, barrel aged beers. The first was the American Strong Ale, Miles to Goat, that we offered this past spring (the barrel aged version, by the way, is coming at the beginning of next month). This is the second style that we’ll put into whiskey barrels to age. Randy is really excited about this one, in particular.

“What’s kind of nice about this beer is that it will get better with age. Even the beer that we’re kegging now and not putting into barrels will get better.

“We’re going to take a couple kegs of the Wee Heavy and put them aside so we can serve it again in a year, when the beer that we’re barreling is ready. It’ll be cool to have a barreled version and an unbarreled version.”

Randy is a guy who gets excited about all of our beers, but he’s particularly happy with Ode to a Thistle and all the different variations we’re going to be able to offer.

“This was always the plan,” he said. “It’s a style I really enjoy.

“I’m really happy to unleash this on the public.”


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Ah, the Great American Weekend.

(We can call it that right? I’m sure weekends in Canada or Switzerland are lovely, but we’re in America and so we have the Great American Weekend. And do they even have weekends in Russia?)

Anyway, the Great American Weekend is just fundamental to our way of life. And if your house is anything like mine was growing up, Saturdays are for chores and Sundays are for loafing. And frankly, that can kind of make Sundays kind of boring. Heck, it used to be that things wouldn’t even be open on Sundays. Even now in a small town like Northfield, Sundays are seen as a day to rest and regroup. Certainly, one does not think of Sunday as a big “bar” day.

Well, lucky for you, we don’t really think of Imminent as a bar, because Sundays are spectacular days at the Taproom.

Sundays are for Yoga. Now every Sunday morning, (including this Sunday, by the way) we offer Yoga on Tap. Bring a Yoga mat and $10 with you and find some peace and balance among the kegs and bar stools. Instructors Michelle Moad and Sarah Bach-Bergs are incredibly welcoming and are good with all levels of yoga experience. And when you’re done, you can have a tasty, complimentary beverage. Beer, soda, Kombucha – whatever we have to offer. Beer and Yoga. It’s pretty great.

For the foreseeable future, which means through March, Northfield caterer and amazing culinary artist Shawnee Langworthy is offering brunch every Sunday. Shawnee’s creations range from gourmet pizzas (think Blackberry and Fennel, or Pear and Sausage with an organic egg) to Cheesy Bread Pudding Batons, to – oh my God - Apple French Toast Bake served with Red Cabbage, Date & Feta Slaw. Add to that a fresh, hot cup of Groundwire coffee or maybe a Betty Lou’s Brown Ale (or both). Café Shawn runs from 12-3, but she’s been really popular since this started and it’s possible she could run out of food before 3:00, so you should plan accordingly.

Every other Sunday night, Carleton professor Arnab Chakladar brings his long running and challenging-as-hell quiz night to Imminent. This is not your average bar trivia; this is a real test of one’s cognitive abilities. Categories can range from current events to geography to movies to pretty much anything. There’s always an audio round which is usually about music, but has in the past asked contestants to name a stand-up comedian based on a short clip from their routine, or to identify a movie based on a bit of dialogue. There’s usually a puzzle round as well. Contestants are allowed to form teams of no more than 4 people, and it costs each team $5 to play. Arnab’s quiz night is very popular. We always have a full house, but there is always room for more competitors.

On the Sunday nights we don’t have quiz night, there’s a halfway decent chance that we will have some live jazz.

Just as an aside, did you know that Imminent Brewing was just named Best Small Music Venue in Southern Minnesota by the readers of SouthernMinn Scene magazine? We thank all of those who voted for us, and humbly accept that award. And I will say that you people know what you’re talking about it.

Part of the reason we won that award, I think, is due to the jazz bands that we get to play here from time to time. The guys from TLA - Dave Hagedorn on the vibes, Kevin Clement on bass and Eric Hanson on drums – have been with us from almost since we opened, and we consider them to be one of our “house bands.” If you’ve seen them you know how good they are, and if you haven’t you should try to find a night to come see them. There are people playing in New York City on a nightly basis who aren’t as good as these guys. For that matter, Trombonist JC Sanford actually does play in New York on a regular basis, but as a Northfield native (and resident), he plays at Imminent once a month, generally on Sundays (but sometimes on Thursdays). And when JC comes he brings some pretty amazing people with him. Bassist Chris Bates and his drummer brother JT Bates are two of the most well respected jazz musicians in the Twin Cities, and they play with JC here all the time. We’ve made some friends in the Twin Cities jazz scene, and because of that, we’re able to bring you some world-class music. And that generally happens on Sunday.

The other thing Sunday is for, of course, is football. Now, by no means is Imminent Brewing a sports bar. We’ve already established that we’re not even a bar, and we only have two TV’s. However, we do enjoy watching the Vikings on Sunday. A couple of our bartenders, and many of our regulars are Packer fans, so as often as we are able, we’ll get Green Bay on TV as well. If you’re looking for a nice, laid back atmosphere to watch a game, we’ve got you covered there, too.

So, don’t be so quick to write Sundays off. Sundays are big days for us at Imminent. Come spend your day of rest here.

know your bartender: Spencer Whiteley


If you’re an Imminent Brewing regular - and if you aren’t you should re-examine your lifestyle choices - you’ve noticed some new faces behind the bar this fall. Once the summer ended, our friends Khal and Jamie found gainful employment in Minneapolis and Decorah (respectively), and Annie returned to her job at Carleton. After fourteen months of a ridiculously stable labor situation, the Imminent Bosses decided it was time to hire some new people.

Ladies and gentlemen we now have our very first group of Imminent Newbies.

This is pretty cool, and so far, it’s been pretty fun. The three people that were hired have fit in extremely well, which is a credit to them because this is a pretty close-knit staff. Sliding right in to something like this isn’t super easy. And for those of us who have been here for a while, it’s been kind of great to meet these folks and get to know them. What’s been especially fun has been to see the looks on their faces when I tell them they all have to talk with me for a little while so I can write things about them on the blog.

I have promised to be nice (sort of). So anyway, here we go… 

We begin with Spencer Whiteley, the first of the three to join the staff. However, they kind of take issue with this whole “new” label.

“I’ve been here almost two months already,” they said.

Spencer’s the smallish bartender from Hudson, Wisconsin with the short hair, glasses, an unfortunate lactose intolerance, and a smile as big as the bar itself. Spend any time at all talking to them and you’ll quickly realize that Spencer is about as smart and charming as they come. Having graduated from St. Olaf last spring, one wonders why on Earth are they still in Northfield?

“I came back to Northfield because my girlfriend is doing a fellowship here.”

Ah yes. The girlfriend. Emma. Why else does a young person choose to live anywhere?

I’m kidding. We adore Emma, and wholeheartedly endorse Spencer’s decision to be here with her. And honestly, it just makes sense. 

“My options after graduation were to go home to Hudson, which I didn’t really want to do, or live in the Cities or live here,” they said. “I would feel ridiculous if I lived anywhere else because, honestly, I would be here all the time anyway.”

So, the plan is to spend the year in Northfield, work and apply to grad schools. Imminent, we are proud to report, was Spencer’s first choice when they went looking for a job.


“I also work at the YMCA.”


“I worked at the YMCA in Hudson, and it made sense to get a job there.

“But I did think of Imminent right away. I knew that I would need a couple of jobs for the year, and this was a place where I thought I would want to work. Once I knew that I’d be moving back to Northfield in mid-July, I emailed Laura immediately”

At St. Olaf, Spencer majored in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies, and also had a concentration in Race and Ethnic studies. Alongside their studies, they were also key organizers for a couple important student resource groups.

“I was the coordinator of Glow!, which stands for Gay Lesbian Or Whatever (with an exclamation point). I also helped to start the college funded Gender and Sexuality Center. When St. Olaf was being investigated for Title IX issues, one of the things that came up is that there is a Wellness Center, but there was no Gender and Sexuality Center. And that makes it difficult to have adequate resources for students. So, when the college decided to allocate funds for something like this, they hired a woman to be the director and told her she could have one student worker. She had already worked closely together on a couple of Glow! projects, so she thought of me right away, and we started this Gender and Sexuality Center. They just gave us a budget and said ‘Build something that is good.’”

Which they did.

And, no, you aren’t misreading anything. Spencer’s pronouns are “They” and “Them.”

“I identify as Transgender. I don’t feel super attached to any identity word, which makes it more complicated for other people. What I know is that I do not identify as a man, nor do I identify as a woman. Neither of those words are super comfy, nor do they feel right. I prefer to use the pronouns ‘They’ and ‘Them’ because it feels better than ‘He’ or ‘She.’”

The gender thing, they said, can make for some really interesting conversations at their other job.

“I work with kids [at the YMCA], and I think the questions are great. Kids are my favorite because they don’t have a filter. They ask if I’m ‘a boy or a girl.’ I just tell them that I’m not a boy or a girl and I get different responses like ‘Oh, okay’ or ‘That’s not a thing’ or ‘How?’ Usually, I just say well some people are boys and some people are girls and some people are just people. And that usually does it.”

Aside from the fact that they have to be at work ridiculously early in the morning, Spencer loves working at the “Y.”

“I am the Youth Sports Lead. I do all the youth sports. I coach every sport that the Y has to offer to the kiddos. Right now I’m coaching volleyball to 3rd – 5th grade girls, and I’m coaching basketball for kids kindergarten through 5th grade. It’s really fun, but it’s organized chaos.  And sometimes the short basketball hoops aren’t short enough for some of the kids. But they’re all really cute.

“I like having a job where I work primarily with kids and then having a job working with adults.

“And I love Imminent. I loved coming here when I was a student. I always had great times here. I love the beer. I had never bartended before, but it was something that I thought – if I was going to bartend, this was the place where I would want to do it.

“It’s worked out. I’m a big fan.”

Northfield's most underrated band, Lone Rock is back on Saturday

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There is so much going on at Imminent Brewing right now, that it’s tough to choose a topic for this blog post.

We have a new beer: Palisade Peach Ale, made with so many Colorado peaches one wonders if there are any peaches left in Colorado. But this beer tastes different than you’ve come to expect from the IPAs or other ales that have sort of a peach finish. The full rich taste of peach is in this beer without being overly sweet. I will tell you that I do not care for peaches, but I think this is a very good beer.

We have some really cool new merch, too. Most notably, we are now offering a 64 oz, stainless steel growler. Have you seen this thing? It’s awesome! Made by Miir, these things are well insulated with a handle built into the cap. More importantly, they look awesome. At $80, they are something you might have to budget for, but they do come filled with the Imminent beer of your choice as well. We also have new hats available, in three colors: blue, light blue and sort of a peachy orange, perhaps to match the new beer. If you’re interested in seeing the new hats modeled, come in on Friday or Saturday night this week, where I’ll be showing off my awesome new dark blue one.

We even have new people! Everybody please welcome Spencer Whiteley, Pete Smith and Alex David to the Imminent crew. We’ll spend more time with each of them in coming blog posts, but we wanted all of you to know that these three were chosen from a very deep pool of candidates. Becoming a bartender is no easy task, and all the finalists should feel good about themselves. Spencer, Pete and Alex just seemed to be the best fit for our little community. They are all looking forward to getting to know you guys. We think you’re really going to like them.

So with all of that going on, I’m choosing to go with a surprising little twist. I want to talk about a band that has played at Imminent three or four different times – and will again on Saturday night - and has played around Northfield for a while, but somehow has flown under the radar. That band is Lone Rock

Now, let’s be honest. If you’re looking for flash and pizazz, well this probably isn’t your band. But if you want to hear great country music, great blues and asmattering of soul stirring R&B, Lone Rock is your group. Barb Piper and Ed Treinen who front the band are two of the most underrated, and in my opinion, taken-for-granted musicians in the very fertile Northfield music scene. They’ve played together for years, and even before they teamed up, they both could be found playing on any given weekend night in any of the local music venues. Barb is the sweet singing, multi-instrumentalist with what has to be one of the best voices around here. Ed, meanwhile, is Northfield’s friendly neighborhood harmonica player, with a pretty sweet voice of his own. When the two of them sing together, it becomes obvious that these two were meant to sing together. Take a listen to them when they sing Delbert McClinton’s “When Rita Leaves.” It’s the rare cover that transcends the original.

Joining Ed and Barb, is the unassuming, but face-smackingly talented Dan Dotzler on lead guitar and occasional vocals. DO NOT let him out of the building without singing Charlie Daniel’s Long Haired Country Boy. Dan’s tightly cropped locks notwithstanding, his performance of that song is consistently one of the great reasons to be a local music fan in Rice County.

Lone Rock is a family affair. Barb and Ed are a couple, and Dan and Barb are brother and sister. The rhythm section, Dave “Trip” Damme on bass and Dave Card on drums, are brothers-in-law. The two have played together for years in different bands (including the now somewhat legendary Prairie Dog Fight Club) and know exactly how to a song together and moving.

This is a band with huge talent at all turns, and one that has never really received its due respect in the music-loving town. I cannot recommend them enough. Come down to Imminent on Saturday night to hear just exactly what I’m talking about.