The first year I spent a weekend on the St. Croix River island where my wife’s family and friends have been camping for 20-plus years, I was struck by how fundamental fire was to the experience.
From the moment we stepped foot on the island to when we shoved off back down the river two days later, there was a fire blazing in the makeshift pit and a trail of smoke rising through the tree canopy and into the sky. Most of the day, a grill grate suspended from a metal tripod was lowered over the glowing coals and loaded with all manner of brats, burgers, chicken wings, vegetables, steaks, and fish filets that were tended by a rotating cast of campfire cooks. After dusk each night, the tripod was set aside, the fire stoked into a bonfire, and the 20-plus campers gathered around to share drinks and participate in a welcome ceremony for first-time campers.
The experience reminded me that fire is essential to so much of our human culture, from cooking and brewing to forging cast iron and even fire-dancing. Yet, the line between fire as a creative force and a destructive one is as thin as a brittle blade of grass. One loose ember can unleash wildfires that ravage the landscape, destroying homes and, as was the case for many vineyards in northern California and Oregon, where smoke tainted the grape harvest, threatening livelihoods. This month, our issue explores the creative and destructive sides of fire, as well as profiles the firefighters who experience both realities of that wide-ranging spectrum.
This issue also marks two firsts for the magazine: It’s the first time our pages have been graced by a piece of fiction, the darkly comedic short story “The Oxygen Bar,” by local writer John Jodzio; and it’s also the issue in which we’re proud to announce the results of our first-ever blind tasting beer festival, Unlabeled No. 1: Hazy IPA.
We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the intrepid beer drinkers showed up to taste and rate 49 Minnesota-made hazy IPAs to determine the best local example of the popular beer style. We hope that you learned more about the style, your personal preferences, and possibly even walked away with a new favorite brewery.
As an ongoing series, we hope more of you will join us for our second event, Unlabeled No. 2: Oktoberfest on Friday, September 20, in Upper Landing Park, St. Paul.
Fanning the Flames
Minneapolis Fire Collective Creates Connections and Burns Down Barriers
By Patrick Strait and Marla Klein
“The Oxygen Bar”
A Short Story
By John Jodzio
Lisa Friedrich’s explosive gunpowder art
By Eli Radtke
American Skillet Company and FeLion Studios’ Alisa Toninato forges a career in cast iron art
By Lindsay Christians
Blazes of Glory
Pyrotechnic designers and engineers add fiery drama to the concert experience
By Kayla Song, The Current
This month: “Extreme Heat”
By Andrew J. Ries and Victor Barocas
The Taste Test: Hazy IPA
The Best Hazy IPAs from The Growler’s editorial staff and from Unlabeled No. 1: Hazy IPA
By John Garland
Barley, Water, and Heat
The careful craft behind estate barley malt at Vertical Malt
By David Haeselin
Spirits Close-Up: Quit Smoking
A Recipe for the smoky cocktail alternative, U Can’t Torch This
By Zachary Sapato
Wine Time: Earth, Wine, and Fire
West Coast vineyards are now faced with the challenge of smoke-tainted grapes
By Britt Tracy
What We’re Drinking
By The Growler Staff
Feeling the Burn
How Chile Peppers Change the Way We Cook, Dine, and Even Process Pain
By James Norton
Anatomy of a Hot Sauce
When Beer Met Chiles
Buying and Handling Chiles & Aguachile: Ceviche with a Kick
A chef’s tour of the joy and agony of cooking over a live fire
By JD Fratzke
Up in Smoke
Alejandro Castillon is using the smoker at Prieto Taqueria to unite classic Mexican fare and global techniques
By James Norton
Building bonds and perfecting recipes around the station’s dinner table
By Amy Rea
Looking for past issues? Browse The Growler Archive.