Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Minnesotan walks into a bar . . .

. . . and orders a pint of Firestone 805. He had taken the barstool next to me and introduced himself as Jack. His beer arrived but the bartender moved onto the next thirsty customer before Jack could ask for a nearby salt shaker. I noticed his unanswered request and offered to pass it to him, although I wondered what he could have wanted with it since he hadn't ordered any food.

805 is a golden ale also known as a blonde ale which according to the Denver Post is one of the fastest-growing craft beer segments and ". . . is decidedly less hoppy and in-your-face – two characteristics that describe why a majority of Americans prefer big corporate lagers to strong, bitter IPAs." (For the first time, the 3 best-selling beers in America are light beers. Can craft brewers catch up?)

Jack shook salt into his freshly poured beer, causing it to foam up slightly. Noting he ordered a lighter beer, I asked him if that was the reason for adding salt. He just shrugged and said, "It's a Minnesota thing." He further explained that to really do it right, one would toss in a couple olives as well.

Confounded, I asked a friend on Christmas day if she had every heard of adding salt to beer. She was from Buffalo and drinking Lablatt Blue, a pilsner, also a lighter style beer. She said, "Oh, yeah. Canadians do it all the time," although she didn't care for the practice herself.

Brewers will sometimes use salt in the brewing process, most often in a Gose. Sometimes, salt is used to treat the water, as in a Bitter. It might be added to a Stout to enhance mouthfeel. But, I could find no explanation for adding salt to the finished product. The internet offered few answers. Many sites offered that this became a habit of octogenarian beer drinkers since beer quality suffered during WWII due to scarcity of quality ingredients. (Jack was an older fellow but not that old.)

Another site offered this was the habit of farmers who toiled in the hot sun and found that adding salt helped quench their thirst. (I was unaware if Jack was a farmer.) Another site suggested adding salt removed beer's bitterness. (As far as I know, 805 is not bitter.)

I could find nothing about adding salt and olives to beer although I did find a website identifying a Beertini as the addition of olives to beer and called it a midwestern staple: "a simple combination of crappy beer and green olives." (PUNCH | How the Beertini Became a Midwestern Staple)

I like olives in my vodka but not in my beer! I like my beer unadorned, thank you, much like coffee and potato chips. I don't need to disguise their original flavors. But, will it improve a "crappy" beer? If salt is a flavor enhancer, then what flavor, exactly, is getting enhanced?

I think I'll steer clear of Minnesota.

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