There was The Hack, sitting there in a fifth floor conference room at the posh Graves Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, attending another food and drink event. He did that a lot for his job—but that job was gone. Laid off he was, along with his ad rep, after a decade with the company, and seven-plus years managing a small business-to-business publication that covered Minnesota’s foodservice industry.
Yet there he was. As if he were still walking the beat. A habit’s firm hold.
Dear reader, fear not. This is not a tale of woe.
He looked around the room and saw familiar faces—industry folks, including several all-stars among the local mixology scene, some other food media types. And an idea began to percolate as he sipped from the 10 glasses placed before him.
The event was titled “The Great Whisk(e)y Debate,” the participants representing the world’s four major whiskey (or whisky, if one prefers scotch), Scotland (Simon Brooking of Laphroaig), Canada (Dan Tullio of Canadian Club) the U.S. (Jim Beam’s seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe), and representing Ireland was Kieran Folliard, a Minnesota resident who clings to his homeland and native accent like any man who founded four Irish pubs and 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey would smartly do (marketing!).
The debate was more entertainment than education, with plenty of ribbing between the debaters and from the crowd—a boisterous gang from Butcher & The Boar was most vocal in support of Fred Noe. (B&B serves the most of Beam’s Knob Creek bourbon in the world.) And, for a study in marketing, it was a wonderful thing. The room had about 250 people seated to sip samples from 10 whiskeys—two from each country. All the brands are owned by Beam Inc. (Folliard sold his 2 Gingers to Beam in December 2012); they’re making money no matter what, and encouraging a little competition and independence within a company that holds more than 60 labels, from the stuff one snuck to high school parties (Pucker) to the finer spirits featured at the event.
Further, the evening was as much for the consumer buying a bottle or two as those in the business buying cases—those aficionados got to rub shoulders with the local restaurant celebs.
And, it was funny at times. Each debater had zingers to earn the crowd’s allegiance. The highlights:
Tullio: “For 13 years we Canadians quenched the thirst of you Americans during Prohibition. You’re welcome.”
Brooking: “If it’s not Scotch, it’s crap.”
Noe (to Folliard): “2 Gingers? Huh. The only Ginger I liked was on Gilligan’s Island.”
Some education could be found. Folliard explained the distillation process for 2 Gingers (it’s done twice, for starters) to make its flavor not only good on its own but distinguishable within a mixed drink. And Noe explained that Beam’s Devil’s Cut bourbon was born from a proprietary process to extract the bourbon that soaked into the wooden aging barrels. “If the angels get what goes in the air (due to evaporation),” the Hack jotted in his notes, “We’ll call what’s left in the wood the Devil’s Cut.”
For the uninitiated, probably the most shocking tastes among the 10 whiskeys sampled were the Scotches, both Lahroaigs, one aged 10 years, and define the Islay region: smokey, peaty, and incredible on the first sip. Then one wants to stuff their mouth with a Saltine to cleanse the palate. The Hack recalled from his days of beverage education that it’s common to add a touch of spring water to certain Scotches to open them up a bit, that’s what he’d do with these.
But back to that percolating idea mentioned somewhere up there. It was somewhere along the seventh or eighth sample that The Hack thought, “What the hell. Why not formally relaunch the blog.”
Why not indeed. The Hack drank, jotted some notes, schmoozed afterward for a time as he usually did before sneaking out. Then home to fuel his typing habit.
Some blog history:
The Bloated Belly was launched in 2005, back when the blogging craze began to become a permanent reality, and just a bit before the publishing landscape tipped over with the explosion of Internet surfing technology (think smartphones and tablets) and social media. The Belly first gorged itself on the blogging platform Typepad, fueled by a harried band of pros writing under pseudonyms as they experimented with this “new” medium for their day jobs as ink-stained wretches—working for companies still skeptical of the Internet (my, how that’s changed). The Bloated Belly will thankfully not be limited to the subject of food—”comments on consumption” is a broad brush indeed—nor a single contributor.
Note: If you are exploring this site for the first time, it’s loaded with material from the old site from various contributors. It’s been given a once over to eliminate items such as negative reviews for restaurants that remain in business. The Bloated Belly will no longer feature restaurant reviews, although the topic of restaurants will be discussed. Categories are next on the list to be cleaned up.