Beer, Beethoven, and Black Sheep

Confession: I skipped lunch and drank copious amounts of beer last Thursday. 




Did I get your attention? Good! I didn't skip lunch and drink copious amounts of beer at the same time. But Thursday was one for the record books in terms of spontaneous, incredibly fun, memorable moments, which is well worth the blog starter fake-out. 

I cranked up Classical MPR and pulled out of my building on Thursday morning just as the DJ started gushing about some amazing prodigy quartet from Rice University. She played them, I was instantly riveted, and she capped it off announcing they'd be performing a free Beethoven quartet at noon...right across the street from my office. 

The Schubert Club is a Twin Cities area classical performing arts organization that's been in existence for over 130 years, bringing a wide range of artists and venues together to provide ample performance and listening opportunities in the Twin Cities for classical music lovers and novices alike. The performance I heard advertised was one of their "Courtroom Concerts," bringing local and international artists in for intimate performances in an old courtroom of the Saint Paul Landmark Center. The acoustics are great, the artists get up close and personal, and the experience sounded too unique and serendipitous to miss. So I skipped lunch and headed over around 11:45 to hear the Cordova Quartet in person! 

The Corvoda Quartet is a group of guys my age who met as undergrad soloists at Rice University, and are now artists in residence studying at the University of Texas. They're spending several months in the Twin Cities mentoring high schoolers at the MacPhail Center for Music. They're adorable (um, hi) and incredibly talented. The emcee for the day, a Schubert Club composer-in-residence, ran through their bios, which featured as much about their personal lives as their professional bios. How's this for accomplished: One of them is a fiddling champ and award-winning swing dancer, one founded a young people's international summer music festival in Italy, one has a passion for craft beer, and one founded a concert series in Aspen so he could ski AND perform. How do I date one?!?!

The performance was mind-bendingly amazing. I really enjoyed that the emcee gave background on the piece before the show: Beethoven composed this quartet just as he accepted he was going deaf, and the original score supposedly had numerous personal notes written in the margins, including this gem: "Let your deafness no longer be a secret, even in art!" How inspiring! The quartet was composed for an artistic, autocratic count and was written to be avant-garde and totally different, heavy on diminished chords, inversions and riffs on melodies that weren't widely accepted at the time. Beethoven's response, upon receiving criticism for the piece's "weirdness?" "This is not a piece for your is for after." 

The Cordova guys did it insane justice, and encored with a Haydn piece that was dizzyingly technical and fast. I adore string performances...just watching the artistry, movement, and the way the four of them played off each other and exchanged raised eyebrows, leaned into each other and even winked added so much to the experience. I'll absolutely be returning for more Courtroom Concerts...there may not be such a thing as free lunch, but I'll take free music in lieu of lunch any day. 

After work, I met Kelsie to continue our Twin Cities taproom explorations! This time, we ventured to Tin Whiskers, a relative newbie to the scene within walking distance of my office. The brewery was founded by three electrical engineers as an after-hours project, and quickly blossomed into a unique, thriving taproom themed around their day jobs!


All the beers are named after electrical engineering jokes or concepts...the Ampere Amber, Short Circuit Stout, and Flipswitch IPA are joined this fall by the Schottky Pumpkin Ale, named after a renowned physicist. Even Tin Whiskers is an engineering concept...named for the way tin sometimes forms feathery "whiskers" on its surface, causing short circuits. We ended up sitting and talking to two employees, who were happy to show us an example of "whiskers"...on a piece of the space shuttle Endeavor, nonetheless! 

Kels and I decided to order two flights...the best way to sample every beer they had. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that every one of the beers was one I would order again, independent of the flight. Their light beers were smooth, their dark beers were complex and savory...particularly the stout, which had the yummiest hazelnut undertones...but my personal favorite was the Nitro'd IPA. I had no idea what it meant to "nitro" a beer, but apparently it's just a way to add carbonation with nitrogen instead of CO2. It results in a smoother, creamier finish with super-dense foam. I was so excited about it that I sloshed half of it down my arm/watch...and got another free flight of it just because! 

The taproom was super industrial, and prominently featured their darling little robot logo. There were numerous board games set out for patrons' enjoyment, the beer list scrolled across a few TVs, and the bar was open to the giant back-room neat! 

Best part of Tin Whiskers, if you ask me? Black Sheep Pizza delivers there from their St. Paul location right around the corner! Kels and I, after large amounts of yummy beer on empty stomachs, couldn't have been more excited about the prospect of coal-fired pizza. We ordered two...their amazing meatball ricotta, with roasted garlic, and a smoked mozzarella-and-pepperoni combo that made my taste buds sing. The leftovers tasted just as good the next day for lunch! 

There you have it, friends...a November Thursday that highlighted how far I've come since last year in all the best ways. Beethoven over lunch break, leaving for happy hour before the post-Daylight Savings sunset, totally relaxed and loving life? I'll take it, every Thursday please!