JoelB in conversation, BethH-C helping with buckles. Photo courtesy of Ron Engh

Fitzpatrick and I attended the Winter Frolic event this year at the North West Company Fur Post, a first for both of us. We were both immensely impressed by the event and grateful to the O’Malleys for a ride to and from the event.

This annual special event is a chance for the site to show off its winter interpretation . . . good snow cover, a frozen river, sixty pairs of snow shoes and the skills and enthusiasm of La Compagnie members and site staff and volunteers gave visitors an authentic view of the seasonal nature of the fur trade.

SpenceJ and SteveB explaining fishing from tipi on the frozen Snake River . . . maybe 20 inches of ice topped by 6 inches of slush! Photo courtesy of Pluskwik Photography

Though the weather was unusually mild and wet, the event was well attended with lots of great activities for visitors. Spencer’s ice fishing lodge was a favorite but the curling was challenging and a lot of kids had fun there despite the ice being more of a water hazard than a curling field (are they called fields?). Inside there was winter storytelling and lots of “tavern” games such as Nine-Men’s-Morris to distract visitors from their thoroughly soaked mittens and boots.

The festivities eventually wrapped up with the final event seemingly being the carrying sleeping toddlers to cars for the trip home. Thanks to Mrs. O’Malley for portaging at least one child from Visitor Center to a waiting conveyance.

Once business was complete, La Compagnie members made their way to the beautiful and energy efficient Brambleigh Cottage. There we were joined by site staff and several Fur Post volunteers, including one who was visiting our fair state from Kazakhstan. What a treat!

Speaking of treats, the food and companionship exceeded all expectations with a stand-out among the foods difficult to judge. Though I am a fan of pulled pork as a rule, the sweet-spicy chicken legs were a big hit and I noticed several second helpings of corn pudding make their way to the table, along with some incredible spicy pickled vegetables.

Which beer is which? All ready for the blind taste test at Brambleigh Cottage. Photo courtesy of Jacki Bedworth

By the time dinner wrapped we were all ready for a bit of relaxing with a beverage of choice but for one problem; too many choices. Apparently, our tradition is to organize a blind taste test of a period appropriate beverage. I heard reports of tests of rum, port and sherry, whiskey, cider and perry in recent years; this year’s subject was craft beers. What a civilized course of action!

A total of eleven entries were dutifully disguised by our lovely hostess, a variety of small, delicate glasses were dispensed and things got serious for a spell. Well, semi serious, at least.

The beers were named thus and comments (in italics below) solicited. At the end, covers were removed and the votes tallied. I’ve identified each beer in brackets following the comments.

  1. Matins: nice IPA, light, bubbly, very hoppy (or was that happy?). [Summit Extra Pale Ale]
  2. Morning: light, sunny, good but #1 was better, very hoppy taste, pale, but…. (full disclosure; I was way off on this one) [Summit True Brit IPA]
  3. Midnight: “smoked” Porter, nice coffee notes but a hint of bilge water, bready, thick mouth feel, sweetish, yeasty (there was a notable shift towards the connoisseur at this point), rather smoky, almost burnt. [Great Lakes Brewing, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter]
  4. Sunset: #3 was better, burnt, kinda nothing remarkable. [Great Lakes Brewing (?) Lake Superior Oatmeal Stout]
  5. Mid-Day: red IPA or rye, sharp start, bland finish, sippable! a “tea time” beer, I am so over this. [Summit Winter Ale]
  6. Noon: porter, chocolate but not smooth, too sweet, kinda decent nkiebs (apparently, speech can become slurred even while writing). [Summit Porter]
  7. Twilight: stout but better, kinda syrupy, burnt chocolate stout, strong but not bad strong. [Flat Earth, Sygnus X-1 Porter]
  8. Splendor: little aroma, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger”, wheat beer though not of German descent, not a Weiss, a touch sour, like a shandy, hardly any nose. [Castle Danger Brewing, Castle Cream Ale]
  9. Commodore: citrus, sharp but nice, beer for a bender, lovely IPA, nice nose with a fresh finish. [Bent Paddle Brewing, Harness IPA]
  10. Dawn: stout, harsh, bitter, burnt porter, very drinkable, my #2. [Northbound Brewpub, Icehouse Porter]
  11. Sunrise: red and tart, fruity, Swedish Jell-O, a Lambic from Belgium??!!, Wisconsin cherry? light but not too, raspberry tones, sweet and sassy. [New Glarus, Raspberry Tart Wisconsin Ale]

My memory of the event gets muddy, or perhaps malty, at this point but I believe the New Glarus Raspberry Tart won the overall voting. Being from Wisconsin and not generally associating beer and sipping, I really enjoyed the idea of beer from tiny glasses and want to thank our hosts and all present for a very agreeable evening.

SteveB, Drake and Widgeon pulling the cariole to the river. Photo courtesy of Ron Engh

Most of us tucked into our beds in the cozy cottage by the river around midnight, though a few lingered over conversation. Fitz and I were introduced to the hilarity and skill of a new, old board game, croquignole, or crokinole, quickly discovered that once we started playing, it was difficult to stop.

Next morning, breakfast was again a feast and deeply appreciated by all. A short tour of the wood shop followed, good byes exchanged, and we went on our ways to farm and city. I suspect we will be back next year.

Cheers to La Compagnie!
Cheers to the host and hostess!
Cheers to all and good health!
Thank you,
Patrick D-S

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