Tracker Pixel for Entry

​In Pursuit of Culture: Bacon and Beer

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | April 3rd, 2019

Beer and Bacon Fest - photograph provided by Zach Nerpel

By Zach Nerpel
zachnerpel@gmail.com

Surely, it wasn’t lutefisk all the way down, lefse or friendly attitudes. There had to be something more to our Upper Midwestern, white culture. I’d done extensive scientific research into the regions of our Great Country™ which led to intriguing, broad generalizations that we just couldn’t match. The East - old America, the melting pot. Commerce and tall buildings. Mafiosos, hot dog vendors.The West - manifest destiny, everything from surfing to rainforests. Silicon Valley. Liberalism and Sasquatch.The South - sweet tea and racism. Large hats and racism. Country music and racism.

But us? Jellied fish made with lye. And perhaps corn farming. All other culture seemed to belong to Native Americans or cowboys, neither of which I could claim wholly. So I decided to set out and find it on my own. What are we? What am I a part of?I had heard about a recurring event in our area, Bernie’s Bacon & Beer Festival. Dozens of breweries and distributors vying for your attention with endless samples of alcohol and foods. Hundreds of people in one building, drinking to their heart’s content with little supervision. The implications were almost too much to handle and I was giddy with excitement. I decided this was where I would first search for our identity.

It was March 16th, my birthday. We arrived, purchased our tickets, and stood in line under NDSU Bison banners. After a short wait, we were allowed in and onto the ground level of the Dome into a carnival of sorts. There were tents and people everywhere and I realized this place was much larger than I had anticipated. So large that, despite the mass of bodies, there was never a sense that the space was crowded. It was bright, though. Far brighter than the light in which I am accustomed to drinking and this worried me. People tend to restrain themselves when they feel seen, and I wanted everyone at their worst.

I forgot about it at the sight of food. I put some manner of caramel bacon sweet into my mouth and, unsurprisingly, enjoyed it. Everyone seemed to have the same idea, though, as most food items were desserts. It would have been impossible to try them all without contracting the Rot - when your stomach, so fed up with sugars and fats, acts out against you, causing internal panic and unrest. They were all very good, however. Other stalls supplied miniature sandwiches, deviled eggs, tacos, and macaroni and cheese. But I wasn’t here for the food, I was here on a very important mission.Much more beer than food was consumed, anyhow. The foods were, in fact, only punctuation marks in the long paragraph of getting drunk. There were two types of people at this event - those who waited in line for a specific drink and those who simply went to whatever was open, acquiring booze posthaste. We were in the latter category at first as our thirsts required immediate attention. 

If I were to find the core of Midwestern whiteness, I was going to do it drunk. There was no other way.

There were lagers, malts, stouts, porters, sours, IPA’s, blondes, ambers - One that tasted like cigarettes. One that tasted like lemonade. One that had no taste at all! Big names, small names, invented names - names that shouldn’t exist. Ciders! Seltzers! And necklaces made of pretzels! But worst of all, there was a mechanical pig in the center of this hoppy orgy. My spirits had never been so high, picturing the bone breakage of a drunk lad dressed in flannel, flying off at sixty or seventy miles per hour in a desperate attempt to prove his masculinity. Yes, that would be incredible.

We continued to walk around, slowing our pace and taking in the beer with more nuance. Some were absolutely dreadful and unfit for consumption. Others were real treats and eye-openers. There were also a lot of familiar beers that I’d had many times in the past. The overall mixture of familiarity and experimentalism was comforting, but I was beginning to fear there was no point to any of this.

There was a lingering in the air that grew every half hour or so: that the climax was right around the corner, hat any minute, everyone would start vomiting at once. Riots would break out over the last drops of alcohol. The mechanical pig would gain sentience and punish us for our astonishing gluttony. My cohort did not agree with me. They suggested that what I was feeling was my own drunkenness steadily increasing, but I wouldn’t have it. 

There must be more to this, I needed there to be. This couldn’t only be a celebration of consumption, could it? A place for people dressed in plaid patterns to only catch a buzz and snag a bite to eat? No, no, no, no, no - this was not good.I began to take in the event for what it was. These people liked drinking beer for reasons other than intoxication. It was unfathomable. It was too much. I would become the storm if we stayed much longer. Recognizing this, my esteemed colleague suggested we call out for our ride. I’d had dozens of brew samples by now and it was time for vodka, which was inaccessible here. And if we didn’t leave soon, I’d begin to loudly question why. But something magical finally happened as we began to leave the building. Not a hundred feet away, the much distinguishable sound of shattering glass celebrated itself in my ears. 

Finally, the ruckus was starting. Confused groups of people argued loudly over the price of Ubers and Lyfts. The bathroom stalls were filling at a record pace and everyone was all of a sudden smoking cigarettes. Bittersweetly, the funnel clouds were forming as the event was ending.

I came seeking disaster and culture and for this reason, I left feeling disappointed. Those who put together this event knew very well it needed to come to a close when it did. Had it gone on any longer, my awful dreams would have come true… and then I understood something-something I had actually known all along. 

Drinking is cultural, of course, but drinking to the point of breathtaking stupor - that is ours. 

I knew deep in my heart that if this event carried on for just two more hours, it would have been a shrieking mess. I knew that any event with alcohol in the Upper Midwest, given the right amount of time, would erupt into the familiar chaoses of ravaging political discourse, haphazard sentiments, mental and physical collapses, and wanton mischief. This re-realization hasn’t left me as comforted as I’d hoped, in the end, but it gives good reason to try and find different facets of our culture in other unknown situations. 

The Bacon & Beer Festival is, shocker, a good time if you like to drink to beer and eat bacon. I wish the lights would have been dimmer and that there were desserts, but overall it was an alright time. You’ll be hard-pressed to get better value out of fortyish bucks anywhere else, to be honest. But do not go seeking anarchy. It is not here, unfortunately. 

Recently in:

News

​Man and the moon

by C.S. Hagen

VALLEY CITY – Lowell Busching shuffled into The Vault, pointed to the staff-less counter featuring self-serve sandwiches, Kuchen, and coffee before launching into a history of the building, once a bank. Books and magazines are…

You probably won’t be connecting an Ethernet cable to your smartphone anytime soon. But it’s usually worth running Ethernet cables to the devices that matter, if you can—gaming and media PCs (or consoles), backup devices, and…

Thursday, July 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m.Zandbroz, 420 N Broadway, FargoAuthor Sarah Coomber will be making an appearance at Zandbroz for a reading and signing of her recently released memoir, "The Same Moon." Recently wed and soon…

It’s no secret Theodore Roosevelt loved North Dakota. It’s also no secret North Dakotans love Teddy. He left us with a legendary legacy and it’s no wonder that the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will be in the…

Gadfly

​Freedom???

by Ed Raymond

There Seems To Be A Lot Of Confusion About What Freedom Is!At a recent conference of the evangelical Christian’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Chairman Ralph Reed, long a hard worker for the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, had…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

By Teresa Farrelltara.Ekren@essentiahealth.orgLove it or hate it, it’s rhubarb season! Rhubarb brings back good memories for me.Growing up on the family farm, my siblings and I would head outside with a bowl of sugar, snap off…

High Plains Reader had the opportunity to catch up with Sarah Shook, front woman of the North Carolina based punk country band Sarah Shook and the Disarmers. We had a chance to talk about life and love from the road, where she…

Legendary British skipper Tracy Edwards, who in 1989 led the first all-female crew of sailors to compete in the tough-as-nails, 33,000-mile Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, makes for a convincing heroine in filmmaker Alex…

Arts

‘Local American epics’

by Sabrina Hornung

The US Postal Service recently released a set of stamps celebrating the New Deal era post office murals that were federally commissioned during the Roosevelt administration, though the mural that graces the walls of the New…

The annual mainstage summer musical, produced by Trollwood Performing Arts School and sponsored by Bell Bank, opens Thursday, July 11. This year’s performance is Disney’s “Freaky Friday.” Trollwood Performing Arts…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

If you’re from the region you may have sipped, sampled or caught word of a libation often referred to as “red eye” or “wedding whiskey” at some point. In fact some of our friends of German Russia descent swear by it. If…

Wellness

Yoga on the Farm

by Ryan Janke

Every Thursday evening during the month of June, Mara Solberg is inviting people to come out and try Yoga on the Farm. It is a unique yoga experience that was born from an idea that was proposed to Solberg.“I’ve been with Red…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights…The purpose of any political association is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of woman and man; these rights are liberty, property, security, and…