Summit founder Mark Stutrud filled us in on all the hops haps last week after hosting the press conference for Taste of Minnesota's transformational summer plans. His St. Paul brewery is finally a Taste sponsor after years of trying. July will also see Summit's fourth installment of the popular "Unchained" series, with a flavor yet to be announced. "The brewers don't even let me in on what they're doing," Stutrud said, "which is fine by me as long as they make something legal." He then did a little boasting: first about winning a gold medal at the World Beer Cup with his Extra Pale Ale; then about the fact that Summit accounts for about 10 percent of the tap lines at Target Field, a pretty high cut for a local microbrewer at a major-league ballpark. When we told him we had trouble finding one of those taps ourselves, he showed why Summit continues to prosper: He had a map already drawn up. You, too, can see a list of all the locations at SummitBrewing.com.
While Shelby Lynne was tuning her guitar at the Dakota on Saturday, bassist Brian Harrison told some jokes. After two of his dubious wisecracks bombed, he turned to his buddy, rock guru Al Kooper, who was sitting in the audience. "Al, you wanna come up here and tell one? Harrison asked. "No," Kooper shouted back. "I'm off tonight." The next night, Kooper was on. His best of many jokes to a packed house: "The average age of the people who come to see me is 'deceased.' So we're doing good tonight."
JON BREAMIt's a gift
I.W. took a busman's holiday during vacation to check out "The King and I" at Bloomington Civic Theatre. A former colleague was in the cast, and we wanted to see how writer David Mura would do in a major stage role. (He was charismatic and comfortable.) But it was a youngster who stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the fine cast. Isabella Dawis has been on our radar since she was "Annie" at Chanhassen as an 11-year-old in 2004. She plays Tuptim, the Burmese princess who is a gift to the king. Dawis knocked us out with a cultured voice and a stage presence far beyond her years. If you are offered a stock prospectus for shares in Isabella's stage future, I.W. issues a strong "buy" recommendation. Love that kid!
GRAYDON ROYCEBrand Johnny, with frosting
Maybe it's the cupcake mania caused by Cocoa & Fig and Cake Eater Bakery that made the Twin Cities ready for college-dropout-turned-entrepreneur Johnny Cupcakes (real name: Johnny Earle). Last Saturday the famed Massachusetts T-shirt designer brought his national road tour to the futuristic design store ROBOTlove, where fans eagerly awaited his white cupcake van. While his fame started with cutesy, cupcake-themed designs -- including a cupcake and crossbones -- that led Business Week to anoint him the nation's top young entrepreneur in 2008, fans admire Earle most for his self-made-man aura. It's not everyone who can jaunt around the country eating frosting and raking in money. One fan even painted him a portrait. Check out the Minneapolis segment of his tour diary on johnnycupcakes.com/blog.
REBECCA LANGFinn does the Dü
"Back when we were living up on Hennepin." So begins the new Hold Steady record, "Heaven Is Whenever," which came out Tuesday with an opening line that indicates frontman Craig Finn's return to his Twin Cities youth for lyrical inspiration. The band's last album only included one local reference, but this one features several hometown nods just in the first song, "The Sweet Part of the City," including the great line, "It's a long way from Cedar-Riverside to Cedars-Sinai." There's also a shout-out to 7th Street Entry in "Barely Breathing." And then there's "We Can Get Together," Finn's most overt nod yet to the Minnesota bands that influenced him: "There's a girl on heaven hill / I come up to her cabin still / She said Hüsker Dü got huge / But they started in St. Paul / Do you remember 'Makes No Sense at All?'" As in a lot of Craig's writing, we'll chalk up the use of the word "huge" to creative license.
CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDERA boy band? With gay members?!
According to a recent post on Craigslist, recruiting is underway for "Minneapolis' first gay boy band." The contest will be an "American Idol"-style audition at Rumours/Innuendo in downtown St. Paul. "THIS IS SERIOUS," the ad reads, "We've all heard of boy bands. We've all heard of gay boys in boy bands. But what about an entire band of gay boys." Interested parties can show up from 4 to 8 p.m. on May 14. I.W. hopes they'll play their first show at Tobias Is Queen Mary (couldn't resist an "Arrested Development" reference). While the ad may seem fruitlessly sketchy, remember that the Spice Girls started the same way.