Brewfest at Black Bear with Dropkick Murphys

Paul Whyte

It was an overcast yet fairly warm afternoon Saturday, February 23. I had the day off and had made plans to run around and see a variety of shows that evening including Tobin Dack at Amazing Grace, Cait Leary at Thirsty Pagan and end the night off at Norms for Xhaust. I had some time on my hands before the show at Amazing Grace so I did what I usually do when I have some time and it’s between 3 and 6 p.m. in downtown Duluth, I swung into to Pizza Luce’ for their happy hour.
Before the bartender could even take my order a friend that was at the bar turned to me and asked if I wanted to go to the brewfest and Dropkick Murphys show at Black Bear Casino. The reason I even had the day off was to go to this event but when I had the extra money for a ticket it had already sold out. I knew that I’d eventually see all of the acts I originally wanted to see sometime in the near future, but catching the Dropkick Murphys in this area at a brewfest was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not to mention that I’ve lived in the area for a decade and had yet to go to a brewfest. With my night’s plans changed, I readily ate my meal and stood in line outside of Dubh Linn’s with a crowd of people waiting for the

Brewfest at Black Bear
Brewfest at Black Bear
Carlos Creek Winery Booth
Carlos Creek Winery Booth
Nick Deluca Samples. The Kona Nut Brown Ale.
Nick Deluca Samples. The Kona Nut Brown Ale.
Dropktick Murphys at Brewfest
Dropktick Murphys at Brewfest

Upon entering the Otter Creek Event Center at Blackbear it was easy to see that the event was indeed sold out. Hundreds of people from all walks of life were perusing the over 30 booths of breweries and wineries, many of them local.

A few of the beverages I sampled included:

Canal Park Brewery-Stoned Surf IPA

This IPA has a certain grapefruit flavor that sits right where it should. I’ve had beers that have taken similar tastes overboard to the point where it’s overpowering and making it through one pint seems more a chore than an enjoyable experience. The taste of the Stoned Surf balances out the character of the hops and the kind of sour/spicy taste. When I stopped into Canal Park Brewery a couple of months ago I played it safe with the Clean Dirt Pub Draught, which is a safe beer that goes well with any dish, in this case their fish sandwich. I also tried their oatmeal stout which was amazingly smooth and creamy.

Capital Brewery-Winter Skal

Capital Brewery out of Middleton, WI chose an interesting approach with this beer. Although the beer had plenty of hoppy flavor, I found that it also had a sweet and tangy taste which seemed unusual for a winter beer. The Winter Skal mixes a certain malty character with Liberty hops and the outcome is a very drinkable and enjoyable beer. Capital was also serving their Wisconsin Amber which is a littler richer and heavier than the Skal in my opinion. The Wisconsin Amber can be found on tap at various bars around the area.

Carlos Creek Winery-Apple Blueberry

Upon looking up this wine, it wasn’t surprising to see that it has won multiple awards including nods from the American Wine Society and Taster’s Guild. With sweeter wines sometimes they make something too sweet or too tart. The Apple Blueberry is sweet and smooth. There’s a complexity to the flavor that is spot on. From the second this wine hits your mouth to the finish, it’s a wonderful experience. If you ever go on a picnic or spend a summer evening with your friends, this wine will be sure to add to the occasion. Or just drink it because it’s delicious and amazing.  

Hidden View Winery-Peach Chardonnay

Hidden View is “The Twin Ports only Local Winery.” I had a chance to try just one of their wines, but the Peach Chardonnay was a great choice. It’s light, crisp with just the right amount of sweetness. It there is anything to watch out for about this wine, it’s that it might go down too well.

Surly Brewing Co.-Abrasive Ale

This Double Oat IPA packs a full punch of flavor. This full bodied brew also totes a 9% ABV, it’s not a beer to be trifled with but is easy to enjoy. Surly is becoming more and more common to find on tap around the Twin Ports.

Tallgrass Brewing Co.-Velvet Rooster

This Belgian Style Tripel is light and clean with a somewhat fruity flavor with a sweet finish. It’s hard to believe that the Rooster has an 8.5% ABV with how light and crisp it is. I’ve also seen their 8-Bit Pale Ale around at concerts and some bars. This American Ale is a great go to beer when you’re looking something that’s hoppy and  complex yet not over the top.

Thirsty Pagan Brewing-Union Barrel Sour

This English IPA has a dry fruity tartness to it that tastes similar to raspberries. A lot of people who tried this beer came back for seconds.

As 8 p.m. drew close some vendors were filling up people’s glasses to get rid of their supply, while others were giving just a taste of their dwindling stock so as many people could try their samples. When the brewfest was officially over, people headed over to the stage side of the event center. My aim was to get a good spot up close to the stage so I could hopefully get some useable photos with my mediocre camera. I settled for being about four or five people away from stage right.

The opening band was called Revilers and it didn’t take long for the crowd to start getting worked up. After three or four songs, a few people pushing around on each other had formed into a small but fairly aggressive mosh pit. I don’t really mosh any more since I’ve been off my folks insurance for five years but I have been engaged in them in the past. I don’t mind getting bumped into or helping up people who are actively in a pit. When Revilers were just about done with their set my night took a turn for the worse when someone came out of the pit, wrapped their arm around my neck and took me down to the floor. My glasses knocked back into my face scuffing my nose and scratching my cornea. Unfortunately I don’t have much to say about the rest of the show because I was sitting with an ice pack on my eye in a fair amount of pain.

After a hospital visit the next day, I started talking to friends who have moshed and tried to gain a better understanding of why people put themselves through such visceral brutality. I’ve never really thought much about moshing, it seems that if you attend punk and metal concerts, it’s just part of the music when it’s performed live. Something that many will note if they are in enough mosh pits is that some people really don’t get moshing. Although getting some bruises is to be expected, moshing is a dance. It’s a really aggressive and potentially fatal dance, but a dance none-the-less.

What makes mosh pits so dangerous is that it’s generally accepted that someone might get hurt, but while some happily bounce around, others find it as an opportunity to hurt people. A friend of mine, Jay Benson, who has played plenty of punk rock shows and been involved in his fair share of mosh pits noted, “everyone involved is consenting to injury. But for instance, I saw some testosterone-with-legs type of dude throw a little 18 year old kid into a support pole, very much on purpose, at Station Four and the kid folded around it, dropped, and required medical attention. That kid just wanted to get down to one of his favorite bands, I think it was Dying Fetus, who yes, advocate violence. He didn’t want his night ruined by some douche who is unhappy singling him out because he looked like he would fly the farthest. Mosh Pits really show the true nature of who people are. Do you help a kid up, or do you sneak a hammer into the pit? That happened at a Nine Inch Nails show in Minneapolis.” As with any dance, it’s a way of expressing oneself, but when someone feels the need to express themselves by purposely hurting another person, then that’s where things will likely go wrong.

After talking with a few people I put together five guidelines to moshing.

1) Pick up people when they fall. This is perhaps the most important rule. It’s possible for people to be crushed to death in mosh pits. In 1996 a 17 year old girl died in a Smashing Pumpkins pit prompting band leader Billy Corgan to denounce the practice. Another part of picking people up is the sense of community. Although everyone is slamming around on each other, there is an understanding among those involved that if they fall they will be readily put back on their feet.

2) Know your limits. If you’re not used to getting knocked around, aren’t physically capable of taking the blows or are turned off by their aggressive nature, it’s best to steer clear of mosh pits. My friend Casey Frechette made a good point about how this is somewhat unfair, “the pits tend to be closer to the stage, usually right up front. How about this: Do people who don’t want to mosh have less of a right to see the band up close?” Certain venues ban moshing and I’m torn between this rationale and the spirit of what punk rock and metal is supposed to be. Even after being injured several times because of mosh pits, I think it’s still worth it to be towards the front.

3) Dress smart and not in a mean way. If you are in your flip-flops or high heels, it’s possible you might have a bad time. On the other hand wearing spiked wrist bands, having one inch long sharp studs on the elbows of a leather jacket or having sharp, heavy or abrasive jewelry is kind of a jerk move. Even if you aren’t in the pit, stashing the glasses might be a good idea.

4) Mosh with the people who are moshing. Sure people are going to end up getting bounced against the sidelines and those people on the borders will hopefully know what the score is. Targeting people or purposely slamming into those who are not engaged in the pit is out of line. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but be aware that not everyone there particularly wants to be in the mosh pit but is just there close to it to see the show.

5) Don’t be a dick. The last guideline goes without saying. This is a good guideline for pretty much anything in life overall. I’ve walked out of many pits with just a few bruises and that’s probably because most of the people there weren’t dicks. Catching an elbow isn’t unheard of but throwing an elbow at the head or ribs of everyone around is getting out of line. Purposely shoving people who are obviously not ready for it or using excessive force in contact is unnecessary and if it’s noticed by others in the pit, might bring retaliation or end up in an actual fight.

Overall, most people conducted themselves well at the show. The security and staff were professional and the overall atmosphere was fun despite my mishap. I don’t condemn moshing and don’t blame anyone for the hospital visit. Humans are interesting creatures. Some of us enjoy taking risks and moshing or even being in close proximity to a pit is definitely taking a risk. It can fully embody the energy of a show and give people the opportunity for raw contact between each other as a community or end up in an injury or death. Things like expressing your First Amendment Rights at a protest or getting out of bed could result in injury or death too, so just be careful and look out for each other.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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