OMC Smokehouse & Mirror Lake Beeworks (2017 program, 2018 calendar)

Louis Hanson and Jeff Petcoff had a fair bit of fun researching the nuances and art of barbeque for their new venture, OMC (Oink Moo Cluck) Smokehouse in Duluth. From the white barbeque sauces in Alabama to the vinegar-forward sauces of the Carolinas, they gladly partook. They learned Central Texas-style brisket from barbeque legend Joe Slack in Waco, Texas and met with the award-winning Plowboys in Kansas. “Every region has its own distinct way of doing barbeque,” Louis explains. “Except in Minnesota. There’s no defined way here, so we started pulling from every region and mashing it together.” Their mash-ups resulted in four distinct sauces: Classic Honey, Chipotle-Cilantro, Alabama White and Bent Paddle 14° ESB, a mustard-based sauce using local beer.

Their meats are dry rubbed then smoked with Minnesota sugar maple, which creates a sweet, heavy smoke – or a combination of sugar maple and oak for a different smoke flavor. Sauces are served separately on the table so guests can experiment themselves. “That’s part of the fun of barbeque – building your own plate,” says Jeff.

Louis and Jeff rely on Ike Strohmayer from Mirror Lake Beeworks in Togo for a steady supply of honey for their sauces. “Ike is so knowledgeable and passionate about American-made honey,” says Louis. “He knows everything.”

That certainly seems to be the case. Ike’s been keeping bees since 1963 and takes his role as beekeeper very seriously. He’s stringent in the care of his bees, emphasizing the dependence our entire food system has on pollinators. He keeps careful records on all of the 240 colonies he runs, each of which will produce approximately 75 pounds of surplus honey per year – if the hive is healthy, which is always his foremost concern. If not, the honey stays put. “I’m a beekeeper,” Ike says. “Not a bee-taker. Bees remind us we’re not in this world just for ourselves. We have to be of service to something else.”