By Coulter Fussell
Hello, from Finland! I hope everyone is enjoying the nice hot Mississippi summer because I am freezing. And I mean literally, I am freezing. I just jumped in a 56 degree rocky sea. And I did this four different times over the course of the last hour. I don’t know why I did this. I was not being chased or threatened in any way and no one was offering me cash. The ice water bath was purely voluntary. It’s just so easy to succumb to the influence of herd mentality at a seaside sauna. That coupled with the locally made specialty, gin and grapefruit soda in a can, I have no will power.
I’m in Finland because my husband, Amos (operations manager and brewer at Yalobusha Brewing Company), has booked the Rauma Blues Festival over here for 15 years. He’s brought over acts like Ike Turner, Solomon Burke, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, T-Model Ford, Bobby Rush, Candi Staton, Snooks Eaglin, Delbert McClinton, and many many more. (By the way, next time you see Amos be sure to ask him about Solomon Burke and the banana. He has some really good tour stories.)
This time, though, Amos brought a little Water Valley to Finland. He and head brewer at Yalobusha Brewing Company, Anthony Balzola, have collaborated with Laitilan Brewery ( the largest micro-brewery in all of Finland) to produce “Mississippi Beer.” It’s a steam-style beer brewed on an 85 barrel system.
To give you some perspective, our own Yalobusha Brewing Company is a 15 barrel system… for now, at least! Laitilan Brewery started as a tiny home brew shop on the square in the tiny fishing village of Rauma, Finland and now, well, they brew 26 million liters of beer a year. That’s the potential.
The “Mississippi Beer” was brewed especially for this music festival two months ago by Amos and Laitilan brewer Juha Kylä-kaila. It was extremely well received. The main reason being that the beer tastes great and Anthony Balzola, along with with Amos and Juha, created a stellar beer recipe.
But it was also well received because people over here like anything that says “Mississippi” on it.
Unlike us, folks in the rest of the world are fascinated by us. Not ‘us’ as in me and Amos, personally, but ‘us’ as in South-erners. All of us reading this column right now. Yes, you. And you! Yes, yes, you too, sir.
People from the rest of the world ( and I speak generally, of course) think we Southerners are exotic. They love our music, our food, how we talk, and what we do. I like to imagine the way we see exotic Polynesian hula dancers is kind of how outsiders see us. Beautiful, youthful and with great hair. Truthfully, they probably see us much more like how we view Eskimos: inexplicably living in extreme weather conditions with a culinary affinity for the fried blubber of obese animals.
But people all over the world really do think we are lucky to live where we live. And not in that Look-At-That-Honey-Boo-Boo-Isn’t-She-So-Crazy kind of way. They respect our various southern cultures and can sometimes tell them apart, which is more than I can say for most Americans. They are curious about us, learn about us, read about us, and want to know more. Imagine that. Not just feeling that way about ourselves but feeling that way about others.
Maybe this is why I jump in the cold water. Wake me up to the world outside. Remem-ber that it’s not so hot everywhere all the time.
And when I come up from the icy water gasping for air because the cold has taken my breath away, makes me thankful for the hot back home.