BEST LIQUOR STORE - 2006
Eleven-hundred bottles of beer, on the wall (and in the cooler, and stacked on the shelves), 220 different kinds of single malt Scotch—seriously, Blue Max is nothing if not dizzying. They stock a huge selection of specialty hooch—"winter beers," "highland" and "lowland" Scotch, rare mead, aged maple bourbon, rum, tequila, gin, brandy, and more oddities, rarities, and fascinations than any other store in town. Some bottles have vintages well before many of our readers were out of diapers (what a great 30th birthday present). Jim McEwan's 1967 Celtic Heartland Scotch, for example, comes in decantor number 220 of 722 for $395.50. The place runs narrow and deep, but rest assured there are sales people and wall charts to help guide buyers: Consider the Scottish Scotch. Some, we are told, taste of ripe peach finished with charcoal, others of newly cut grass and golden wheat. (Who needs golf?) There are too many exotic European beers to count, though be sure to gawk at Etter Suisse Framboise, which comes in handmade bottles, one with a hand-blown cherry and the other an apple, for $176. The store specializes in vintage ales and often stocks extras when other shops are out. If Asia's more your thing, try the Hitichino 2004, a Japanese vintage ale. A Framboise beer—Cantillon Lou Pepe vintage 2001—is intriguing as much for the flavor as for the beautiful label. About 25 minutes south of Minneapolis, on Highway 42, near both 35W and 35E, Blue Max is not located near much of anything (except Buck Hill), but the place is abuzz even on a Tuesday night. Hmm, it's gotta be good.