"The craft spirit industry is where craft beer was ten plus years ago," says Tyson Schnitker. Schnitker and his wife Mary are two of the latest entrants into the vibrant craft spirits scene. In the coming months, they'll open Skaalvenn, Brooklyn Park's first distillery.
The couple recently received federal licensing and they predict an opening within the next 45 to 60 days.
Skaalvenn (pronounced "skoal-venn") will distill grain-to-glass vodka and organically sourced rums, later building their repertoire to include whiskey, aquavit, and spirits that take influence from the couple's Norwegian and Cambodian roots.
The company plans to have a cocktail room in the future, but is working to get production underway before taking on more expenses.
Skaalvenn is working with a fourth generation farm in Benson, MN to supply wheat for their vodka, and the rum will come from South American grown organic sugar. They will handle all fermenting and distilling onsite, a key component to craft spirits.
"Craft is a very unregulated industry where terms are regularly thrown out with little regard," says Tyson, who defines the word as meaning "that you care more about creating a great product than you do about making money. But," he adds, "don't get me wrong: none of us are in the industry to go bankrupt or eat ramen."
Tyson, who has volunteered with Dehner Distillery (Clive, IA), is a medic in the Minnesota Air National Guard, specializing in search and extraction, and Mary is a spa aesthetician by trade -- and both help at Mary's parents' flower shop in south Minneapolis whenever available.
Their drink-hoisting Viking logo was designed by The Shinebox in Minneapolis. While the Norse theme is common in the still-developing Minnesota craft scene, Tyson's reason for the brand is cultural pride.
"I wanted to bring back some of the culture which is quickly disappearing," he says. "With toasting it's common to hear 'Cheers' or 'Salud,' yet very rarely do you hear someone say 'Skål.'"
Skaalvenn hopes to change that, one toast at a time.
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