Sunday growler sales may be all the rage, but don’t forget about beer's higher-proof friends in craft distilling. When Gov. Mark Dayton recently signed off to allow Sunday sales there was another key element in the law to help the growing craft distillery scene: They can now sell 375-ml bottles on-site. In addition to touring where a vodka or gin is made, you can bring a bottle home to share with friends.
At 4 p.m. today, three distilleries across the state will celebrate by jointly selling the first bottles at Du Nord and Wander North in Minneapolis and at Vikre in Duluth.
The old law had been in place since the 1930s and was often a cause of headache for local distillers. Tourists would visit and could not leave with a sample, which is now changed as the law allows the sale of one small bottle per customer (one per day, Monday-Saturday). Besides allowing a take-home option for customers, the new law increases the market for the distilleries, as more people will see their bottles. They also speculate that the lower priced (smaller) option may ultimately lead to more people trying their brands.
“I don't think anyone is going to drive across town, or out of their way at all, to buy a bottle from the distillery versus their local liquor store,” says Wander North’s Brian Winter. “And I hope they don't — they should buy from that local liquor store,” he adds. “But if you're here and want a souvenir or to try it, by all means, buy it here.”
The law indicates that anything for sale at the distillery must also be on sale at retail stores, so this doesn’t allow for one-off batches like the unique beers you’ll find at the taproom, but Winter sees it as a boon for sales in general, which would affect the market for smaller-batch creations as well. Another benefit is the profit margin of selling in-house. “Right now we rely on high volumes to make up for the very low margins,” says Bartley Blume of Bent Brewstillery in Roseville. “On-site sales will be very low volumes but very high margins since we won’t be using a distributor or retailer.”
The new distillery law requires each city to create their own regulations so, while it’s now legal in Duluth and Minneapolis, other cities still need to get on board. Bent predicts their first sales in Roseville will come in mid-July, and St. Paul is expected to allow distillery sales in July or August.
Craft alcohol rules have been slowly relaxing since the 2011 passing of the Taproom Bill (a.k.a. the Surly Bill), and the local industry is working together to maximize growth. With three different distilleries sharing in the symbolic first sale, it’s an exciting time for Minnesotans who want to drink local. Wander North is also expecting to open its cocktail room within the next month.