Remember Shakers? Maker went bottoms up

  • Article by: PATRICK KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2012 - 10:11 PM

Infinite Spirits, which made the vodka in Benson, Minn., has filed for Chapter 7 liquidation. Production ended a year ago.

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In 2003, Pat McGeary, manager of Benson Municipal Liquor Store, was trying to keep up with demand after a record sellout of 40 cases in the first week of Shakers' retail sales.

Photo: Judy Griesedieck, Star Tribune

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The company that makes Shakers vodka, a premium-grade spirit that was made in Benson, Minn., from locally grown wheat and rye, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

Infinite Spirits Inc. of Blaine listed assets of $195,349 and liabilities of $2,255,856 in its filing Jan. 5 with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Paul. Chapter 7 calls for liquidation of the company and distribution of any proceeds to creditors.

The West Central Tribune in Willmar first reported the story Thursday. Five of the six Infinite Spirits cofounders had worked together at the successful microbrewer Pete's Wicked Ale, including St. Paul native Pat Couteaux, who became Shakers' master distiller.

The company had a promising start as a way for farmer cooperatives in Benson and Winnebago to diversify product offerings beyond the production of ethanol. Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. in Benson partnered with then-California-based Infinite Spirits to produce vodka from wheat and rye grown by local farmers.

Infinite Spirits introduced its vodka with a clever but low-budget campaign in 2003 and enjoyed early success, winning medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2004. The company at one point produced a rose-flavored vodka, a rye vodka, a limited-edition "Winter" vodka and its original Shakers vodka. The company had ambitions to produce other liquors as well including whiskey, rum and cordials.

Richard Stermer, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for the case, said there was a meeting of creditors on Wednesday and that he filed a "notice of assets" with the court that alerts creditors to put in their claims.

"We are in the midst of gathering more information," Stermer said.

According to Stermer, the vodka was made in Benson but shipped to a facility in Blaine for final preparation and bottling. Production reportedly stopped in February or March of 2011 when the company was evicted from the Blaine facility, possibly over a rent dispute, Stermer said.

The bankruptcy filing has revived some interest in the company.

"I'm getting more interest in buying assets and intellectual property of the brand," said Stermer. "Hopefully we can turn that into a sale of the company."

Unsecured creditors listed in the bankruptcy filing include the Florida Marlins, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A's, CBS Radio and the Hartford Insurance Co.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926

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