Four years ago, Bartley Blume was aiming to get in on the ground floor of Minnesota’s craft-beer renaissance. The aerospace industry salesman and avid home-brewer was ready to “shed the shackles of corporate bondage,” and he had a business plan for a brewery. But he was beaten to the brewhouse.
“When Fulton opened up [in 2009] I said, ‘Damn, I’m too late,’ ” Blume recalled. “Since then, 20 have opened up.”
While Blume’s Bent Brewstillery might not be a first- (or even second-) wave Minnesota microbrewery, it has an important distinction. As the name suggests, Bent will both brew beer and distill spirits, namely whiskey.
“[The] beer definitely came first, but as we all know, whiskey is what beer wants to be when it grows up,” Blume said. “To me, it felt like the next logical progression.”
Though not yet commercially available, Bent debuts Saturday at St. Paul Summer Beer Fest with Dark Fatha — an American “emperial” stout bearing a pimped-out Darth Vader logo. Initially not a fan of the style, Blume first brewed Dark Fatha to please his stout-fond friends and after three months of maturation it proved to be a hit at a barbecue party.
“I threw a bunch of stuff together that was stout-like and tasted it before it was done fermenting and was like, ‘Oh, this is horrible — they’re going to love it,’ ” he said.
Blume recently began contract brewing at Pour Decisions Brewing Co. in Roseville. The Southern-reared Shoreview transplant is hunting for his own taproom-tailored site in Arden Hills and hopes to have Unpure, an unaged whiskey, on the market this fall.
While white whiskey (a k a moonshine) is popular among upstart distilleries because it is unaged, Blume plans to give his smoked-malt spirit a “deep honey color” by filtering it through oak barrels and charred applewood. Eventually he plans to roll out a gin with help from Bittercube — the Midwest bitters maker/restaurant-consulting team — as well as a bourbon. In July, he’ll begin brewing an amber blonde ale.
Blume might have been a brewer first, but he waxes romantic on distilling, rejecting the “hillbilly” image he says the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” series projects.
“Beer is a mix between art and science,” he said. “The process is very scientific, but [it’s] also left open to a lot of creativity. I feel the same thing for spirits with just a little bit more science. … Brewing is really cool, but distilling to me is sexy. There’s just something about the equipment and adding the science. It might be the nerd in me.”
The scruffy-bearded Blume doesn’t seem the lab-coat type, but with Bent Brewstillery he hopes to have found a winning formula.
2-6 p.m. Sat., $40-$50, 21-plus, International Bazaar, State Fairgrounds, Falcon Heights, www.stpaulsummerbeerfest.com
Taste of Brooklyn
Brooklyn Brewery is launching a weeklong Twin Cities takeover. The “Brooklyn Brewery Mash: Adventures in Food, Film, Music, Books & Beer” begins Monday and ends with a “slow dinner” next Sunday at the Soap Factory with Sea Change chef Jamie Malone and Brooklyn’s house chef Andrew Gerson. The Happy Gnome serves as de facto headquarters, with Brooklyn specials and giveaways from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Other highlights include a books and beers event at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall (Tuesday), a Haute Dish beer dinner (Wednesday) and a found footage festival at the Heights Theatre (Thursday). Check out the Mash’s website for more details. www.brooklynbrewerymash.com
New data from the Brewers Association (via the New Yorker) pegs Minnesota as No. 2 in the nation in production growth between 2011 and 2012. In 2012, Minnesota’s 47 craft breweries produced more than 308,000 barrels — up 81 percent from the previous year. Only Alabama bested us in growth percentage, though the Bible Belt state ranked only 46th in total barrels produced. Our 308,000 barrels were 10th most nationwide. We Minnesotans love a good back-patting in list form, and what’s even better is this ranking isn’t completely arbitrary.
Michael Rietmulder writes about bars, beer and nightlife.