'Beer Geeks' offers TV tours of craft breweries

  • Article by: MICHAEL RIETMULDER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 3:22 PM
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Ed Bremer, left, and Matt Sandell, shown at Heritage Liquor in Maplewood, started a local TV show, “Beer Geeks,” two years ago. The show is now going national.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA • joel.koyama@startribune.com,

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If a band of duck-call-making hillbillies can be reality stars, why not craft brewers?

With the craft-beer industry heating up like a boil kettle, two local beer enthusiasts have parlayed their passion into a national TV series.

Two years and a couple of “what ifs” ago, Matt Sandell of Shakopee and Stillwater’s Ed Bremer launched a beer-based reality show titled “Beer Geeks” locally on KSTC-TV, Channel 45.

The beer buds met when Sandell was working for a beer distributor. Bremer’s Maplewood liquor store, Heritage Liquor, was one of his accounts.

The two hatched an idea for a show that would offer a behind-the-scenes look at breweries and brewers. “They’re letting us into their dominion, where not a lot of people get to go,” said Bremer, who also owns a beer-focused bar in Hudson, Wis., the Stone Tap.

After six episodes and positive feedback from the station, Bremer and Sandell wanted to take their show to the next level. They reached out to David Page, creator and former producer of the popular Food Network series “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” who operates a Plymouth-based production studio.

Page wasn’t an easy sell. Bremer said the Triple D founder had a failed bid with another brew-centric pilot three years prior. After several unfruitful phone calls, the beer buds got a face-to-face with Page in the spring of 2012 and persuaded him to take on the project. “Craft beer is in a completely different place than it was three years ago,” Bremer said. “Every turn, people are talking about craft beer.”

With a beefed-up budget, added production value and a new host — Michael Ferguson, director of brewery operations for brewpub chain BJ’s Restaurants — “Beer Geeks” 2.0 premiered on about 60 stations in various time slots across the country last week. Locally, the show airs Saturday nights at 12:30 a.m. on WFTC, Channel 29.

Each of the 22 half-hour episodes in the first season features a different brewery, as well as cooking and food-pairing segments they hope will appeal to serious beer nerds and casual fans alike. Bremer said breweries such as Stone, Rogue, Odell and Great Divide are slated to appear in Season 1. Locally, look for Indeed and Northbound. “Wherever it was aired, our goal was to be able to travel and share the stories of the more unique breweries,” Sandell said.

Sandell, Bremer and Page aren’t the only ones who have looked to turn brewing into reality television. In 2010, the Discovery Channel unveiled “Brew Masters,” which revolved around Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione, but it lasted only six episodes (firebrand food/cable celeb Anthony Bourdain alleged a big-beer advertiser put the squeeze on the station). Later this month, the Esquire Network debuts a show that has the owners of U.K. brewery BrewDog exploring America’s craft beer scene.

Bremer said he’s always been optimistic about “Beer Geeks,” but keeps his expectations realistic. Regardless of how the show fares, it’s allowed its creators to live a beer nerd’s fantasy. “It’s one of those things, when you start something like this it’s always the dream, ‘How awesome would it be if we could travel the country and find cool beers and brewers and create a TV show?’ ” Bremer said. “Sometimes it’s still a little hard to believe.”

At any rate, it should be more compelling than Honey Boo Boo.

More beer in the ’hood

At four years old, Fulton Brewing Co. is officially one of the big kids of the local beer scene. The beloved beermaker has evidently outgrown its current North Loop brewery like a pair of Scooby Doo pajamas (you know, the ones with the little footsies). Last week Fulton announced plans to add a second brewery, near 2nd Street and Lowry Avenue in northeast Minneapolis. The new 51,000-square-foot space would allow Fulton to increase capacity to 20,000 barrels a year. Fulton hopes to open the taproom-less facility (state law says only one per brewery) late next year.

Yard House to West End

A national beer bar chain is coming to the west metro. A spokesman for the Yard House confirmed that the chain plans to add a restaurant in the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park early next year. According to its website, the SoCal-based chain has more than 40 locations nationwide, offering between 100 and 250 taps, American fusion food and flat screens galore. Last year the Yard House restaurants were acquired by Darden Restaurants Inc., an Orlando-based group that also owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

 

Michael Rietmulder writes about bars, beer and nightlife.

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