For all its flashing lights and ka-chinging slot machines, Mystic Lake was a longtime buzz kill. Literally.
The inability to catch a buzz at the Prior Lake casino dampened double-downs and dealer busts for decades. Instead of Champagne, jackpot winners have had to toast their luck with a Sprite. That is until last fall, when the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community lifted a casino-wide booze ban that lasted longer than Prohibition.
“Our guests have been asking for this for years,” said John Kolander, Mystic Lake’s director of food and beverage services. “Since we opened  years ago, it was the most requested item that we had — ‘Can we get a drink?’ ”
Alcohol has been available for purchase at Mystic Lake since November in off-floor restaurants and service stations in what Chris Smythe, beverage manager, described as “little closets and out-of-the-way spaces.” This month, those limited-selection service counters (which had as much charm as tollbooths) were supplanted by three new gaming-floor bars. They are being christened Saturday with a grand-opening party featuring live music, magicians, a DJ and the Budweiser Clydesdales from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Kolander said he wanted to establish separate identities for each bar. The largest and most auspicious of them is Drinx, a flashy 45-seater. Drinx and its trio of ice-sculpture-esque light displays sit in the heart of the casino, offering easy access for gamblers. “It’s where the action is — it’s the party bar, so to speak,” Kolander said.
Those not feeling the louder Drinx or its ultra-fruity signature drinks might prefer the low-key Lobby Lounge, which slings assorted classic cocktails and the full Mystic Steakhouse food menu. Guests can grab a drink at the sleek, stone-wall-backed bar, while playing built-in video gaming stations or waiting for a steakhouse table. Come late October, Smythe hopes to roll out hand-whipped ice cream drinks exclusively at the Lobby Lounge.
The small, bare-bones Promenade Bar has a short list of local-leaning craft taps available in flights.
“When I came here [17 years ago], alcohol was supposedly right around the corner, so I’ve been working on this quite a while in the back of my head,” said Smythe, who oversees the drink menus.
Acknowledging the negative effects alcohol has had on American Indian communities, Mystic Lake was one of the state’s last dry casinos. The decision to add alcohol sales was announced last September, weeks after Stanley Crooks, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community chairman who long opposed selling alcohol at the casino, passed away.
Count Colleen Smude as a fan of the boozier Mystic Lake and its newly minted bars. The New Prague resident is already on a first-name basis with some of the bartenders, as she and her husband come to the casino often. “My husband likes it because there are more premium [liquors],” she said of the expanded arsenal at Drinx.
Andrew Martschinske of Shakopee recently paid just his second visit to Mystic Lake (his first in the wet era). The 26-year-old said the lack of liquor never kept him from coming, but that alcohol sales made stopping in more appealing. “Now that they [serve alcohol], it’s more enticing to come and gamble and have a drink or two,” he said.
Beer at the Fair
With statewide swooning over our blue-ribbon beer scene, it’s only fitting that the Great Minnesota Get-Together feature beery attractions aplenty. With the State Fair running now through Labor Day, don’t miss these Minnesota microbrew offerings.
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is bringing its popular Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit back to the Ag-Hort building for the second year. Expanding in size — and more important in number of tap lines — the exhibit features 24 rotating taps (plus firkins) from nearly 30 different Minnesota brewers. The guild also beefed up its educational programs, with a greater agricultural and farming focus, and added a craft-beer art wall displaying brew-related works by local artists.
In an act of pure freakin’ genius, Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewing Co. has teamed with the craft-savvy Ball Park Cafe (on Underwood Street near the Food Building) to offer what they’re calling the first-ever mini-doughnut-flavored beer. Simply dubbed Mini Donut, the beer is purportedly tan-colored, akin to the sweet exterior of those battery rings of bliss, and served in a glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar. Here’s hoping next year sees a Sweet Martha’s stout.
Jeff Williamson, one of the beer brains at Summit, has created the State Fair IPA in honor of the stick-food fest. Bursting with hops (95 IBU) and local ingredients, the limited beer features wild rice from Minnestalgia Foods, honey from St. Paul’s Bare Honey and Cascade hops from Forest Lake’s Hippity Hops Farm. Swing over to the brewery’s booth in the International Bazaar early, as only a half-barrel keg (tapped at 1 p.m.) will be available each day. Don’t forget to grab a “Summit on a stick” flight, too.
Michael Rietmulder writes about bars, beer and nightlife.