They are two familiar businesses in Maple Grove: Total Wine on Elm Creek Boulevard and Haskell’s on Grove Circle North, which you may associate, primarily, with wine sales. But each has a large inventory of beer and spirits too, a few of which Total Wine manager Jon Kampp and Haskell’s chairman and CEO John Farrell are happy to recommend to the seasonally curious and locavore adult beverage drinker. A relative newcomer to Maple Grove, Total Wine and More opened in November 2015. “Wine is maybe 40 percent of our sales,” says Kampp, with the remaining 60 percent divided among beer, spirits and other inventory (including mixers, sodas, glassware and, yes, cigars), though those numbers vary. “We have over 2,500 beers in our store,” he says, “and over 3,000 spirits.” As to the store’s specialties, Kampp says they are always interested in representing local producers, including breweries and distilleries.
Beers commonly have seasonal variants, say both Kampp and Farrell. Winter beers are generally darker, including porters and stouts. “The winter warmer effect,” Kampp calls it. He recommends local brewery Surly’s Darkness, a very-limited-release fall beer. Summit Brewing Company also makes good winter beer, he says.
According to Farrell, autumn and winter beers are “a matter of style and characteristics,” may include nutmeg and other spices, and tend to be “more robust than summer’s hoppy, citrusy flavors.” Citing Octoberfest beers as particularly fun to investigate, Farrell recommends any of Surly’s or selections from Excelsior Brewing Company.
“When experimenting with a new beer or spirit,” suggests Farrell, “don’t try something vastly different. If you like a light beer, your best bet might be to try a lighter style of something new.” He suggests the same for spirits: “If you like Crown Royal, try Jameson. Or try a honey- or maple-flavored whiskey.” For local spirits, Farrell likes Tattersall, a craft spirits distillery on Central Avenue Northeast in Minneapolis, and J. Carver in Waconia, producing bourbon, brandy, gin, rye whiskey and vodka, among others. Kampp gives another thumbs up to Tattersall: “It’s an excellent local craft spirits distillery, making vermouth, gin, vodka and whiskey” with a craft cocktail bar, he says. He also likes the 11 Wells Spirits Company (formerly Mill City Distillery), located in the old blacksmith and pipe shop buildings on the historic Hamm’s Brewery site in St. Paul.
A final recommendation from Kampp is a combination distillery and brewery in Roseville, Bent Brewstillery. With the mantra, “Brewing is cool. Distilling is sexy,” their mission is “to bring great adult beverages to the public.”
Kampp is a proponent of sampling, and his Total Wine store is ready to help you do just that. Classes are led by adult beverage specialists—Kampp himself is a wine expert and cicerone (beer expert)—and cost from $10 to $40 per person. A class called, “Drink Local: Meet Your Craft Brewer,” in which representatives from a local brewery give an insider perspective on the craft beer movement, is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, October 12. Sampling is part of the class experience, Kampp says, but customers also like to be educated and enjoy the social interaction of a group. Private events have included activities ranging from bridal showers to a corporate event in which Kampp taught a group of executives about a variety of Scotch whiskeys.
Check out Haskells’ Bacchus Society dinners and events. The Maple Grove Haskell’s has a variety of tastings, including wine, beers and spirits, the second Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10.