Get ready Minneapolis, a new, industrial, very cool drinking spot which can host 250 people is going to open: Norseman Distillery's cocktail room in northeast is down to final inspections. Projected opening date? Sometime in October!
Norseman of course was Minneapolis’ first new legal distillery since Prohibition, opened by former architect Scott Ervin. He started things off at the end of 2013 in a tiny basement room where he hand-ground corn pound by pound with the sort of grinder you use for coffee in a supermarket, and then made teeny-tiny batches of gin and vodka, which friends would help him get into bottles during night-time bottling parties. That was then! The world soon got to calling Norseman’s gin and vodka extremely delicious, and the little distillery grew and grew. It grew so much, it grew right out of the basement! So last December, Ervin moved into a much larger spot in Northeast off East Hennepin, where he has been doing that thing, where you try to run a manufacturing distillery while simultaneously renovating parts of it so people can come drink without wearing hard-hats and getting splinters. And that work is almost done!
I stopped by and took a peek at the spot in its almost-finished guise and it just looks great! It’s a vast brick, pre-war warehouse which Ervin has been selectively updating to make very industrial-artsy-Brooklyn: He took out an extra wall that blocked light, restored an old industrial garage door by getting new glass put in it, fixed artfully patina’d steel panels here and there, installed a few strings of what he calls ‘circus lights’, and invested in a gorgeous white marble bar. Only a few more tweaks remain to be done, and then state inspection. Once those hurdles are passed, Minneapolis, you get a new place to drink, eat, party, and shop!
Keith Mrotek, longtime bartender at Marvel Bar and coffee guru at Shinola, will lead the beverage program; right now Ervin is thinking they’ll be focusing on smaller cocktails at a lower price point, to allow people to try more of the Norseman product line. They’ll also invite guest bartenders from bars both near and far—when they expand into Chicago, for instance, we could see Chicago bartenders coming up for residencies and inventing Norseman drinks to serve both in the northeast cocktail room and in their home bar. The Norseman bar will also be the first place you’ll see new or experimental Norseman products, like a hopped vodka they’re working on, a barrel aged gin, and different liqueurs. But also: They’re planning to have a bakery case with desserts and light snacks from Birchwood and Rustica, as well as invited food-trucks and carts that may park outside on the covered loading dock.
Since the spot can hold a whopping 250 people, they’re already booking out for private events. Ervin tells me they’ve got two weddings already booked as well as a host of private parties, from Match.com mixers to corporate retreats. Because their loading dock is so sweet and they have a great amount of outdoor space, Ervin hopes to have block parties and outdoor fun stuff starting next spring. But that’s not all! Not only does Norseman have the biggest array of cool swag of any local distillery (shirts, hats, flasks, glassware), they’re also going to be hosting the winter version of the Northeast Farmer’s Market every third Saturday, November through March. Will you finally be able to fulfill the Minnesotan dream of getting a martini, a trucker cap, fresh eggs, and heritage bacon at one stop on a Saturday morning? Looks like it!
Congrats to Norseman, this is for sure one of the most exciting things to happen this year in northern drinking. Follow them on Twitter @NorsemanMPLS for the exact minute of opening, and let’s hear it for a new chapter in industrial production in the heart of historically-industrial Northeast. I couldn’t help notice that Norseman, which mills grain and turns it into a final product, is blocks away from the old R&D lab where Wheaties and Cheerios were invented.
It just makes you get all misty about the past and current milling going on in Mill City, don’t it?
451 Taft St. NE, Mpls., 612-643-1933, norsemandistillery.com