LOCAL SPIRITS: Micro-distilleries bubble up around Minnesota - KMSP-TV

LOCAL SPIRITS: Micro-distilleries bubble up around Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

It's safe to say that the craft brew craze is alive and well in Minnesota, but craft spirits are starting to sizzle in the state too -- and it's all thanks to a change in state law that gave tap rooms the green light in 2011.

During Prohibition, there plenty of stills serving up some Minnesota moonshine, but legal micro-distilleries had to wait until the new millennium to open.

"I said, 'We're a metro area. We got 2.5 million people right here. Why is there no distillery?'" Scott Ervin, of Norseman Distillery, told Fox 9 News. "So, I jumped right in and we're the first distillery in town."

From a tiny warehouse basement in northeast Minneapolis, Ervin runs and operates a distillery -- but as the demand for his small-batch vodka grows, he's already thinking about finding a larger space. He expected to sell his spirits through all of 2014, but by Feb. 18, he had hit the goal.

"It's been like, times 10 for what we anticipated," Ervin said.

Unlike major brands made from neutral spirits bought by the tanker-load, Ervin not only hand bottles his products but also distills them from scratch using locally-grown ingredients.

"It's a one-man operation -- and two dogs," he said.

With Max and Rocket keeping him company, Ervin works around the clock to keep up with orders from 300 stores, including Surdyk's.

"The fact that they're made in Minnesota attracts a lot of people, and with the local ingredients and good, quality produced products, people are really driven towards them," Michelle Surdyk said.

On the other side of town, Shanelle and Chris Montana began shipping L'etoile Du Nord Vodka in May, and they're taking locally sourced to a new level.

"We actually use corn from my parents' farm, from our family farm in Cold Spring," Shanelle Montana explained. "We use corn from there and then we use sugar beets from the Red River Valley."

Their next product, dubbed "Fitzgerald's Gin," will be ready within weeks -- and starting this month, distilleries will be able to serve and sample their products on site.

"That does a lot for a business like ours," Shanelle Montana said. "It draws customers in and it really gives them a customer experience."

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