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Local products only is the rule at new Northeast liquor store

Updated: July 23, 2018 - 5:25 pm

State’s growing liquor industry has a home at Ombibulous

A drinking tour of Minnesota doesn’t require a road trip across the state. Michele Ross has managed to fit one in a 1,000-square-foot space on East Hennepin Avenue.

Ross and her husband, Kevin, are the owners of Ombibulous, a craft libations store run out of a renovated gas station featuring Minnesota-made beers, wine and spirits.

“We think about it as a welcome center for Minnesota products,” Ross said.

Ombibulous, a term coined by H.L. Mencken that means one who enjoys alcoholic beverages of all sorts , is a fitting moniker.

Whereas other places may carry a handful of local brews, Ombibulous is dedicated to the principle of drinking local. Whether it is limited-edition seasonal beers, wine with locally grown grapes, handcrafted gin or artisan mixers. One thing folks won’t find: Miller Lite, or any other out-of-state concoction for that matter.

“We try not to carry what everyone else carries,” Ross said. “People can break out of their habits of drinking.” She is eager to help customers find a replacement, or more likely, an upgrade, for their go-to beverage.

Lucky for those less familiar with local drinks, the couple are experienced guides.

Kevin Ross, a native of Northeast, worked as a tour guide in the community the past decade. After the passage of the Surly bill in 2011 and the explosion of craft breweries in the Twin Cities, he teamed up with his wife to run the Hoppy Trailer, a brewery tour across Minneapolis. The couple have led the tour for the past three years.

The gig introduced them to the world of local beverage creators, and some of the problems the industry faces.

“[We were] hearing from the breweries and listening to them about how difficult it was to get their products into liquor stores,” Ross said. Not to mention, how hard it was for customers to find products.

Kevin began thinking about a one-stop store featuring local producers.

“He likes to come up with ideas and I like to make them happen,” Ross said.

In January, they opened Ombibulous, with enough space for emerging Minnesota producers.

Joseph Zimmerley, the co-owner of Summer Lakes Beverage, is one of Ombibulous’ most recent producers. Working out of the north metro, Zimmerley started distributing Bootleg, an alcoholic mixer made with lemon, lime, orange and mint. Ombibulous is one of two stores selling the concoction.

To encourage customers to explore all the store has to offer, Ross said Ombibulous often features tastings, with events most weekends.

It’s the perfect fit for Tracy Jonkman, one of the owners of Keepsake Cidery, a small orchard in southern Minnesota that distributes across the Twin Cities.

“There’s a certain kind of person that comes to a store like this who are interested in local products, things that are well made,” said Jonkman, who was sampling cider on a busy Friday afternoon. “There’s so many awesome locally produced craft beverages in Minnesota.”

Ombibulous, at 949 E. Hennepin Ave. in the Beltrami neighborhood, is open 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sunday.