Biz buzz: Swag Brewery cooks up beer gear

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March 26, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
NORTH LOOP — The Minneapolis craft beer explosion has spawned another beer-related company, but Swag Brewery isn’t another microbrewery. Instead, the company brews up beer-related gear aimed squarely at the craft beer audience.

Minneapolis residents Max Arndt, Colin McSteen and Brett Bartley launched Swag Brewery quietly in January, selling craft beer T-shirts and other goods at beer festivals. The reception was quite positive, and the company launched its online sales effort in early March. Currently, Swag Brewery offers several T-shirt designs, art prints, coasters, bottle cap earrings and even soaps made from local beer by local breweries Surly, Summit and Lift Bridge.

“We really wanted to get involved in the craft brewing industry somehow,” said Swag Brewery founder Max Arndt. “We realized that the industry needed outfitters like any other, so we started designing apparel and accessories.”

While Swag Brewery has several items touting its local origins, Arndt hopes to appeal to craft beer fans nationally. The next releases in Swag Brewery’s beer soaps line will be based on beers from national craft brewers Lagunitas and New Belgium. Arndt said he believes Swag Brewery is the first craft beer outfitter business anywhere in the country.

“There are plenty of websites that carry a few beer shirts, but a lot of them are a pretty fratty,” said Arndt.


Doubletree Suites revamps restaurant

DOWNTOWN CORE — As part of a multi-million dollar renovation project that also refreshed all guest suites, corridors and the hotel lobby, the Doubletree Suites By Hilton, 1101 LaSalle Avenue, has retired the Café Luxx restaurant and relaunched it with a new look, name and menu.

The hotel restaurant will officially re-open in early April as DEN, which stands for Drink, Eat, Network. Located directly across from Target’s headquarters, the Doubletree sees a high volume of business travelers, and DEN features several amenities for that clientele, such free wi-fi, large communal tables for impromptu meetings and laptop plug-ins in every booth.

During the weekends, however, the Doubletree’s central location draws a much more recreational crowd, and Doubletree director of sales believes DEN will appeal to both groups, as well as downtown residents. With most menu items priced at $12 or less, DEN’s American casual menu should fill a niche in the restaurant-heavy area around Nicollet Mall. Clysdale said that DEN has already made one key addition to its menu based on guest feedback — the Juicy Lucy burger. Multiple guests requested the Minneapolis staple after seeing it appear on Food Network.


Rusty Taco opening Northeast location

EAST HENNEPIN — The building that housed the original Wilde Roast location on Hennepin Avenue East will soon become home to Rusty Taco, a value-priced taco chain with locations in Texas and St. Paul. Bruce Ringgenberg, who owns the Minnesota locations, said he expects the new store to open around late May.

The Northeast location will be the fifth store in the Rusty Taco chain and, unlike the St. Paul location, will feature a full bar and patio. Ringgenberg said he originally looked for a space on the University of Minnesota campus, but settled for the spot on East Hennepin for its proximity to the campus, downtown and the residential areas of Northeast. He said he’s pleased to bring a different food offering to an area that is also home to restaurants like Brasa, Red Stag Supper Club and Eli’s East.

“What we’re doing is a really great value,” said Ringgenberg. “There’s really not a good value in the taqueria space here.”

Most offerings on the Rusty Taco menu are priced at $2.50 or $3. Ringgenberg also plans to launch Rusty Taco catering and food truck services out of the Northeast location.


Fulton Beer opens city’s first taproom

NORTH LOOP — On Saturday, March 10, Fulton Beer opened the city’s first taproom at its brewery, 414 6th Ave. N. The brewer is open to the public 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays, but expects to soon expand those hours for baseball season.

The brewery is an easy walk from Target Field. The Fulton taproom just edged out South Minneapolis’ Harriet Brewing for the honor of the first taproom in the city. Harriet Brewing expects to open its own taproom soon.


Local D’Lish ready to welcome Whole Foods to neighborhood

NORTH LOOP — With Whole Foods officially coming to North Loop, you might expect the owner of a nearby independent market to be worried. But Local D’Lish proprietor Anna Yin is excited about the news, saying the arrival of the national grocer could actually increase business at her shop at 208 N. 1st St.

“Whole Foods is great for the neighborhood,” said Yin. “It makes it more attractive.”

“We hear all the time that people didn’t know of the store,” said Yin. “But we have very local customers once they discover us.”

Yin said she thinks Local D’Lish and Whole Foods could complement each other well. With an inventory of all local organic foods, Local D’Lish naturally has a smaller inventory than Whole Foods, but Whole Foods can’t offer the intimate knowledge of every item in the store like Yin and her staff can. She expects many customers will support both stores.

Local D’Lish will soon be expanding its offerings with a new deli counter that Yin hopes to have complete by this summer. It will expand the store’s cheese and meat offerings and will likely include fresh custom sandwiches and more grab and go foods.

“Think Surdyk’s on a very, very small scale,” said Yin.


A new venue to watch glass-blowing

EAST HENNEPIN — A new glass-blowing business will allow customers to watch the pieces in production, creating another open studio environment in the Arts District.

“It’s like theater; it’s like watching a show,” said founder Jackson Schwartz. “We’re trying to create a unique retail environment.”

Hennepin Made at 1621 E. Hennepin Ave. celebrated its grand opening in March. Schwartz explained that the company, which supplies functional pieces to restaurants like La Belle Vie, is also a training ground for new professionals. Schwartz is a former glass-blowing professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and he hires apprentices to train into the craft and eventually become business partners. He’s seen similar industry models in South Australia, where he attended a school for the arts.

Hennepin Made is open by appointment, and its regular public hours are not yet determined. The website is hennepinmade.com.


Tiny Footprint Coffee is world’s first carbon-negative coffee

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — On April 22, Tiny Footprint Coffee will celebrate its second birthday. That day also marks Earth Day, which is no accident. Tiny Footprint Coffee launched on Earth Day 2010 as the world’s first carbon-negative coffee.

Tiny Footprint Coffee is a joint creation of Brooklyn Center-based Roastery 7 and downtown advertising agency Pocket Hercules. However, it’s not a typical client and agency agreement — Pocket Hercules and Roastery 7 co-own and co-developed the brand.

Tiny Footprint Coffee achieves its carbon-negative designation by offsetting the carbon it creates by planting trees in the Ecuadorian Mindo Cloudforest. It takes four pounds of carbon to make a pound of coffee. For every 1-pound bag of Tiny Footprint sold, trees are planted that remove 54 pounds of carbon, for a total carbon footprint of negative 50.

Tiny Footprint Coffee planted approximately 4,000 trees in 2011.

Tiny Footprint Coffee is available at many local co-ops and locations like Surdyk’s and Haskell’s, as well as online at Amazon.com and TinyFootPrintCoffee.com. Pocket Hercules Vice President of Public Relations Stephen Dupont hopes coffee drinkers will embrace Tiny Footprint as an easy and enjoyable way to make a positive environmental difference. “You’re getting a great cup of coffee and helping the environment,” said Dupont.


Noted

Thom Pham has announced he will reopen his shuttered restaurant Azia in its original space. The new version will be called Azia Market Bar & Restaurant.

Butcher & The Boar, 1121 Hennepin Ave. S., is now open. The restaurant is open from 5 p.m.–12 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 5–10 p.m. Sunday. An opening date for the restaurant’s expansive patio has not yet been announced.

Street food returns! With the early warm weather, several street food vendors are already back on the streets. The Twisted Sister House of Hunger was the first to show up back in downtown, followed by vendors such as Nate Dogs, Smack Shack, Barrio Truck, Simply Steve’s, Get Sauced, Turkey To Go and Little G’s Pizza.