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Bent bottles brave beer at brand-new brewstillery in Roseville
Blume bets on bold beverages
Too bad "Roseville" doesn't start with a "B."
In what Bartley Blume semi-jokingly calls "a sick obsession," many important aspects of his life start with the alphabet's second letter.
All of his immediate family's names start with the letter, so it only makes sense that he loves brewing and recently opened a taproom in Roseville called Bent Brewstillery.
The "brewstillery," a term coined by Blume, is a combination of a craft beer brewery and liquor microdistillery. On Thursday, Aug. 21, Bent opened the doors to its taproom at 1744 Terrace Drive, formerly known as Pour Decisions Brewing Company, in an area of the city zoned for community mixed use and occupied mainly by office-warehouses.
Blume first started his relationship with Pour Decisions in April 2013 as a contract brewer.
"I chose them based on their expertise in brewing and reputation," Blume said. "And because they said 'yes.'"
Pour Decisions, which had been in operation for two years, announced in January that it had merged with Blume's venture to become one company, Bent Brewstillery. Pour Decisions' head brewer Kristen England stayed on in her job, while Blume became the new owner and president.
All it took was 'Mr. Beer'
Blume says he was born "at a young age" in Wisconsin but was raised in the Georgia-Alabama area, resulting in a noticeable southern drawl when he speaks. After attending Auburn University in Alabama, Blume went to work for NASA in its "destructive testing department," testing the durability of materials, "sometimes with explosives."
After travelling the world to places like Australia and Asia while working for other companies, he then eventually made his way back north to Minnesota, where he's lived for the past 16 years.
His interest in brewing started with a Christmas present from his wife, Brenda, in 2007. That year he received a "Mr. Beer" kit, complete with a plastic barrel, instructions and ingredients for home brewing.
"I had a good time with home brewing ... I had dreams of owning my own brewery," Blume said.
He recalled thinking in 2010 when Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis opened, "Damn, I'm too late." However, the craft brewing phenomenon only continued to pick up steam and he realized he hadn't missed his opportunity.
He officially left the aerospace business in 2012 and began looking for a location where he could operate a brewery, distillery and taproom.
"When I did shed the shackles of corporate bondage, I decided I didn't want work to feel like work," Blume said. "I want it to feel like fun."
Blume, a Shoreview resident, started his hunt for a location close to home. After searching for a space in the Arden Hills for several months, he decided instead to contract with Pour Decisions in Roseville, which was still close by.
"The area is important to me," Blume explained. "And when I'm putting in 20-hour days, I don't want to have to commute an hour to get home."
Living the "Bent" lifestyle
Blume says he plans to "make things a little Bent" with the beverages he's brewing up.
"Bent is a lifestyle. We don't brew beer to a specific style; we're trying to be different and unique, sometimes merging two styles together," Blume said.
The brews are unique, to say the least.
For example, "Dark Fatha," an American "Emperial" stout, has somewhat of a "cult following," Blume said.
"People always say 'You spelled [Imperial] wrong,' but then I show them the label," he said. Featured prominently on the bottle is a stylized version of Darth Vader, a reference to the Star Wars franchise's Galactic Empire.
As for the liquor portion of the business, Blume hasn't had time to begin distilling anything, but plans to start with whiskey, bourbon and a double IPA, "if we survive opening weekend," he says.
Bent will not be able to sell cocktails at its location, however, as state legislation does not allow the holder of a taproom license to also hold a cocktail room license. Blume hopes to create some buzz around the issue in order to change the law next legislative session.
"I'm just the first," he said of operating a brewstillery. "There are lots of brewers getting into [doing both]."
"It's a [white] canvas to be painted on," Blume added. "There's a lot of room for creativity."
Grand opening a hit
Blume clearly takes pride in his brewing abilities, but showed Minnesotan humility when asked what kind of turnout he hoped for on opening day.
"I hope more people will show up than there are people on staff," Blume said. "And we have 7 employees."
Blume was frantically piecing together booths just two days before the the grand opening on Aug. 21. When running through a list of things left to do before the opening, he remembered, "Oh yeah, and the beer isn't on tap yet."
Luckily, the tap lines were all up and running by the big day, which drew "a lot of happy people" to the taproom that has a capacity of 115.
The licenses required for the operation of the brewstillery were approved by the Roseville City Council at its Aug. 18 meeting, just in time for the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair further down Snelling Avenue.
"Probably the most important thing is to wish the folks at Bent Brewstillery good luck with their sales at the upcoming State Fair," Mayor Dan Roe said shortly after the council approved the license.
Bent Brewstillery's brews are part of the "Land of 10,000 Beers" exhibit put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild in the Agriculture/Horticulture building, and Blume spoke on the topic of "Marketing to the Craft Beer Consumer" with other local brewers Aug. 25.
The brewstillery will be open every day of the Fair including Labor Day, and is offering two-for-one draft beers to those who bring in a State Fair ticket stub.
"Hopefully they won't be too tired, full and drunk [to come]," Blume joked.
For more information about Bent Brewstillery, visit www.bentbrewstillery.com.
If you go...
1744 Terrace Drive, Roseville
Hours through Sept. 1:
- Monday-Friday, 2 to 10 p.m.
- Saturday-Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
Regular hours starting Sept. 2:
- Thursday-Friday, 4-10 p.m.
- Saturday, 2-10 p.m.
- Closed Sunday-Wednesday