What do you do when you love all things beer-related, but you don't have enough cash to start your own brewery?
You brew beer swag.
Maxwell Arndt, Brett Bartley and Colin McSteen are the three young men behind Swag Brewery, which is devoted to making t-shirts, jewelry and soap, all about beer.
One of Swag Brewery's popular t-shirts
Arndt (whose favorite beer of the moment is Fitger's Apricot Wheat) says he and his schoolmate Colin (current beer: Lucid Camo) knew they wanted to do something involving beer after graduating from the Carlson School of Management in the spring of 2011.
Last fall, we started meeting over beers to brainstorm ideas. We really wanted to take advantage of the explosive growth of the home-brewing and craft beer markets so we decided to test the concept of "outfitting" the industry with beer themed apparel and accessories. Since Colin is a graphic artist and I have experience with business, this seemed like a natural fit.
Arndt says at that point the guys started drinking more coffee than beer, and Swag Brewery began to take shape. Brett Bartley (current beer of choice: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine) came on board as the resident web guru, and the team was complete.
Swag Brewery got its launch at the Cloud Craft Beer Expo in late January. Arndt says the business' main focus is to outfit consumers (often self-identified as "beer geeks") of the homebrewing and craft beer industries. But the guys have also started to dabble in supplying breweries with branded and private label products for their gift shops and online stores.
But with shopping considered a generally female pastime, and beer-drinking generally considered a primarily male pastime, will Swag Brewery find enough customers for its wares? Arndt thinks so.
We know that women are more likely to "accessorize" their passions. And there are a ton of women-only beer advocacy groups, including Barley's Angels, for example, which are actively working to involve women in the enjoyment of craft beer. So we do think there is a real market for beer swag for women.
While the guys behind Swag Brewery seem to have found a great niche for their creative energies, Arndt says they haven't ruled out opening a brewery some day down the road.(4 Comments)
On Sunday, June 3 the Minnesota State Fair Grounds will host the first annual Minnesota Cheese Festival. The event will feature professional cheesemakers, home cheesemakers, chefs and wine-pairing experts.
Bent River cheese
Image courtesy Whitne McChane
Festival organizer Whitney McChane says while Wisconsin is best known for its thriving cheese-making industry, Minnesota is in fact the No. 6 cheese producing state in the US:
In recent years, the state's processed cheese giants have been joined by world-class artisan cheese producers - such as Caves of Faribault, Alemar Cheese Co. and Shepherd's Way Farms. Keith Adams from Alemar Cheese Co says it best: "Minnesota has a long and rich history of dairy farming, and while our output can't compete with our Eastern neighbor Wisconsin, our milk quality certainly can. And, if it isn't immediately apparent, great cheese can only be made from great milk."
As far as McChane knows, this is Minnesota's first festival entirely dedicated to cheese.
Some area foodie events are diluted with irrelevant vendors selling crafts or insurance - you absolutely will not encounter that at the Minnesota Cheese Festival. Our focus is specialty, artisan and farmstead cheeses, and the incredible food and beverage pairings that bring cheese to life. The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness for the growing cheese making community in Minnesota while creating opportunities for caseophiles (cheese lovers!) to sample and purchase new cheeses.
According to agricultural reports, Americans are consuming more specialty ("artisanal" or "farmstead") cheeses than ever before.
Image courtesy Whitne McChane
McChane says while Wisconsin has state-run programs that support the cheesemaking community, the resources for Minnesota cheesemakers are limited, and marketing often falls to the end of the "must do" list. This event is designed to support and empower the local cheesemaking community and foster a sense of pride among Minnesota residents.
This is the time of year many Minnesota film fan anticipate as much as the coming of spring: the unveiling of the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival schedule.
The festival runs April 12th through May 3rd this year, primarily at the St Anthony Main theaters in Minneapolis, but with some screenings at the historic Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.
Now to be completely candid, as of this moment the films and the time they are screened are listed on the MSPIFF website but the full schedule is not there yet. A downloadable schedule is promised soon.
However MSPIFF Executive Director Susan Smoluchowski, and Programming Director Jesse Bishop gave a rundown of some of the highlights the other day.
The festival will open with "The Intouchables" a controversial French comedy about a man paralyzed from the neck down and his unlikely friendship with a man recently released from prison. The movie is the second highest grossing film in France of all time.
The opening weekend also includes the latest from director Fred Schepisi (Last Orders, Six Degrees of Separation, Roxanne) called "Eye of the Storm." The director will introduce the film.
Also Saturday the 14th has been declared Milgrom Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the U Film Society by Al Milgrom, which in turn spawned the MSPIFF. In addition to a number of screenings there will be a party with special music guest Willie Murphy.
The festival includes a focus on the Middle East, including the closing film from Lebanon "Where do we go now?" the hit at the Toronto International Film Festival from the director of "Caramel" Nadine Labaki.
There will also be a focus on music, including "King for 2 days" which was shot in Minneapolis a couple of years ago during the Walker Art Center's celebration of drummer Dave King. He will play at the Astor Cafe after the film. The new Andrew Bird film is also on the docket, as is the world premier of a new documentary "The Entertainers" on the best ragtime piano players in the country. For that show several of the musicians will be present, as will a piano.
Susan Smoluchowski pointed out three panels during the weekends of the festival. First up will be a discussion on Sunday 15th at noon entitled "Muslims and the Media" featuring US Representative Keith Ellison and documentary director Daniel Tutt who's "Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World" will screen both at MSPIFF and on PBS this summer
During the second weekend directors Peter Raymont, and Steve Ascher will discuss "The Doc and the Artist" during a panel on directing documentaries and particularly about filming artists.
The final weekend will be a panel Conversations with Minnesota Feature directors.
There's lots, lots more in the schedule and it's well worth a scan.