f the process of opening a distillery were a baseball game, Tyson and Mary Schnitker would be in the final inning.
“We just rounded third plate, we’re running towards home, it’s been a long game,” said Tyson Schnitker, founder of a new Brooklyn Park distillery.
Three years after dreaming it, the couple is a few weeks away from opening Skaalvenn, the northwest metro’s first distillery.
Federal approval came last Friday, and the Schnitkers are awaiting state and local approval, which they expect to happen in the next 60 days.
“First two things coming out of here is vodka and rum, two different products,” said Tyson Schnitker pointing to the 160-gallon still that recently arrived from Iowa.
With a nod to Tyson’s Norwegian ancestry, the distillery name, Skaalvenn translates to a toast to friends.
“It’s perfect because it’s about being social and including friends and family and having a good time,” said Mary Schnitker.
Skaalvenn’s Nordic logo with a mischievous Viking, recently unveiled with the help of Minneapolis ad agency, The Shinebox, is designed to appeal to the home crowd. Once the distillery opens, the craft spirits will be distributed to local liquor stores and area bars.
“The goal was to create a brand, a fun image where someone glances at it and says, ‘hey, that’s different, I think I want to try this,'” said Mary Schnitker.
Scandanavian in spirit, the small start–up operation represents the American dream for the Schnitkers. Starting with a shoestring budget that includes personal savings from Tyson’s years in the Army National Guard and now Air Force National Guard, the couple hopes to build their business and eventually open a cocktail room on site.
“We want to create a good product, we want to have a good following, we want people to have fun when they’re drinking our products,” said Tyson Schnitker. “I can’t wait to get people in here and show them how it’s done.”
Skaalvenn will produce vodka and rum for starters, but the distillery will eventually expand to whiskey and aquavit.
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