More than 150 beer distributors are expected in northeast Minneapolis Tuesday and Wednesday as the company that owns Grain Belt rolls out a new beer named after the area.
The August Schell Brewing Company, which has owned Grain Belt since 2002, is introducing the Grain Belt "Nordeast" beer as part of Schell's 150th year in business.
Nordeast will be rolled out Tuesday at the 1906 Bottling House in Northeast Minneapolis. At night, residents will be able to see the iconic Grain Belt sign on Nicollet Island illuminated by an 800-million candle power World War II "anti-aircraft" searchlight.
The rollout will be completed Wednesday morning by Schell's Brewery owner Ted Marti, who will carry Nordeast beer into Surdyk's Liquor Store and Gourmet Cheese Shop in northeast Minneapolis. Surdyk's, which will be the first liquor store to receive Nordeast, plans to open an hour early at 7 a.m. in preparation for a high turnout, employee Lindsey Coleman said.
Nordeast will only be available in bars and liquor stores in northeast Minneapolis on Wednesday. The beer will be more widely available after that.
Marti has described Nordeast as an American amber lager that is "very drinkable" with a "light maltiness, a hint of sweetness" and a "slight caramel flavor." It remains to be seen how popular the beer will be.
The beer's name is derived from the cultures of the Northern and Eastern European immigrants who first lived in northeast Minneapolis, where Grain Belt originated. The name is intended to honor the ethnic history of the region, said Rob Brown, a spokesman for Schell's anniversary events.
"Some have protested that the name is a racial slur," Brown said. "But we think it's an honor for the ethnic immigrants who were here years ago and who likely worked in the breweries."
Grain Belt Brewing, founded in 1893, was purchased in 2002 by Schell's Brewery. Brown said the Grain Belt brand had been continuously traded across brewing companies. Grain Belt is now sold in seven states, and company officials say it's doing well.
"It's amazing to see where the company is today after all it's been through," Brown said.
Coincidentally, the final stage of the Nordeast rollout falls on the anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
Schell's, the second-oldest brewery in the U.S. owned by a single family, has scheduled events throughout 2010 to celebrate the company's 150th anniversary.