With craft distilling booming almost as quickly as the craft beer industry did, there have been some pretty interesting spirits on the market. You may have quaffed grains, fruits and starches roasted and fermented every which way, but vodka from a sugar beet? You BET.
“We loved the idea of coming together through the sharing of a locally crafted drink and beverage. This is an opportunity to do something a little more unique—a way to represent a big agricultural element of our state—and that was the genesis of it,” says Ben Brueshoff of Edina, owner of BĒT Vodka (pronounced beet, like the plant it is made from).
BĒT Vodka was born in 2016. The idea traveled with Brueshoff to a still fashioned out of a beer keg in his old business partner’s garage. (Not strictly legal, but in the name of progress!) Looking around the city, he saw breweries opening everywhere. Games, music and good conversation flowed where these places opened. So, he thought, why couldn’t the same thing be done with a spirit?
BĒT Vodka won a 2020 platinum Sip Award, an internationally recognized consumer-judging spirits competition, and also won the prestigious Consumers’ Choice Award.
Brueshoff chose vodka because foremost, it is the number one consumed spirit in the world. From martinis to greyhounds, vodka is everywhere. Often though, it is an alcohol masked in a drink, not something brought to the front flavor-wise. Brueshoff wants to change that.
“Vodka, a lot of the time is perceived as odorless and flavorless and not that nice to taste, which I think is a lot of people’s experience having vodka. Having it go straight to your head. This is something that is totally different and unique in that sense,” Brueshoff says. “[BĒT Vodka] has a sweetness that’s not typical and a velvety or buttery mouth feel with no lingering vapor burn that can be otherwise typical.”
But beyond bringing a new player to the vodka market, Brueshoff saw an opportunity to make a Minnesota connection. Inspired by “a little bit of research, a little bit of luck and a little bit of a light bulb moment,” he says, and seeing that there was an urban distillery using beet sugar in New York, a spark began to smolder.
While 10,000 lakes, the word “ope” and mosquitoes as big as your face may be Minnesota’s main calling cards, we have a secret dynasty. Minnesota is the largest producer of sugar beets in the country, and nestled up right next to North Dakota is the Red River Co-op, the country’s largest sugar beet co-op.
It can all be traced back to Henry Oxnard, who started his sugar beet empire around the Midwest, eventually setting up farms in Minnesota. As the industry grew, Minnesota’s sugar beet farms eventually turned into the American Crystal Sugar company, which makes table sugar from, well, sugar beets. You know the round logo that sits in your pantry. Next time you fill a teaspoon with it for your coffee, know it was probably made right here in Minnesota.
BĒT Vodka wanted to honor this heritage, not only with its name, but with its mascot. Henry, a 1951 Dodge farm truck, is BĒT’s mobile billboard. Named after the founder of the sugar industry, Henry has traveled around the metro area to advertise and set up a cocktail hour or events featuring BĒT. Henry is important because BĒT Vodka doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location yet. No distillery—they contract with 45th Parallel Distillery in New Richmond—and no cocktail room, BĒT spreads by word-of-mouth, liquor stores and bars. But that’s just fine with Brueshoff, who wants to grow slow and focus on his target audience: The Twin Cities area. Edina residents can find BĒT Vodka at Edina Liquor for approximately $30.
“This is a story about Minnesota, and I would like it to be known as, when people say, ‘Is there a spirit or a product that represents Minnesota?’ I want it to be BĒT Vodka,” says Brueshoff. “The spirits industry is one that’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme by any means—it more has to come through your passion that you want to create something that is nice, unique and beautiful and that people will appreciate.”
One of its signature cocktails, the BĒT neat, is a new twist on the classic martini. To make this cocktail, shake a healthy portion of BĒT Vodka over ice, pour up, add a couple dashes of orange bitters and a lemon twist and voilà—an instant classic.
As for the future, Brueshoff says he isn’t seeking national acclaim or distribution in different countries—he just wants BĒT to become a staple for local vodka drinkers. He says that today people are working hard not to build giant brands, but to build something they can put their stamp on, that they can call their own.
In the spirit of the holidays, BĒT Vodka joyfully shares festive drink recipes you can make at home …
- 1 oz. BĒT Vodka
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Sweet vermouth
- Chilled soda water to top up
Combine ingredients in a rocks glass filled with ice. Twist a slice of orange to release the aromatic oils in the peel and insert as garnish. Top with a splash of soda water.
- 1 oz BĒT Vodka
- 3/4 oz. Thyme simple syrup
- 3/4 oz. Ginger beer
- 1/2 oz. Fresh lime juice
- 1/4 oz. Peach liqueur
Shake in a tin with ice & strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and a sprig of thyme.
- 2 oz. BĒT Vodka
- 3/4 oz. Espresso
- 3/4 oz. Baileys Irish Cream
Build over ice in a double old-fashioned glass, finish with Baileys.