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Minn. bar busted for selling Spotted Cow beer in best undercover investigation ever

None of this beer is Spotted Cow. What is the point, even? (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
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Last week at The Washington Post dot com, we brought you the story of Minnesota’s great umlaut war. Yes, it was all very dramatic and exciting.

This week, we have more big news from our pals up north. For the details, I’ll turn things over to KMSP, the Fox affiliate that broke this story wide open and deserves all the Emmys and Peabodies. Here’s KMSP’s headline: “Spotted Cow beer sold illegally at bar in Maple Grove, Minn.”

Go ahead and take that in. I’ll wait.




For those of you who don’t know why you should care about a story that is basically just “Area bar sells beer,” I would point out that the beer in question is Spotted Cow, a product of New Glarus Brewing Co. It is a super beer, according to a source with knowledge of the product. (Me. I say that. I’m the source.)

It is only legal to distribute Spotted Cow in Wisconsin, where it is made.

“Sorry about the limited distribution, non-Wisconsinites,” the brewery explains on its Web site. “There are only so many hours in the day to make beer and we can only keep up with the local demand.”

Here is the description of Spotted Cow from the New Glarus site, which I am screen-shotting specifically to highlight how it can be paired with both breakfast foods and cheese curds.

“It’s an elegant beer, I think very European in nature,” Deb Carey, founder and president of New Glarus Brewery, told The Post in a phone interview. “And people love it. And nobody else has been able to replicate it, though plenty have tried.”

This is the great tragedy of Spotted Cow, of course. It’s great that it exists somewhere in the universe! But I won’t find it on tap at my local bar, which can be a real bummer.

The guys at Maple Tavern, which was busted in the recent beer investigation, know what I mean.

According to KMSP and investigation documents, authorities got an anonymous tip that someone had purchased kegs to sell the verboten beer at the bar in Maple Grove, Minn., about 45 miles from the state line. Investigators noticed a photo of a Spotted Cow tap on Maple Tavern’s Facebook page and were served some when they visited the bar undercover.

“We made a mistake,” Brandon Hlavka, one of the tavern’s owners, told The Post. “But it was all done with very good intentions.”

What happens next is still a bit unclear. Under Minnesota law, it is a felony “to transport or import alcoholic beverages into the state . . . for purposes of resale” without a proper license. Scott Wasserman, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, told The Post that the investigation is active and charges have not yet been filed, so it’s difficult to say what the penalties might be.

“Obviously it’s an ongoing investigation, and it’ll be up to the county attorney whether or not charges are filed,” Wasserman said.

Carey said New Glarus wasn’t involved in the investigation but that she did get a call about it from an owner of the tavern, who apologized.

“I’m like, ‘Yeah you don’t have to apologize for selling my beer,'” she said, while later noting that she felt “kind of bad for him.”

This is not the first time that Carey has heard of a bar getting caught for this type of offense, she said. And she wasn’t mad about it, of course — it’s a flattering thing, that the Spotted Cow brew is so beloved. She even recommended some good Minnesota beer.

“They’ve got great breweries over there. It’s not like they’re without great beer,” Carey said. “I don’t know. People just love our beer.”

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