New distillery hopes to open by February


Pat Johnson’s and Bryan Dalzell’s dream of operating a distillery is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Somerset Village Board voted unanimously at its meeting Oct. 22 to approve a conditional use permit for the operation and to rezone a parcel from Highway Commercial to Industrial where the distillery is to be located.

The parcel in question is located at 599 County Road VV next to Somerset Sales and Leasing. It’s part of the Kramer Family Limited Partnership. The men will be leasing the property.

The business, if approved at the state and federal levels, will be called Flatcap Distillery, Johnson said. They originally had thought of naming it River’s Edge Distillery, but that’s when they were looking to open the business at a location next to the St. Croix River in Hudson.

“Plus there’s like three or four businesses in town with the name River’s Edge,” Johnson said.

The name Flatcap comes from a style of hat that was worn by many men in the 1930s, especially in England, Johnson said. He and his friends also like to wear that style of cap.

The next step in jump-starting the business is getting the application and background checks approved at the federal level, which was delayed by the government shutdown.

“It’s the hardest bunch of hoops to jump through,” Johnson said. “It usually takes anywhere from two to three months.”

Johnson said they plan to submit the application to the state this week, which if approved, will be conditional on the federal application receiving approval.

The pair chose Somerset over Hudson because the village board was much more agreeable in Somerset, Johnson said.

“Things had been going great in Hudson, but it was taking too long,” Johnson said.

The distillery will be in the building that’s already onsite and will require some construction for functional office space and a retail store.

The building, which is just under 3,000 square feet, has housed a number of smaller businesses over the years that have never stayed for a long time, Johnson said.

Johnson and Dalzell, who reside in Minneapolis, plan to produce, bottle and sell vodka and gin to start with, and move on to other spirits in the future.

The gin they hope to produce will be “local, with a new take on an old recipe,” Johnson said. “We got into the craft movement when mixology was first taking off.”

One reason they’re focused on producing gin is that they haven’t been able to find a gin that they really love, Johnson said.

“We want to make something that we want to drink,” he said.

“It seems like everything is so ‘junipery and pine tree-ey,’” Dalzell said. “We’re not trying to change the direction of the ship. We just want to make a new gin.”

Both men have 25 years between them in the bar and restaurant business. Dalzell is currently managing an establishment in downtown Minneapolis.

Customers will be able to purchase the products they make at the retail store, as well as Flatcap Distillery apparel. Some of the clothing contains the slogan “Support Local Hooch,” Johnson said.

They hope to be producing at least 10,000 bottles a year to start.

They plan to use only locally sourced ingredients in their spirits. These include wheat, sugar beets and botanicals, such as lemon grass and juniper berries.

The pair also plans to use barrels from cooperages in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Johnson and Dalzell are hoping to open the distillery by Feb. 1, 2014. Right now they are in the process of looking for small business grants.

“We are trying to do a nimble start up and keep our costs low and product good,” Johnson said. “We want to make the best thing for the best price for our customers.”

Johnson will be working at the business full-time as CEO in charge of sales, marketing and administration.

Dalzell hopes to transition to full-time in the next year as chief product officer. Another friend, Eric Cameron, will be working with the duo, but not as a full partner.