Home brewing craze

Published 10:00 pm Sunday, September 17, 2017

Albert Lea business has fine-tuned primitive process

There are an estimated 1.2 million home brewers in the United States who produce more than 2 million barrels of brew a year, according to the American Homebrewers Association. With interest in the hobby rising, an Albert Lea business is helping people brew their own wine and beer.

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Collective Spirits Inc. sells an array of supply kits for home-brewed beer and wine at its store at 1507 Blake Ave., including dessert wines, such as chocolate raspberry, salted caramel, mocha, red velvet and vanilla fig, and an assortment of other wine and beer kits.

The idea to form Collective Spirits began after Kevin Blake became impressed with how well his Winexpert homemade wine turned out.

Kevin Blake and Kasey Blake-Tufte are co-owners of Collective Spirits in Albert Lea. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“I said, ‘Deb (Hemmingsen), this building is sitting here,’” Blake said of a empty building on his Blake Avenue property. “Maybe we should turn this into something — and just kind of went ahead and just dug in.”

He said though he enjoys a day with a large amount of sales, they have learned a lot from their customers.

“When it comes to mostly winemaking, there (are) thousands of ways to do it,” Blake said. “There’s not a right or wrong. People do it many different ways, and it turns out. Some of them don’t — we all have failures. We have met the most interesting people in here.”

Collective Spirits carries the entire line of Brewer’s Best beer kits. Cider House kits are also in stock, and the store offers a variety of dry beer yeast and stocks a few Wyeast and White Labs yeast packs. Equipment at the store ranges from grain mills to bottles, kegging equipment and other items.

Collective Spirits carries a large inventory of Winexpert wine ingredient kits from Island Mist and Vinters Reserve to the new Eclipse Series and Limited Edition. A few RJ Spagnols kits are available, as well as fruit puree, grape concentrates and other ingredients for customers who make wine from fruit or grapes.

Collective Spirits is at 1507 Blake Ave. in Albert Lea. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

According to the store, its equipment inventory is expansive and will carry customers from fermentation through bottling, and Collective Spirits can order products not in stock.

Collective Spirits — founded in April 2009 — is co-owned by Kevin Blake, Kasey Tufte, Justin Blake and Hemmingsen. The store is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Kevin Blake said winter is the busiest time of the year in the store.

Collective Spirits has seen a major increase in its inventory since it opened, he said. 

“It’s a little tough to keep up with absolutely everything,” he said. “It used to be a pretty primitive process, and it’s really gotten fine-tuned. It’s been pretty fun.”

Blake has met gardeners, people who enjoy being outdoors, self-sufficient individuals and people who make wine out of an assortment of items.

Collective Spirits was established in 2009. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“You know the microbrew craze right now — every one of those guys started out with a five-gallon batch from a store like this,” he said. “Every single one — I guarantee it.”

Making your own beer and wine makes you a connoisseur of the drinks, Blake said.

“You didn’t plan on becoming a connoisseur, but you became one,” he said.

Blake said they would like to place a mill in the store so people can mill grain, along with carrying cheese samples. He said homemade wine is relatively inexpensive and lacks preservatives found in commercial wine.

“Most people that start making wine, they stick with it,” he said. “They grow to not liking commercial wine, probably for that reason — you can taste the preservative.”

Different malts are used, depending on what kind of beer is being brewed. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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