Tom Boland and Ryan Widuch first crossed paths in seventh-grade home economics class at Sunrise Park Middle School in White Bear Lake. The pair quickly hit it off, maintaining their friendship following graduation in 1999. When Widuch returned to the Twin Cities from Chicago in 2007, they began home-brewing craft beers.
Initially, they toyed with the idea of starting their own brewery, but it stalled out as they pursued other breweries to help brew their beer. “We were just a hair behind the trend and realized most of the breweries were at capacity,” Widuch says.
They shifted gears in 2011, focusing instead on a retail outlet, a decision that, according to Boland, was a good fit. “It allowed us to celebrate the whole of the Twin Cities craft movement instead of competing with them.” Their initial vision was to offer exclusively craft beers from breweries across Minnesota, but when they found a space in south Minneapolis, there was room to do much more. “We liked the business model which would incorporate all elements of a liquor store, plus we saw a growing trend in local, sustainable production—with beer, wine—yet wanted to take away the pretense, the veil of mystique,” says Widuch. “We wanted everyone to feel comfortable in our shop.”
The first Elevated Beer Wine & Spirits proved a success from the start, due in large part to a well-versed staff helping patrons navigate the vast selection. Opening the second location can be partially attributed to the exposure they’ve received on 1500 ESPN’s Beer Show, which airs Thursday nights at 7 p.m. Their segment, “Beer Run,” hosted by Boland and Widuch, focuses on the craft beer culture.
Their expansion into White Bear Lake this past July filled a niche in the north metro and gave these hometown boys a chance to serve their community. “There is resurgence in downtown White Bear Lake. We want to make sure we support this budding scene. We have the quality and selection, and are there as guides,” Widuch says. Boland adds, “We are constantly working with customers to make adjustments and fine-tune.”
Boland and Widuch see this as a time of transition with beer and spirits. “There are expected to be 100 local breweries in Minnesota by the end of the year. I think it reflects a growing trend of people interested in not only what is going into the products they are consuming, but also who and where those products are created. The emphasis is on quality,” Widuch says. Boland concurs, “The local, sustainable movement that we’re seeing with food and drink and really, small business in general, is very exciting.”
Just in time for the holidays, Tom Boland and Ryan Widuch have put together a list of gifts or “must-haves” for your holiday entertaining.
Build your own six-pack
A great way to try a variety of seasonal beers, as well as a perfect gift for the beer fan in your life; six 12 oz. beers from over 500 in our selection (prices vary).
Great Lakes Christmas Ale: Rich malt, cinnamon and ginger hide a deceptively smooth 7.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Anchor Christmas Ale: Annual favorite with a unique recipe each year that always delivers.
Bell’s Christmas Ale: Layers of malt flavors in a lighter Scotch-ale style.
Deschutes Jubelale: Sweet malt flavors of dried fruit, chicory and toffee.
“Bomber” (large shareable beer)
These 22 oz. or 750 ml beers are great specialty ales, perfect for holiday get-togethers or the dinner table.
Indeed-Old Friend: Fresh ginger and honey add layers of flavor to the rich malts and complex Belgian yeast flavors. ($9.99/22 oz.)
Boom Island-Yule: Strong holiday ale featuring a unique recipe to celebrate each year. Past editions have included spices and fig, and approached 13 percent ABV. ($14.99/750 ml)