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Reprinted From        Avenues         JANUARY 2007

Suds of
old St. Paul

Summit Hill man resurrects
a beer that was first brewed in 1885 by Bavarian immigrant C. Stahlmann


Frank Yarusso with a six-pack of his Brewer's Cave Golden Caramel Lager - Janet Hostetter

By David Page

     Frank Yarusso knew that college students can be a beer distributor's best market, but he never realized how much help they could be in actually marketing beer until he received a phone call a few years ago from a group at the University St. Thomas. The Tommies had found him by calling the telephone number printed on a bottle of Blue Diamond, one of Yarusso's labels and one of their favorite beers.

    The students wanted to know if Yarusso would be willing to have Blue Diamond be the subject of a class marketing project. Yarusso agreed to meet with them.

    "I learned that a lot of students bought cases of less expensive beer to share with friends,"' Yarusso said, "but they also bought six-packs of more expensive beer for themselves."

    That discovery convinced Yarusso to shift his focus to what the industry calls "hand-crafted beers," and he bought the Brewer's Cave label from the now defunct Minnesota Brewing Company in St. Paul.

    The original Brewer's Cave beer was first produced in 1885 by Christopher Stahlmann, a Bavarian immigrant who operated a brewery in the caves under what is now West 7th Street, on the future site of Minnesota Brewing. Stahlmann's beer was made from the natural spring water that bubbled up beside his underground Cave Brewery. The caves, which eventually extended a mile wide and three levels deep, had a natural coolness that was perfect for storing the finished product.

    Yarusso's plan to resurrect Brewer's Cave beer was almost scotched when Minnesota Brewing went into receiver-ship. However, he was able to cut a deal with Bremer Bank for the label and formulas and to coax Minnesota Brewing's former brewmaster, Sig Plagens, out of retirement to serve as an adviser.

    Plagens, who had learned the art of brewing in the German cities of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen, immigrated to the U.S. in 1959 and landed a job with Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul. Plagens became the head brewmaster at Schmidt in 1985 and continued in that role when Minnesota Brewing reopened the West 7th Street brewery in 1991. With the closing of Minnesota Brewing in 2002, Yarusso moved his labels to Gluek Brewing Co. in the central Minnesota town of Cold Spring. Once home to Cold Spring Brewing Company, that brewery has been using the water from a natural spring since 1874.

    Yarusso got his start in the restaurant business. A graduate of St. Paul's Johnson High School, he joined the Marines in the early 1960s and after his discharge bought the former Scotch Mist nightclub in Minneapolis. In the late 1970s, he joined his uncle as part-owner of the venerable Yarusso Brothers Restaurant on St. Paul's East Side and a dozen years later moved to Arizona to start a restaurant of his own.

The original Brewer's Cave beer was first produced in 1885 by Christopher Stahlmann, a Bavarian immigrant who operated a brewery in the caves under what is now West 7th Street.

     When plans for his Arizona eatery fell through, Yarusso began distributing Minnesota Brewing products. After Super Value acquired the rights to export Minnesota Brewing products, Yarusso took the advice of former Minnesota Brewing CEO Dick McMahon and began purchasing his own beer labels to distribute. "That way no one could take (distribution rights) away from me," he said.

    Yarusso accepted an offer from Johnson Brothers Distillery in Princeton, Minnesota, to use its chemists and facilities to create new beers. His first brew there was a hot pepper-flavored beer similar to what was becoming popular in the American Southwest. "It was pretty hot," Yarusso said. "We used to joke as I was carrying it back to the Twin Cities from Princeton in the trunk of my car that I'd better not get rear-ended or the car would explode." Yarusso worked with Plagens to tone down the flavor, and soon he was distributing Cerveza Caliente and a non-alcoholic version called Cebada. Shortly thereafter, he was producing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers called Hista and Kista for export to Korea. "I can't even remember which was which," he said. He created a beer called Riverside Light for the Riverside Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada, and just because he liked the name, created a label called Coyote Beer.

    "Seagrams threatened to sue me because it had something called Coyote Tequila," Yarusso said. He agreed not to use the name, but now, he said I'm thinking about bringing (Coyote Beer) back since Seagrams sold the tequila label to a European company."

    Yarusso bought the Diamond Blue label from Minnesota Brewing and rechristened it Blue Diamond, which is also the name he has given to his brewing company, now head-quartered in the basement of the former St. Paul Academy on Dale Street and Portland Avenue less than a block from his home.

    For the three varieties of Brewer's Cave - Black Barley Ale, Amber Wheat and Golden Caramel Lager - Yarusso and Plagens have abided by the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law of 1516 that man-dates that beer be made only of water, barley and hops. "That means there are no additives or preservatives," Plagens said, "all natural ingredients." The beers take five weeks to brew, rather than the typical three weeks, and they are not mass produced. The most recent batch totaled only 341 barrels. Brewer's Cave is now available at Thomas Liquors on Grand Avenue, and 1st Grand Avenue Liquor Store has agreed to start carrying the label early next year. Yarusso is also working to get his beers into local bars and restaurants and to begin offering it in kegs. With all that he has learned about handcrafted beers, Yarusso is more than comfortable offering advice for those who enjoy a good beer. "Always drink beer from a glass," he said. "Don't ever use a glass that has had milk in it, even once. And always pour the beer into the middle of the glass, not down the side."



Premium Hand-Crafted Beer's by Blue Diamond Brewing Company of Minnesota use only the highest quality hops, grain and yeast that money can buy to brew its beer - because of these high quality ingredients, we can guarantee you a premium beer product with a consistent taste that you deserve and respect.

Blue Diamond Brewing Company
Hand Crafted
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"From the Land of Blue Diamonds"


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