WORDS BY MARTIN DEVANEY
After twelve years of owning and operating Honeycomb Salon in south Minneapolis, Erin Flavin saw a vacancy, not only in the Twin Cities beverage scene, but in the retail space next door. When an opportunity arose to buy the building, she took it, and Marigold, the first non-alcoholic bottle shop in the Twin Cities, began to bloom.
Named for a dance hall Flavin’s parents frequented as a young couple, she says she hopes Marigold will be a space that meets the demand for an ever-growing community that has either dialed back the amount of alcohol they consume. But abstaining from alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your sommelier sensibilities. A wine enthusiast who quit drinking a couple of years ago, Flavin still found herself looking for something to challenge her palate while being social with a drink in hand.
“I had to come up with my own routines beyond tea and LaCroix,” she explains. She began with sparkling botanicals—she says the Rishi brand is a favorite, which she carries in the shop—and non-alcoholic wines such as Null, which have been flying off Marigold shelves.
Flavin notes Marigold offers a comfortable space to explore NA, whether a customer isn’t comfortable navigating the aisles of a liquor store to find NA beverages or they don’t drink because of religious beliefs or dietary restrictions. And thanks to her experience as a stylist, she heard firsthand an increasing number of clients and friends were in search of socializing without paying for it the next morning.
In addition to NA beverages, Marigold offers a selection of THC drinks, for what’s often called “California Sober.” These have flooded the market after the surprise (and welcomed by many!) change in cannabis legislation in Minnesota this past summer.
Flavin also envisions Marigold as a welcoming community event space that helps normalize sober events. Looks like it’s already working: A recent winter market was buzzing between the shop and salon as the Marigold crew welcomed a stream of customers in from the cold.
It was at one such pop-up event back in March at Marigold that a lightbulb went off for Cate Faulkner and Jen Gilhoi, who were enjoying an evening of socializing in a spot with a speakeasy vibe that nevertheless served no alcohol. They discussed how not only were there lack of sober events, but a lack of people addressing it. In May 2022, they founded the Zero Proof Collective, a group aiming to connect businesses and people interested in non-alcoholic options through events and advocacy in the burgeoning industry. Despite the boom in products the last few years, the pair discovered there are still advances to make toward social awareness of the sober community.
“It’s an uphill battle with fifty-pound ankle weights,” says Faulkner, laughing. Seeking to change public perceptions of what constitutes actual NA options on a menu, Zero Proof Collective promotes and creates spaces to further the discussion and experience surrounding “elevated” non-alcoholic drinks. They, like so many looking for an alternative, don’t necessarily want sugary soda or the antiquated afterthought of a dusted-off O’Doul’s, and the work doesn’t end just with putting something on a menu: They’ve worked with restaurants such as COV Edina to craft a—you guessed it—craft NA cocktail menu, and, at a December pop-up event at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis, Gilhoi and Faulkner were on hand to offer a couple Christmas concoctions to visitors. They’re planning monthly pop-up events around the metro area, too.
The group is also reaching a wider audience: Gilhoi gave a TEDx Talk in October 2022 called “Sober Not Somber: An Enlightening Way to Evolve Drinking Culture.” Faulkner, meanwhile, was in New York for the launch of the first non-alcoholic beverage-themed magazine, After. They say the public can help, too, by asking for NA options while out, practicing acceptance, and talking with others about the value in providing a choice to this expanding market.
A huge step toward providing that value in the NA beverage world was taken right here in the Twin Cities when Ben Jordan founded ABV Technologies. Beginning with the idea in 2017 and launching in 2019, ABV created technology that removes alcohol from already-brewed beer. ABV developed the Equalizer, which takes the ethanol out of the brew, and the Analyzer, which can measure the ABV as low as 0.1 percent.
Jordan and his team work with and sell their products to most of the Minnesota breweries that make NA drinks, as well as several nationwide. The ABV team found craft beer brewers lacked a good technology to remove the ethanol from craft beer without affecting the taste. Though the equipment may be prohibitively expensive to purchase for smaller brewers, they can take small batches to one of six centers nationwide—including their St. Paul headquarters—and run it through the machinery. According to Ashley Hauf, marketing and sales manager the equipment works with any style of beer, which helps add inclusivity and variety to the brewing world.
“It doesn’t have to be a watery lager. We can do sours and barrel-aged beers, which can be more fun for the consumer,” she says.
Hauf, a veteran of the brewing world, is also president of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and says she appreciates learning about a whole other side of the beer drinking community. Because the brewing scene in Minnesota is a “pretty close-knit family,” as NA beers become more socially acceptable, word has gotten around that distributors are seeing sales add up.
It’s this kind of conversation, where care meets innovation, that will keep drinkers of all types at the table. Whether you need a break between stouts, are trying sobriety out, or have long been as sober as the proverbial judge, anyone can pull up a stool.
As Flavin says, “You don’t have to be a sobriety warrior to make a small change.”