Ace Spirits, Hopkins, Minnesota
Opening in the middle of March this year and taking advantage of the boom in both whisk(e)y and craft beer, Ace Spirits in Hopkins (southwest of Minneapolis by 20 minutes or so) is a small booze haven focusing on…whisk(e)y and craft beer. It’s advertising itself as having “every whisky available in the state” which of course means that everyone on staff here at The Casks was very excited to pay a visit. The store is the brainchild of Louis Dachis, one of the owners of the Merwin’s chain of liquor stores in the area.
The Good: A small but great looking space, Ace is a veritable canyon of bottles. It’s pleasantly dark (ostensibly to prevent outdoor/indoor light from affecting the bottles’ contents) and, thanks to the rail-mounted ladder to reach the pricey high-shelved stuff, feels a bit like a high-class library. It was nice to be welcomed warmly upon entering, and in due time, even nicer to be offered something to drink while I browsed. Wait, let me re-phrase that, it wasn’t just nice, it was fantastic. Shopping for booze is thirsty work, and while some stores do have occasional bottles open, you usually have to hunt down a sales person or be accosted by a rep at the door pushing their brand to get a small sip of something. I visited in mid-April and drove there in a blizzard…would I like some whisky to drink while I look at whisky? Yes, goddammit, yes I would, thank you. To take this one step further, the nice wee nip of William Grant & Sons’ Monkey Shoulder I was poured was not poured into a tiny plastic cup that looks like something you get your pills in during an unfortunate stay at the county mental institution, it was poured into a Glencairn glass. That, people, is doing it right. They also have a keg of beer tapped for tasting purposes…that’s also doing it right. Both the beer and whisky selections are deep. I saw many beers, sixers and bombers, that I’ve not seen elsewhere. Same can be said for the whisk(e)y, though, to be fair, I also didn’t see many things that I have seen elsewhere. It’s a slightly tricky game advertising yourself as carrying every whisky available in the state. Ace may well carry all the whiskies available in the great state of Minnesota, but there’s always the chance that they’ve sold out of something or waiting for their allocation to come. “Carrying” something does not automatically mean it’s in stock and on the shelf. Still, whisky-wise, there’s an excellent selection (at least by Minnesota standards) from around the world, top-shelf to bottom shelf. If anything, the independent bottlings were on the thin side, but I’d expect that selection to grow. Along with their focus of whisky and beer, there’s a small but decently curated selection of wine and other spirits. As for pricing…see below.
The Bad: I’ll not blame the weather on Ace. It was crappy out there. For whatever reason, I usually get hit with crappy weather every time I head west past Edina, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t Ace’s fault. What was their fault, however, was the conspicuous lack of pricing throughout the shop. The other spirits and the wine did have tags on the shelves but the beer and whisky did not. I was told there was a problem with their printer and that was holding things up. So while there, I really had no idea what the overall pricing was like at Ace. They do have their inventory online, and the prices seemed cheaper than some, more expensive than others. That’s to be expected, I guess. What’s not to be expected, however, is being open for little over a month and still not having all your price tags up. Wouldn’t you have that done before you even open? Chop, chop, Ace. Lastly, and this isn’t something I like to point out, but they are advertising themselves as a whisky shop, so I suppose it’s worth noting. When I asked about the Monkey Shoulder, I was told that it was a blended malt, and blended malts differ from the usual blended Scotch because they come from one distillery. I made a half-hearted attempt to point out the error, which was half-heartedly listened to, but by then the damage was done. Listening to a conversation with another customer, I heard some other common inaccuracies about bourbon, nothing major, but still. I’m willing to accept that simple mistakes were made, but if you’re going to bill yourself as a specialty shop, then it’s a reasonable expectation that you’re able to accurately educate your customers on your specialty.
So, yeah, I’m glad this shop exists. Ace has done a good job with their website as well, allowing us Minnesota folks to shop online. The store is also hosting several tastings, whisk(e)y and beer, and will be giving away some fairly nice bottles in conjunction with the tastings - just visit the site and join their mailing list for more info.There are lots of positive things about Ace Spirits, and a couple of negative things, which are hopefully just the kinks and pains of a brand new business. The positives will definitely bring me back, probably in July, when there’s only a 75% chance that it won’t snow.Ace Spirits 4 Shady Oak Road #18
Hopkins, MN 55343