Thursday, October 22, 2020

Lakeville Is A Great Place To Live And Work!

Lakeville, MN is a beautiful place to call home. It is a great place to raise a family. It is a safe and clean community. A lot of the housing is new or newer, but there is also plenty of older style housing, so no matter your preference or budget, you can find somewhere great to live.

Lakeville has nearly everything you might need for daily life as a consumer: restaurants, retail, services, chains, mom-and-pops - almost everything. What they don't have themselves is only a short drive away in one of it's neighboring towns.

Lakeville has a small town feel while providing proximity to the big city.

Lakeville has some amazing parks and walking paths so you can get out and stay active close to home.

Lakeville is often named one of the best places to live by large magazines and websites.

Despite all of these awesome features of living in Lakeville, it seems that of all of the towns in Dakota County (which Lakeville is in), Lakeville has disproportionately few jobs, and especially "Head-of-Household" type jobs that earn significant income.

A Star Tribune article from way back in 2012 (I'm a little late to this breaking news) talks about Lakeville having hired a marketing consultant from South Carolina to study the area and advise on how to attract more businesses to Lakeville. They wanted to keep all of the great businesses which already call Lakeville home, but they also wanted to encourage new business growth to expand the opportunity for people from Lakeville to work in Lakeville. They didn't want people to feel like they had to commute to the city to work if they chose to live in Lakeville.

Part of the resulting marketing plan included a new city logo and a tagline of "Lakeville: Positioned To Thrive". It also included a plan to attend business expos where larger and industrial companies would be and hope to convince them to expand into the Lakeville Minnesota area.

Lakeville is a perfect place to pitch to businesses looking to move or expand because it has great infrastructure, is close to the cities without being in the cities, has plenty of housing to accommodate employees that would be moving to the new factory or worksite, and already has a large educated population ready to work.

The marketing plan pointed out that it would be important to sell the importance of the Lakeville downtown as pleasant and thriving because the life of the community is important when considering where to plant your business. Though the downtown area is strapped on space and unable to be effectively expanded, it's beautiful and available for use to some degree.

It seems that Dave Olson, the Director of Economic and Community Development, was going to be one of the key people involved in making changes in the community based on the recommendations of the marketing plan. He made it sound like some of the advice is actionable straight away and some of it is a bit too lofty and would require a budget the city does not have available at the moment.

The article talked about several excellent employers that are already in the area, each food related, such as MOM Brands (Malt-O-Meal, which has been purchased by Post), Arden Culinary, and ConAgra.

Seeing as this article was written in 2012, there has been significant time for the plan to have done work and made changes. I feel like Lakeville is a great place with lots of options, though almost any place would prefer to have more employer options. I would love to have read a follow-up piece that talked about the progress made, but I haven't seen one yet.

Have you been living in the Lakeville area since 2012? Have you witnessed firsthand the changes and improvements in the business community? Do you think the recommendations in the marketing plan were reasonable? Share your views in the comments!

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I'm Available For Hire!

I am a young professional who has just graduated with a bachelor's degree in Business Management in August 2020. I completed the degree with a 4.0 GPA.

I am someone who loves to learn and grow. I have a very broad range of interests. I chose the management degree because the skills taught in the program can be useful to someone working in nearly any field, but I really want to work in marketing. I am receptive to working in general business and management, but would prefer to couple that with marketing aspects of a business.

I am more interested in digital marketing and content marketing than in traditional offline marketing. I have spent most of my free time over the years researching and practicing Search Engine Optimization through blogging.

I believe that blogging is the best way to get useful information out into the world which can help attract customers to your business and help them decide to work with you or buy from you.

I have learned most of my SEO skills through self-directed learning through blogs and videos and through tinkering. I built this website in part to practice digital marketing and to have something useful to show potential employers as proof of my abilities.

I think that social media is very helpful for staying in contact with the customers and fans you already have and for sharing timely information with followers, but it is not very effective for attracting new customers and growing the size of your audience. I believe that blogging, SEO, and targeting relevant keywords is the best way to grow your customer base.

Many digital marketers give the advice that you should dedicate much of your efforts to keyword research so that you can find high search volume keywords with low competition and prioritize your content creation efforts around the key terms you are most likely to rank in Google for. This is good advice, but to some degree a wasted effort. I believe you should write about the business you are in. If you are in a business, then you know the topics and content within that business and can come up with great key phrases by brainstorming. Too much keyword research can lead you into the trap of writing content that is irrelevant to your business and customers simply because you believe you can rank it.

When I imagine my dream job, it is to help small to medium sized businesses who do not already have a website or web presence to get online. I want to help get their websites built and to create a content strategy for their blog. I want to work on sourcing or creating that content so that they can have consistent content being posted which can help them to be discovered by people who would benefit from learning about them. I want to help businesses find customers.

I see the most ideal place to do this work being a small, bespoke marketing agency that focuses on local clients. I think local SEO is particularly interesting when compared to the hyper-competitive spaces that exist in so many verticals and niches because you can have recognizable impact in a much shorter period of time.

Some job titles that I have seen which might be a great fit for me have been:

  • SEO Specialist
  • SEO Coordinator
  • Content Creator
  • Content Strategist
  • Owned Media Manager
  • Inbound Marketing Specialist
  • Digital Marketing Intern
  • SEO Planner
  • Internet Marketing Assistant

I consider myself to be a generalist. I love to learn about everything. I like to think I know at least a little bit about almost everything. One of my favorite pastimes is listening to the How Stuff Works - Stuff You Should Know podcast, where the two hosts talk about random topics for around an hour a piece. They have over 1000 episodes on almost any topic you can think of. I have not come even close to finishing all of their episodes, but I love the feeling of expanding my knowledge in totally new directions. I think this wide-spread range of interests would make me perfect for working with local businesses of all sorts trying to make online work for them.

I am most interested in working in Lakeville or Apple Valley, MN. I would be open to working anywhere south of the Twin Cities, including: Eagan, Edina, Bloomington, Farmington, Northfield,  and Burnsville. If the job opportunity was perfect enough, I would even consider commuting to Minneapolis or St. Paul. I am open to working in a remote position. I am absolutely looking for a career over a job. I have been employed since I was in high school, but I have never worked in the corporate or professional level of employment. This will be my first formal position working in marketing, though I am not without experience. I have built this blog as proof of my experience. 

I want to join a team of fun marketers who can help me build up my skills and work where I can make a real impact. I will be a great asset to whichever company I join and I can't wait to start work there!

If what I have written here describes just the type of employee / team member you have been looking for, then please reach out to me at waynewwalls @ Please also comment on this post saying that you have sent me an email so that I can check for it right away! 

I am excited to hear from you!


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Angry Inch Brewing Review

Angry Inch Brewing is a microbrewery located on Holyoke Avenue in Lakeville, Minnesota. They are just across the parking lot from Lakeville Brewing Company.

I have already written a review of Lakeville Brewing Company on this blog, and now I want to review their brewery neighbor. I hope to write about my experiences at lots of breweries on this blog over time!

The Taproom

Angry Inch has a smaller taproom than lots of other breweries, but it is very inviting and pleasant. Their website describes it as an "Industrial Meets Rustic Vibe", which pretty accurately sums it up.

The taproom is well lit, but with dimmer and warmer light. They have edison bulb chandeliers made of wagon wheels and beer growlers. The wood is dark and so is the metal. The room has a dark feel to it.

They have a bar that you can sit at and they have regular table-and-chair seating. In the corner of the taproom, they also have a couple leather arm chairs and a coffee table for a little different seating.

On the wall behind the leather chairs is a large poster that shows the location and name of tons of breweries in the United States. There are so many that you can't take it all in at once, but I have fun looking at it almost every time I go in.

They also have some custom book shelves with some interesting reads on them (including lots about beer). They also have a cabinet for board games and cards.

There is a popcorn machine that is usually full and offers free popcorn for the taproom guests.

The beer tap list is available in two places. They keep their list updated in chalk on several slats of blackboard, but they also have their menu on a large flat screen TV behind the bar.

The Patio

Not only do they have a great and inviting indoor taproom, but they have a fenced in outdoor patio as well!

There are several tables with chairs in the patio area, so there is plenty of outdoor seating at Angry Inch. They have the space decorated with planters filled with flowers. There is a swinging gate in the fencing so that you can enter and leave through the patio. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Angry Inch has even expanded their outdoor space with additional tables and chairs and more area roped off for guests to use.

This patio space is dog friendly. I love bringing my dog to this brewery and usually there is at least one other dog, so the dogs get to greet each other. The staff usually have a water dish outside and ready to go for dogs, and when it is not already out, they will quickly get it ready for patrons with dogs. Many times the staff have even brought treats out for my dog. Needless to say, Angry Inch is my dog's favorite brewery!

Angry Inch has instituted COVID safety procedures that make it extra safe to be there. Tables have QR codes taped to them that show the beer menu by scanning it with your phone. You can go inside to place your beer order, but staff will also come right to your table to take your order, process your payment, and bring you your drink. When you are finished, there are plastic bussing tubs near the door where you can put your empty glassware. When you leave, the staff clean and sanitize the table, and the space is ready for the next patron. They are also diligent in collecting information for contact tracing. They are taking the COVID precautions very seriously, and I feel safe going there.

Neighbor Breweries

Because Lakeville Brewing Company and Angry Inch are so close to each other, I usually visit both when I go to either of them. The two breweries work especially well together because Lakeville Brewery is a restaurant, but often they have a bit of a wait time to get a table, so you can go put your name in for a reservation, then head over to Angry Inch to get a drink while you wait for your table.


Angry Inch sells bar snacks, including Von Hanson's seasoned pretzels, and has free popcorn, but they do not sell food. They have menus and recommendations for restaurants in the area that will deliver to the brewery and you are welcome to have food delivered and eat it in the taproom.

They also have food trucks park just outside the patio area sometimes. I have gotten a pizza from the Brick Oven Bus a few times, and it was very fast and delicious! 

Angry Inch hosts regular events each weeks, such as trivia and bingo, which are a lot of fun.

The Beer

The beer selection at Angry Inch is different from what you find at many other breweries. Lots of breweries make lots of IPAs and APAs and really focus on hoppy flavors. Angry Inch makes beer that usually focuses more on the malt flavor. They describe their beer as being Belgian inspired.

Their menu has some options that are consistently available, but they also do lots of experimental temporary runs, which is great because there is always something new to try.

I really like their Creamalicious cream ale. My favorite cream ale ever is the Castle Danger cream ale. I so like Castle Danger's cream ale that I thought I liked all cream ales, and so I tend to try them wherever I can. It turns out I only like some cream ales. Lots of cream ales have a very strong vanilla flavor that I do not care for. Angry Inch's version is exactly how I like it, without a strong vanilla flavor.

Cerveza Del Lago is a Mexican beer that tastes a lot like Corona. I love this beer. It is a simple and refreshing flavor. Ideal drink for a hot day.

They do have a couple IPAs at the moment - Never Ending and Four Horsemen. I really like both of these drinks and was glad to see the hoppier side of beer represented on their taplist.

They have more options than just these, but the ones I have mentioned here are my favorites and the ones I would very highly recommend to you.

Angry Inch is a treasure for Lakeville and I am very grateful to be so close to such an excellent brewery! I have enjoyed every one of my visits there and I hope you go there and try them out!

Have you been to Angry Inch Brewing? What did you think? What is your favorite beer there? Let me and other readers know by sharing in the comments!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How Did Marty Byrde Launder Money In Ozark?

Ozark is a Netflix original series that follows the story of the Byrde family (Marty, Wendy, and two kids, Charlotte, and Jonah) as they launder money for the Navarro Drug Cartel, the second largest Mexican drug cartel. Marty begins laundering money for the cartel while working at his financial services firm in Chicago, keeping it a secret from his family. Doubt and suspicion on behalf of the cartel's representatives and enforcers (Del) leads to Marty's business partner, Bruce, being killed and Marty only being able to save his own life by promising to move to Osage Beach, Missouri on the Lake of the Ozarks and launder even more money for the cartel.

Marty claims he will be able to launder more money because the Ozarks is a tourist destination and vacation spot for families that is filled with cash based businesses. The summer influx of tourists will mean that it is normal for small cash based businesses to make lots of untraceable money in a short period of time. This general premise is enough for Del to let him live and give him a chance to clean more money for the cartel.

Marty quickly packs up his family's life and moves them to the Ozarks.

While watching the show I wondered several times how money is laundered. There is a fantastic explanation scene where Marty teaches Jonah how laundering works, and I understood that part, but there is even more that is glossed over without detail.

The basic laundering idea is that you have dirty cash that was earned through illegal means. In this case it happens to be drug money. You want to use that money to buy stuff that you want, but any large purchases will involve the IRS or someone else looking into how you got that money. You could, of course, use the dirty cash to buy small stuff that would raise no questions, such as groceries and rent, but for anything larger like cars and real estate, you need to clean the money.

You need to run the money through some process to conceal its true source and make it appear legitimate. One method is to own a business that receives a large portion of its revenue in the form of cash from anonymous customers. If your business regularly accepted payments from named customers through personal checks or debit and credit cards, then the IRS could just check your records and see that an unusually large amount of money came from someone it should not have. If your business, instead, collects payment in cash, then the IRS can have doubts, but there would be no proof that the revenue did not come from legitimate business activities.

Cash based businesses include things like bars, restaurants, car washes, arcades, and strip clubs. These businesses usually get paid in anonymous cash, so having lots of untraceable cash would be reasonable and expected.

To launder dirty money you would need to own a cash based business (either by starting it or buying an existing business) and start adding illicit money in with the normal revenue from the business. The flow should be small and slow enough not to raise too many eyebrows from anyone watching. If a business that has made $100,000 per year each year for the last decade suddenly brings in $15 million, that would be odd enough to invite attention. You would want only moderate increases that seem realistic.

By having this money come into the business, it has taxes paid on it and can be deposited into the banking system. This money then becomes legitimate and can be used to buy anything you like with it.

This process makes sense and I have no questions about it. 

At some point in the show after Marty Byrde buys the Blue Cat restaurant and lodge, he starts to launder money by making improvements and renovations to the buildings, and that is where they lost me.

He says that he will launder money by buying construction services and equipment and claiming that he bought more and paid more than he really did. He says that he will inflate construction costs. For example, he buys and installs enough carpet for 5 cabins, but claims somewhere (receipts? tax forms?) that he really bought and installed enough carpet for 25 cabins. He also talks about air conditioners. He would actually buy 5, but claim to have purchased 25.

I do not understand how that launders any money. As I understand it, he is the owner of the Blue Cat but does not own the construction companies or suppliers that he works with to get the carpet and air conditioners. The other companies that he is working with are not in on the scam and do not know that they are helping to launder money. For them this is a legitimate sale and job.

If that is the case, then how does claiming to have paid more than he actually did launder any money. Wouldn't he be losing money?

I can only think of two possible ways for inflating construction costs to launder any money.

The first way is as some sort of tax write off. It is possible that he will pay less in taxes on his business revenue if it is not seen as profit. If he makes $1 million in revenue, but has $1 million in business expenses, then he has earned no profit and has nothing for the government to tax. This would not add any dirty money to be laundered, but would instead prevent him from paying out taxes on the money he has already laundered. This is possible, but Marty does not explain it enough to know and I don't know enough about the tax code to say with certainty that this is how it works.

The other way it could work is if he owned the construction companies and suppliers that he was working with. If he owned them, then it would be like another business he could launder money through. By inflating the construction costs, he would be able to add dirty money revenue to those businesses. It might be that the IRS, if they thought something was suspicious, would only look one layer deep. That is, if they thought the construction company had something fishy going on, they would only look to see that the money came from the Blue Cat, then they would check the records of the Blue Cat to see if what they claimed to pay matched what the construction company claimed to make, and not look into where the Blue Cat's money came from. I see this option as less likely than the first, but it is still possible.

I have done some digging through articles I found on Google, but have not been able to find any solid answers. All the results simply talk about the easy to understand method and totally ignore the inflation of construction costs.

The same type of laundering scheme eventually leads Marty to want to build a church so that he can inflate those costs. It is obviously a strong enough method that he tries it multiple times.

I really want to know how it works and what is really going on here. I have shared my best ideas about what it might be, but I would love to hear from you in the comments as to what you believe it is. Do you know how Marty Byrde launders money? Please share your thoughts!

Other Articles to Read

Guest Post On This Blog!

When you search the internet for strategies to grow your blog readership and traffic, one of the often shared tips is to increase the size of you backlink profile by attracting links. You can do this by creating really excellent content that people will naturally want to link to in their own content, whether that be to point their readers to useful content or to be a relevant citation to back up their own statements and beliefs within their content.

It is also often recommended that you be proactive in building backlinks through outreach. You can reach out to influencers and bloggers that might be interested in content you have already created and let them know your content exists. You can also politely ask that they link to it or share it with their audience.

This outreach method does work, but has a low rate of success. You are asking people to give you a link, but offering little in return. You might send an email to 100 influencers and only get a link from less than 10. That is a pretty low return on your outreach efforts.

A better way to proactively build backlinks is to look for guest posting opportunities on other people's blogs. Bloggers are always interested in adding more content to their site to cover more topics and rank for more keywords. If they could snap their fingers and have thousands of articles written for their site instantly, they would do that. Unfortunately, writing content takes a lot of time and effort and is a slow buildup process. They could hire writers to produce the content, but hiring freelance writers who do good work can be expensive.

A fantastic way to give both parties something they want is to offer to guest post. You write an article that you give to the influencer to post on their blog in exchange for letting you place some links back to your site and internal pages. The influencer gets quality content for free, and you get a backlink that hopefully expands your backlink profile, increases your linking root domains, and sends your blog some link juice.

Guest posting is a hugely popular marketing strategy to improve your site's ranking and traffic.

There are tons of sites that offer the opportunity to guest blog on their site, but it can be tricky to find them and even trickier to find the relevant sites that operate in your niche and write about the same topics you write about.

I would like to extend an open offer: I will accept guest posts. You can guest blog for this site. You can become a guest contributor for this blog. Write for us. Write for this site. I am accepting guest posts. You can submit guest posts to this blog.

Sorry for the multiple phrasings, but often people find places to guest post by searching Google for exact match strings such as "Write for us", "Guest post opportunities", and "guest post submission guidelines". I want to include some of these phrases so that I can show up in results for people looking for sites like mine.

You might want to only propose to write a guest blog post for sites that operate within your niche. I would like to help you determine if this site is relevant enough to your niche.

I consider myself to be a lifestyle blogger. While there may be some variety in the way that term is defined by different people, I use it to mean that I blog about whatever I want to blog about. I blog about whatever interests me. I have chosen not to create a niche site that only focuses on one topic. I want to be deeply interested in the content I create, so I don't make myself write for popular keywords, but instead on what I am inspired to write about.

This means a lot of flexibility in my content and the content I am willing to accept as guest posts. I have created content about:

Some of these topics have been covered more than others, and some are more plans for the future than current content. I would be happy to have proposals or pitches made on any subject, but these are the ones I have particular focus on.

Feel free to offer posts on any topic. Travel, personal finance, health and fitness, cryptocurrency, news, politics, science, philosophy, whatever. You name it.

I will, of course, reserve the right to decline any offer I do not think will add value or match this site, but I will try my best to offer feedback that might alter the proposed topic to better fit this site.

I want to accept guest posts from sites that have at least some content already produced on their site. It does not have to be dozens of articles, but more than a few. I also want to see quality content on the site that gets linked to in the guest post. I do not want to link out to spam sites.

I am very open and flexible in this. I will allow you any reasonable links within the content and in the author bio. I will not limit the number of links you can use so long as it is useful and reasonable.

I am excited to extend this formal opportunity and to see what comes from it. I am waiting to hear from you and to work with you! Please feel free to reach out to me about your guest post.

The best way to contact me would be either to comment on this blog or to DM / Private message me on Twitter. My twitter handle is @WayneWWalls. You can go to my contact page to find my email address and send me your proposal in an email, but I do not check that email address very often. You could always send me an email, then comment here or Twitter message me simply saying that you sent an email.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Best Liquor Store In Apple Valley, MN

Where is the best place to buy liquor, beer, wine, and mead? In many areas there can be so many that it can be hard to figure out. In lots of places, alcohol is sold in all retail stores. You could stop at a Walmart, Target, or gas station and find alcohol. When it is so ubiquitous, is it worth trying to figure out where the best liquor store is?

If you are asking where the best liquor store is and you are living in Apple Valley, Lakeville, Farmington, Burnsville, or Eagan, Minnesota, then there are only so many options, because some of this region restricts the sale of alcohol to municipal liquor stores. Unless you want to purchase very low ABV % beer, or Near Beer as it is sometimes called, which can be sold in stores like Target or Walmart, then you have only a few options.

I want to give my opinion as to how good or bad each store is.

I think the big options are Lakeville Liquors, Apple Valley Liquors, Total Wine & More, and Perrier Wines and Liquors.

Lakeville Liquors

Lakeville Liquors is the municipal liquor store chain that sells alcohol in Lakeville. There are 3 locations. Galaxie, Heritage, and Kenrick.

The Galaxie location is at the intersection of 160th and Galaxie, by a city park and across the road from Pahl's Market.

The Kenrick location is over by Baskin Robbins. These two locations (Galaxie and Kenrick) are basically on the line between Apple Valley and Lakeville.

The third location is the Heritage location and is closer to the downtown area of Lakeville. It is near Teresa's Mexican Restaurant and Cub Foods.

I have only ever been to the Galaxie location. The stop lights at the entrance to that location are the worst part of going there. The stop lights take forever to cycle through and turning out of Lakeville Liquors can be kind of tricky. Other than that, I have only positive things to say about them.

The parking lot and building are beautiful and clean. The store interior is well organized, and while the liquor and beer area are just typical shelving aisles, the wine area that is sorted by region or country of origin (appellation) is carpeted, has custom wood shelving, and is differently and more dimly lit for ambiance.

The selection of Lakeville Liquors is pretty good. I could imagine a better stocked store, and I have gone in looking for a particular type of beer that they did not carry on a few occasions, but they do a good job generally. They have lots of the local craft breweries, and even quite a few bigger breweries from other states. I would like to see more offered, but they do have enough to satisfy all but the most picky of liquor customers.

Before the time of COVID-19, they regularly had representatives from different breweries, wineries, or distilleries come in and offer tastings. Their tasting bar is very nice and I miss taking advantage of the opportunity to try new things there. I hope COVID ends soon and they can bring that back.

Lakeville Liquors was one of the first businesses in the area to transform their store and operations to make it safer in the face of COVID. They shut down to deep clean the store and to install plexiglass shields around the checkout areas. Lots of retails stores have installed little plexiglass barriers that appear to be more for show than for function, but Lakeville Liquors' shields are full scale and effective. The cashiers are basically in their own little clear room. Kudos to Lakeville Liquors for taking the pandemic so seriously and protecting their employees.

To minimize contact between customers and employees, employees have access to a scanning gun at the check out where they scan their own barcodes. Customers show their IDs to the cashier, then pay by card at the terminal. There is effectively no contact. For a time they were even restricting the number of customers into the building at a time, only allowing people in as other people left.

I feel very safe going to Lakeville Liquors, and their locations make them very convenient.

You can pay a fee to join the Lakeville Liquors Brew Club or Wine Club, which allows you an in store discount on most items, and access to private tasting events that they hold several times per year. I have let my membership go, but while I had it, I really enjoyed their tasting events!

I have not been to the other two locations, so I cannot make a judgement about them, but I would rank the Galaxie location as being the second best option for liquor stores in the area.

Total Wine & More

Total Wine and More is a national chain of liquors stores. The stores are like the Costco or Sam's Club of alcohol, not in the sense that you have to be a member or buy in large quantities, but that they offer a huge variety of options.

The location I've been to is in Burnsville next to the Target and Godfather's Pizza. They sell practically anything you can think of. I have never gone in looking for a brand of beer, liquor, or wine and been unable to find it. It really is a mega store.

Total Wine offers tastings almost every day, which is one of the reasons I choose to shop there over the alternatives. They have a wine and liquor tasting table which is open most days and most times. They sometimes have an external company posted towards the front of the store offering a special brand at a folding table. On weekends they have beer tastings with brewery representatives offering samples and explaining the beers.

I really value the opportunity to do tastings and try before I buy. There is an overwhelming level of choice available, and that can make it hard to decide on something to buy. I know what I already like, but trying something new is like a gamble. I might end up hating it and feeling like I wasted my money. By having samples, I get to try new things, compare the options, and leave with something new that I already know I like.

The staff at Total Wine are knowledgeable about the products. They tend to have background knowledge of alcohol, but the company also provides training in the form of classes and an allowance that they can spend at the store so that they can try products and have relevant information to share with customers. Ask anyone working at Total Wine for a recommendation, and they will have something to share with you.

The store also allows employees to print up recommendation cards with their name and photo on them that they can place on the shelving next to their favorite drinks. While you wander the store, those recommendation placards are helpful in deciding between comparable items. It gives the vast selection a bit of contrast and personality.

Total Wine offers classes to the public as well as to employees. You can sign up for tasting classes where you learn about wines from a particular region or the differences between varieties. They also have beer and spirits classes. They are fun events to attend, but they also make you a smarter, more informed shopper, and raises your ability to appreciate and enjoy libations.

I have never really looked into this aspect of Total Wine, but they also sell cigars, so if that is something that you enjoy, they can also serve you in that way.

Total Wine has a rewards program that allows you to track your purchases and earn points towards a discount on a purchase.

Considering all that Total Wine offers, I consider it to be the best option for alcohol in the region. It is my first choice in liquor stores.

Perrier Wines and Liquors

I believe Perrier has two locations, one in the Twin Cities, and one on the edge of Burnsville by Apple Valley. I am focusing this article on locations near Apple Valley and Lakeville, so I will only be covering the location near Valley Natural Foods and Pizza Man. Also, I have never been to their other location.

I had never considered Perrier liquor store before the Coronavirus pandemic. It was slightly out of the way for me and did not seem to be a very large store offering a huge selection, so not much of a reason to drive all the way there. Proximity can be a hugely relevant factor in choosing a liquor store. Being a less than 5 minute drive can outweigh a lot of discounting factors.

While Lakeville Liquors (my regular choice as it is so close to me) was closed to fit the store with COVID-19 safety measures, I needed to find somewhere else to buy alcohol. I wanted to try out curbside pickup so that I could order online or by phone and have contactless pickup. Perrier was the first option I found that offered that. I do not know if other locations have begun offering that service. They very well might have.

I have never been inside of their store because I only used their curbside pickup option. I would call ahead and place my order, then when I arrived in their parking lot I would call the store and tell them which order was mine and that I was there to pick it up. My credit card was already charged, so there was no interaction for paying, and I just popped my trunk and they put my purchase there for me. They closed the trunk and I drove away. A totally pandemic safe and convenient way to buy alcohol.

The staff were friendly and the pickup service was very quick.

I would overall rate this as the third out of four for liquor stores in the area. I do not have anything negative to say about this location, but I just really like Total Wine and Lakeville Liquors, and that is the reason they are not higher in the rankings.

Apple Valley Liquor

Apple Valley Liquor stores have three locations. I have only ever seen two of them and only been to one of them. They have one location next to the Target by Crooked Pint Ale House and Pizza Ranch over on Pilot Knob Road. I have not been inside of that location, but from the outside it looks very nice. The building is large enough to make me believe that they offer a decent selection.

I have been to the Apple Valley Liquor location more in the center of town by Highway 42 and 77/Cedar Avenue. That location is on the end of the Time Square strip mall by Von Hanson's Meats, Osaka Seafood Steakhouse, Pho Valley, McDonald's, and Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers.

The location could be convenient for lots of people living in the center of Apple Valley. That is a big thing this location has going for it.

This location took significantly longer than Lakeville Liquors to install plexiglass barriers and institute COVID cleaning procedures. I am not sure if that was intentional, trying to work with Lakeville Liquors to ensure that at least some regional locations remained open as others closed to install safety equipment. If that was the case, then I am overall grateful that all the liquor stores in the area did not choose to shut down for a week all at once. It otherwise was simply a slow reaction. I believe they have since made their safety upgrades.

I see on their website that they are offering curbside pickup as an option, but I have not tried this service there for myself.

When I shopped at this location, I found the selection to be quite limited. The square footage of the space is small, so they are doing the best they can with the space they have, but the range of brand options and variety is less than the other stores I have mentioned. While they certainly have something representing any type of alcohol you might want (they might not have the IPA from your favorite microbrewery, but they are certain to have some kind of IPA beer), I had to run down my mental list of preferences quite a ways before I found something they had that I wanted.

The store was very basic in its design. The shelving was the basic white metal shelving typical of smaller stores. The tile was bland. The store just did not feel really nice and inviting the way Lakeville Liquors does. I kind of enjoy being at Lakeville Liquors and can feel good about spending some time there browsing the products. At Apple Valley Liquor I feel more like I would rather get in and get out quickly. It does not seem unclean, but just poorly decorated.

My favorite type of wine is Frontenac Gris, a very sweet wine made from a Midwestern grown grape. This varietal is not made by wineries all over the country or world, so I would excuse a smaller store for not carrying it, but Apple Valley Liquor did carry it. This was something I found that really pleased me.

I have to give Apple Valley Liquor the last place in this ranking, fourth out of four, mostly because the competition was so stiff and the alternatives are so exceedingly great. Other than my recommendation that the Time Square location be remodeled slightly to make it more inviting, I think they are really doing a good job.

Final Rankings

1st - Total Wine & More

2nd - Lakeville Liquors

3rd - Perrier Wines and Liquors

4th - Apple Valley Liquor

I have generally good feelings about all of the options we have available for liquor stores in this area. I only have minor criticisms of the options, and for that I feel grateful.

Have you been to any of these locations? Let others know what you thought of them in the comments. Do you work at or represent any of these locations? Tell me what you thought of my reviews and rankings. Were they fair? Do you have any improvements, changes, or events in the works that might be relevant to local customers? Let us know!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lakeville Brewing Company Review

Lakeville Brewing Company is a brewpub (meaning it is both a brewery and a restaurant) that is located in downtown Lakeville, MN.  Minnesota has a very active craft brewing scene, so almost anywhere you go, you are close to a brewery. I love that about Minnesota, but I am honestly glad to be so close to Lakeville Brewing Company in particular.  It is a wonderful business!

I often mistakenly refer to it as Lakeville Brewery. Oops! It is not the only brewery in Lakeville. It is actually located across the parking lot from another small craft brewery called Angry Inch Brewing.

These two breweries actually complement each other very well.  While you might expect two next door breweries to be vicious competitors, I almost always visit both whenever I make my way down to downtown Lakeville.  They enjoy a special symbiosis.  Lakeville Brewing Company sometimes has a bit of a wait for a table if you do not have a reservation. Pre- COVID-19, they used to give you a short range buzzer that would buzz when your table was ready. They would give you a rough estimate as to how long your wait would be, but you could wander around and wait to be buzzed to come back for your table.

Now that the new pandemic precautions encourage as little touching of unnecessary items as possible, they have implemented a texting system. You give the host or hostess your cell phone number and they will text you when your table is available.

Under either set up, the time you have to wait is often just right for one or two beers. You can walk less than a block to Angry Inch Brewing and have a drink while waiting for your table to be ready. I could not think of a better way to wait than to visit another brewery!

According to the Meet The Owners page on their website, Lakeville Brewing Company was started by two couples, one who wanted to open a restaurant, and one who wanted to open a craft brewery. They met while trying to find suitable real estate in Lakeville and decided that the resulting business would be stronger if they teamed up. And so Lakeville Brewing Company was born.

The Lakeville brewery has a standard bar area with bar stool seating and high top tables.  They have a dining room with booths and regular tables. They have flat screen TVs throughout. Those areas are very nice, but their best space is their backyard. They have a large fenced-in space filled with picnic tables where you can eat and drink and generally enjoy the view of a calm downtown neighborhood and trees. There is a playground set for children to play on. They have cornhole/bags and giant Jenga that you can play. They have a couple of those tables that have gas powered flames.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic, they have had to introduce a time limit of 1 hour and 15 minutes to each party at their table to make sure people are cycling through in a reasonable amount of time so that there is space for everyone waiting for tables. This system is great because it ensures everyone gets a chance to enjoy what they offer.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has people asking whether different restaurants have a patio or outdoor seating. Lakeville Brewing Company does offer outdoor seating in their wide-open backyard. Lakeville Brewing Company is family-friendly and dog-friendly. Lots of families bring their kids their to play, and I have seen lots of dogs their. It is such a fun environment.

There is an open area outside of the bathrooms where the handwashing sinks are located, and right behind the sinks is an entire wall dedicated to pictures of dogs. I love that wall. There are lots of normal cute pictures of dogs, but there are plenty of funny ones too! A couple of notable pictures include a dog wearing a flannel shirt and a dog wearing sunglasses and holding a beer. This wall alone is almost reason enough to visit!

The brewery offers a deal for your birthday. If you visit on the Tuesday of your birthday week they will offer you a free birthday shirt. They have also offered a free drink or dessert, but who would pass up the shirt!?

All of the beer they make and sell is delicious! A few of my favorites are their 210 American Lager, Hashtag IPA, Knee High Cream Ale, and Fun Juice Hazy IPA. Honestly, their whole beer list, which is located on a giant chalk board, both in the bar area and outside, is worth trying.

They also have really great food. They have an appetizer called Bob Dip which is a dip mix with chili, cheese, and guacamole. Their pretzel is very good. I am impressed by the number of things they offer on their menu, but I tend to order the same things I know I love every time, so I have not yet tried everything. I usually get their house burger and add bacon. It is served with crispy french fries which come with ketchup and their house made fry sauce. I have also had their fish tacos and loved them! Their Fish and Chips and their Fried Chicken Benedict are also winners!

I have never had something there that I did not like. They also offer a brunch menu for Saturday and Sunday mornings and there is typical and delicious stuff on there.

I really love Lakeville Brewing Company and would highly recommend anyone to try them out! 

They also offer Crowlers that you can take home if you like their beer and want some to take with you.

I have heard that the same people operate a brewery called Inver Grove Brewing Company in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. I have not been there, but it is on my list of places to try, and when I make it there I'll review it on this blog to share what I thought of the place.

Share your thoughts about Lakeville Brewing Company in the comments. Tell other readers about your experiences there.

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