"The craft beer industry is really saturated. There's a bunch of breweries; distillers, very very few," he said. "So we kind of had the lightbulb moment and said, let's create another social, locally made spirit, or drink, I should say, and that was a spirit, vodka, made out of sugarbeets."
Since he was in Minnesota, which shares with North Dakota the Red River Valley — the nation's top sugarbeet growing area — it made sense. Originally, they tried to make BĒT Vodka (pronounced beet) from raw sugarbeets that they hauled to the Twin Cities from the Red River Valley. But it didn't go the way they hoped.
Ben Brueshoff is the founder of BĒT Vodka. Trevor Peterson / Forum News Service
"By the time we got them down, they had already half decomposed," Brueshoff says. "They were really dirty. We couldn't clean them properly. We were trying to cut them in half with, you know, a saw or an axe. It just created some really poor impurities and was very hard to distill."
BĒT Vodka now is working with American Crystal Sugar rather than hauling sugarbeets to the Twin Cities. Trevor Peterson / Forum News Service
So they switched to American Crystal Sugar. Brueshoff says the sugarbeets give the vodka a unique, sweet taste.
"It doesn't smell like a standard vodka that has that, oftentimes that kind of abrasive quality that almost goes up through your nose and kind of burns a bit," he said.
"The taste is good," said sugarbeet farmer Mark Nyquist. "It's a higher-end vodka."
Mark Nyquist is a grower for American Crystal Sugar and says BĒT Vodka is a higher-end product. Trevor Peterson / Forum News Service
Nyquist grows sugarbeets for American Crystal near Moorhead, Minn. He says it's exciting to be part of BĒT Vodka.
American Crystal Sugar is working with BĒT Vodka to tap into a different market for its products. (Trevor Peterson / Agweek)
"It's great. We're always looking to tap into some niche markets, and that would be an opportunity for us to do that," he says.
BĒT Vodka can be found at several liquor stores and online. Trevor Peterson / Forum News Service
BĒT Vodka can be found at several liquor stores around the region and also online
. It retails for about $30.
BĒT Vodka displays the inspiration of American sugarbeet connoisseur Henry Oxnard on its label. (Trevor Peterson / Agweek)
This time of year, with people toasting the holidays, is usually BET Vodka's biggest sales season. However, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on their sales and tasting events. But Brueshoff raise a toast to the future of BĒT Vodka.
"This is a really subtle vodka that has this nice vanilla peppery finish when you sip it, and I think that's a credit to the sugarbeet, to this local Minnesota crop that we're using," he says.