Owner of North Dakota craft liqueur company talks 100-year-old family recipe
As craft beer has taken off, craft liquors also have risen in popularity. Art Weidner, owner and creator of North Dakota Sweet Crude, has seen much success in just one year of selling his product.
This week, he talked with the Herald about distributing his family’s recipe throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.
Q: What is North Dakota Sweet Crude?
A: North Dakota Sweet Crude is technically a liqueur. It is a sweet liqueur with a strong cinnamon flavor up front and then it mellows out to ginger and lemongrass flavors. I like it on the rocks myself, but I do enjoy the mixed drinks people have come up with. I add those recipes to our website, https://www.crudespirits.com . Sweet Crude is my family recipe of 100 years. My ancestors started making it on the family farm near Zap. It’s all natural, all the flavorings are brought in and brewed like an herbal tea. We use American Crystal Sugar sugar. North Dakota Sweet Crude is 75 proof, it looks and feels like a whiskey but it's not. It is extremely smooth.
Q: Where can someone buy North Dakota Sweet Crude in Grand Forks?
A: Happy Harry’s has carried my product since last August. And a lot of the bars in town have been selling it since January. You can buy North Dakota Sweet Crude at Joe Black’s, the Hub, Kelly’s, Speedway, the Long Haul, Ground Round, the Loft, Brick and Barley, O’Really’s and, this fall, I will be in the bar at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Q: Where else do you sell North Dakota Sweet Crude? When did you start selling?
A: I started selling last July. I sold the first bottle on July 21 in Fargo; we have a warehouse in West Fargo. Since then, I’ve sold over 10,000 bottles. North Dakota Sweet Crude is sold in over 250 locations in North Dakota. I’m pretty much all over the state and I’m branching out into the small towns in North Dakota, like Grafton, Park River, Lisbon or Wyndmere. The product is distilled at Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis. We are just as pleased as can be with the owner, Chris Montana. He’s actually president of the American Craft Spirit Association.
Q: What are some challenges of moving into a new market? How have you overcome them?
A: I’m just a small guy, and there’s some really big players out there in the market. I’ve been trying to move into South Dakota and I contacted one of the “big five” distributors and they said, if I wanted to distribute in South Dakota, I’d have to give them my North Dakota territory, too. That would have cut me out completely, and they would have gotten the lion’s portion of what I’ve built up over the past year. And I figured I’m too small for a major distributor to take on, so I found a smaller distributor.
Q: Why did you decide to take your family recipe commercial?
A: What really convinced us is we were making up bottles, Dad taught us to make it on the kitchen stove, and we’d take them when we went out hunting in western North Dakota and share them with the land owners that let us hunt on their land. We’d call them up the next year and say, ‘hey we’re coming back out’ and they’d say ‘you’re going to have to bring about five bottles of that stuff this year bc that one bottle didn’t last long.’ So my brother and I thought we might have something. I started pursuing it and doors kept opening. It was fun, because we’re engineers and we got to design our own machine, make up our own process and perfect it and its going along real well. My brother is involved in a consulting capacity. He helped find the distiller. We continue to bounce ideas off each other. We’re also working with our sister and brother-in-law, who live in southern California. She’s trying to get us into one of the larger retailers in southern California, and we’ve had a couple meetings so far. If that goes off, it would probably be sold in the September or October.