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MN bar owner, manager charged with smuggling Spotted Cow from WI

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Two people have been charged after authorities say they brought kegs of Spotted Cow to Minnesota and sold the beer at Maple Tavern in Maple Grove.

The beer, brewed by New Glarus Brewing Co. in Wisconsin, is only distributed in the Badger State, according to the brewery's website.

New Glarus is not a licensed manufacturer in Minnesota, and it's illegal for the beer to be sold in the state – so Maple Tavern's former owner and bar manager are facing charges.

“While this is far from the most serious crime we’ve had to prosecute, businesses must follow the laws the legislature passes to make sure the competition is fair and the products are safe for consumers,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a news release Wednesday.

Then-owner Brandon Hlavka, 37, of St. Michael and former bar manager David Lantos, 28, of Brooklyn Park, were each charged last week with a felony count of transporting alcohol into Minnesota for resale.

According to the criminal complaint:

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division got a tip in April 2015 that the Maple Tavern was selling Spotted Cow.

On April 13, 2015, two undercover investigators went to the tavern and saw Spotted Cow was on tap. They ordered the beer and tested it.

After serving a search warrant at the beer, investigators recovered three Spotted Cow kegs and receipts for 10 kegs purchased from two Hudson, Wisconsin, liquor stores between mid-February and mid-April of last year.

Hlavka and Lantos told investigators they wanted to get the beer into the bar, but they knew they couldn't get it from any Minnesota distributors. So they decided to drive to Wisconsin to buy the kegs, with Lantos doing the transporting.

Hlavka and Lantos are expected to make their first court appearance on March 2. If convicted, they both could face up to five years in prison.

FOX 9 reports Hlavka and Lantos are no longer working with the restaurant, with a spokesperson confirming current ownership was not involved in the incident.

Maple Tavern has since gotten a new liquor license under new management.

Why Spotted Cow?

Spotted Cow is one of the most popular craft beers in Wisconsin, with the brew being a frequent choice among Minnesotans visiting liquor stores in Hudson – the nearest point in Wisconsin to the Twin Cities, the Pioneer Press reported.

New Richmond News said New Glarus has a "cult following," especially among Minnesotans making Sunday beer runs.

There's even a Reddit thread about the closest place to buy Spotted Cow, and many Minnesotans have tweeted about bringing the brew across the border:

After news broke about the Spotted Cow bust last spring, Wisconsinites had a field day with Minnesota jokes, including this pun-filled editorial by Jim Stingl published in the Journal Sentinel.

And for those wondering, Spotted Cow won't be on tap legally in Minnesota anytime soon. New Glarus has no intention of expanding its distribution outside of Wisconsin. Read more about that in a story by Paste Magazine.

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