Jake Leinenkugel is well aware that politics and beer don’t mix. Further proof of that was served up this week at the Minnesota state Capitol.
“As a guy, I’ve made a lot of stupid statements in my career, and my wife has set me straight plenty of times,” Leinenkugel said Friday when contacted in Fort Collins, Colo. “So I felt for him.”
The him in question is Minnesota state Rep. Kurt Zellers, who was the source of what is sure to be forever known across the border as the Leinie’s flap.
The Minnesota House voted Wednesday to raise the state alcohol tax for the first time since 1987. Prior to the vote, Zellers, R-Maple Grove, criticized proponents’ claims that the tax increase would amount to “only seven cents a beer.”
“To say that it’s only seven cents a beer, that’s like promising a case of Summit to the party and showing up with that bathwater called Leinenkugel’s,” Zellers was quoted by the Associated Press.
“It’s not a fair deal at all. Good Minnesota beer for Wisconsin bathwater, no sir.”
Zellers obviously wasn’t being fair to Leinie’s, and he didn’t have long to wait before he discovered that first-hand.
When the session resumed on Thursday, Zellers once again took the floor.
“Yesterday during the tax bill things got a little cranked up and I may or may not have said something about a particular beer wholesaler/manufacturer and when I got home last night I got in the most trouble of all,” Zellers said by way of a preamble.
“I can just imagine the conversation they had,” Leinenkugel said.
Zellers said his wife’s response to what he had said on the floor was as follows: “Honey, I heard what you said last night on TV and I am quite fond of the Summer Shandy that’s produced by Leinenkugel’s.”
The reaction by Mrs. Zellers shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering the seasonal beer has become so popular it is now the brewery’s top-selling brand. Last month Summer Shandy became the first beer in Leinenkugel’s history to be sold in all 50 states.
“So I did a little research and Jake, Dick and John have been brewing beer for 145 years. My family has been making wheat for the last 134 years so I think it’s a good combination,” Zellers said.
“The little joke I played last night got me in trouble at home last night. So most importantly, my apologies to the Leinenkugel family. They are a great family-owned business. But as it usually goes at our house, ‘I’m sorry, honey.’”
Zellers learned two valuable lessons this week:
One: Pay closer to attention to the beer your wife drinks.
Two: Never insult a beer with as large and devoted a following as Leinenkugel’s.
Not that Jake Leinenkugel took offense in the end.
“The main thing is we all do it,” he said, about getting caught up in the emotion of the moment. “The fact that he got back on the floor (and apologized) says a lot.”
To make clear that there are no hard feelings — and to educate Zellers further on the rich history of the Chippewa Falls brewery — Leinenkugel responded to the public apology with a public invitation.
“I would like to invite him to the Leinie Lodge in Chippewa Falls, where he and I will share a Leinie’s,” Jake said. “And then I will have a beer with him at the famous Minnesota State Fair.”