Episode 30: Angela Mackenthun of Beam Suntory, Bill ‘Pooker’ Meister


I caught up with Minnesota’s Protector of the Peat, Angela Mackenthun of Beam Suntory, at Icehouse this week. She’s finally back in her kingdom after some time overseas, and brought back plenty of intel. And what whiskies will she take to her imaginary deserted island? We talked about all of that and more over a bottle of Auchentoshan that she bottled herself at the distillery!

This interview starts the show. Here are some key takeaways:

  • You’re right: the “Beam” means “Jim Beam,” but Beam Suntory encompasses several brands and dozens of individual products. How does she and her team ensure equal representation for all of those brands? According to Mackenthun, it’s all about knowledge. Mackenthun explained, the more knowledge you can offer your customers, the better. Perhaps even more important is admitting when you don’t know.
  • She also gave me a lesson in whiskey tasting (15:14). If you’re a novice whiskey drinker (which isn’t a bad thing! I am too), this will change the way to drink and taste whiskey. Listen carefully.
  • Louis Dachis of Ace Spirits is still “in good spirits.”

Bill Meister: he goes by “Pooker” and runs Meister’s Grill in Stillwater, Minnesota. As Meister’s readies to celebrate 69 years in business, I asked him about his first jobs at the bar, how it’s changed over the years, and what’s stayed the same. We talked about how we gets away on the weekends, and the comfort that comes with knowing your community’s got your back. (24:09)

He didn’t drop any specific plans for Saturday’s anniversary party, but he did mention something else they’re celebrating that day and gave some hints as to what they might be doing next year when they officially turn 70.

At the end of this broadcast, there’s a little extra feature. Bill brought out a photo album out of the bar over the years, and we went through that during our interview. The photographs are below these podcast links, along with a recap of our discussion in the captions and when you can hear about them in the podcast. Enjoy!

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RELATED: Read about the time I hit up 15 breweries in one day in the Twin Cities area, then cooked my own burger at Meister’s afterward; and you can hear my first interview with Angela on The Podcast at the End of the World!

A young man stands outside a restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota
Bill’s brother, Steve, during the Meister’s transformation from a confectionery to a bar and grill (40:18).

Men sit at Meister's Bar and Grill with beers
Patrons at Meister’s after the transformation in the late 1960s. (40:30)
A photograph of the front of a restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota, taken in 1959
When I asked Bill Meister about bringing back the malts and coney dogs of the confectionery days back, even for a day, he said, “That would be pretty cool.” (40:40)
Men sit in a restaurant with beers at a restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota
The man on the far right, at a table by himself, still visits Meister’s (40:45). The jukebox to the left occupied a space where a pool table used to be. Other past features of Meister’s included a dance floor.
Jim Meister, bartending at Meister's Bar in Stillwater, Minnesota
Jim Meister, bartending (41:27). If you thought the carpet ceiling wasn’t groovy enough, check out the wallpaper!
I asked Pooker about the collection of tchotchkes throughout the restaurant (41:38). He said, “My mom always went to craft sales and shit. She’d go out to Door County, and [come back with crafts].”
Bill Meister, as a child growing up in Stillwater, Minnesota (42:10)
Meister and two of his brothers, getting ready to shoot the cameraman (42:28)
One of the Meister brothers (42:29). Me: “I got that high up in a tree once, and I fell. I haven’t been in a tree since.”
A house is attached to a tow truck in Stillwater, Minnesota, to be towed away
That’s … yep, that’s a house being towed away (49:53). Said Meister, “They moved this house to make that parking lot [across the street from Meister’s].”
Meister (43:02): “They just put it on wheels and pulled it with that truck!” Where did the house end up? Meister doesn’t know.
Here’s another angle of the house being towed down the street.

Me:Was the truck driving up along the side of it, or was that truck in danger?”
Meister:Um … I don’t know.”

And that’s how the show ends.



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