Belly Up, a new club for grown-ups created by Noah Miwa '08 and Dave Ostlund, is the ultimate way for cocktail- and beer-lovers to explore the best drinks around the Twin Cities.
When did the idea of Belly Up start?
Dave: We started the idea of Belly Up in September 2016. It took a couple of months to get everything put together. We had to pivot a couple of times because your initial idea will almost never be the final product. We did a lot of refining.
“It’s not just about the free drinks. We’ve seen too many great restaurants close this past year and we want to do our part to promote these places.”
What was the vision behind the project?
Noah: Dave and I go way back in the food scene. We started a group called the Minnesota Food Dudes, which soon became a club, and it had just three requirements: love food, be in Minnesota, and identify as a dude. It’s a restaurant crawl with about eight to twelve people that show up every time we go out. We’d make reservations for three or so places and go in and order about fifteen or twenty things off the menu and just share with everyone. Throughout the night, we’d probably taste about fifty different dishes, which is where the idea of Belly Up came from.
Belly Up is a drink club in the twin cities. Members of the club get different benefits. One of the benefits is free drinks, and depending on what level of membership you're at you can either get free beer, free cocktails, or both. Another part of the membership is that you get limited-edition, local-artist-designed glasses. With the Beer Belly membership you get four pint glasses, and with the Booze Belly (cocktail membership) you get four highball glasses. All of the glasses are designed by local artists, and a lot of them are MCAD alumni.
Of course, we are also promoting the restaurants. All of the restaurants that are part of Belly Up are independently owned Twin Cities restaurants. We hope that the people with memberships are stopping in for food to eat as well as getting their beer or cocktail. Also with this membership, we hope that people are going out and exploring new places in the Twin Cities. Dave and I are all about the local food scene and the local craft beer and cocktails.
Pint glasses designed by Taylor Baldry ’07 for Belly Up
Did you contact the artists?
Noah: Yes, I contacted a lot of my friends from MCAD who are illustrators, and then they would give me recommendations on other local artists who might be interested. I reached out to a lot of people who couldn’t make it work in their schedule because of time constraints and because they were too busy, which is a good thing!
Was it hard to establish a partnership with these local restaurants?
Noah: No, it wasn’t hard at all. We showed them the idea and a lot of them caught on pretty quickly. The restaurant owners are smart business people and they know the value of a customer coming in through their doors. All of the restaurants we choose are places with great menus, so hopefully after members go in their first time for that drink and they try the food, they’ll be able to identify the restaurant as a great place to go back again and try out more foods.
Dave: We identified our top restaurants in the Booze Belly program and our top twenty-five in the Beer Belly program, and out of the top twenty-five we approached we had an 80% success rate. Luckily, we were able to pull the restaurants on board in a short amount of time because we did need the product—the drinks—before we were able to move forward with our website. We set out for this, we went looking for the best, and I believe we did get the best restaurants in the Twin Cities on board with Belly Up.
Noah: It’s exciting to see these big-name restaurants as partners with us. They’re fully supportive of Belly Up as well. I’ve seen posts about us on their social media accounts and they are retweeting our posts. Half of what we’re doing is promoting their restaurants, too; it’s not just about the free drinks. We’ve seen too many great restaurants close this past year and we want to do our part to promote these places.
“We have a very vibrant community here in the twin cities with the food scene, the entrepreneurial scene, and the art scene. I want to do my part and bring the art scene back into focus.”
Do you only see Belly Up being based here in the Twin Cities?
Noah: Right now we are only putting our focus locally. We want to do this and make sure we do this well. We are entrepreneurs, so if the opportunity strikes we would love to expand it to other cities and give the same experience to more potential members.
MCAD Alum Noah Miwa and business partner Dave Ostlund
Noah, did you imagine your career how it is now when you were still at MCAD?
That’s a good question; no I did not. I am a big believer of going with the flow. When I graduated, we had a guest commencement speaker who came and said, “There are people who have a lot of talent and then there are people who don’t have a lot of talent. The people who are successful are not the ones who have the talent, but the people who have the drive. You’ll see people with less talent but a big drive who will go farther in life compared to people who have talent that are lazy.” His words really stuck with me. I’ve just been going with the flow letting life take me in these different directions and seizing any opportunities that come my way.
What I actually thought I was going to do was go into advertising, become an art director, become a junior creative director, creative director, senior creative director, and move up the corporate ladder and make great advertisements. But I’m happy with where I’m at right now.
Lastly, where do you see the future of your company Belly Up?
Dave: Belly Up is a marketing program for restaurants that uses booze as the hook. People who like to drink, or have the palate for craft beers and cocktails, probably have a palate for cuisine as well. The hope is to get people who want to explore not only craft beers and cocktails but also new foods and new dining experiences. This is as much of a food club as it is a drinking club. I see us adding food events to it. I know we will be adding cocktail tastings, cocktail making parties, and beer tastings. Eventually, we’ll add food crawls, tours, monthly events—all included with the member perks. We’ve outlined other ideas that I don’t want to say too much about because we do have competition.
Noah: All really good points that Dave touched on. I think Dave and I can both agree that we have a very vibrant community here in the twin cities with the food scene, the entrepreneurial scene, and the art scene. I want to do my part and bring the art scene back into focus. Places like Can Can Wonderland, Mia, and the Walker Art Center are doing great job at it. Everyone plays their part into bringing the art scene back into focus and we are also going to play our part in that too by featuring artists and maybe every year we can bring in new artists to design new glasses to help get their names out there. Which is the same thing we’re doing with the restaurants too. I’d love to have this artistic element be one of the guiding things that is part of the company, because that’s what really makes us unique. It just makes sense with CRAFT beer, CRAFT cocktails, CRAFT foods, and CRAFT in art. It’s all the same thing.
Dave: Belly Up is under the umbrella of our main company, Perseid. Every August there’s a meteor shower and if you’re in a place that’s dark you can see a meteor a minute. Our concept for Perseid was to come up with something new every year and shower the community with it. That is the guiding force behind what we’re doing and knowing this isn’t the only thing we are going to do. We have many things planned, but we first have to get the proof of concept of this thing going and the community trust on our side. We need a couple thousand people to walk into restaurants and redeem for free drinks and enjoy it.
Highball glasses designed by Ann Macarayan ’14 for Belly Up
Noah and Dave are graciously giving MCAD readers a 10% discount for the membership. Just use the code “MCAD” on their website!
To learn more about the membership check out the Belly Up Website.
And see more of the artist-designed pint glasses and highball glasses below.