Specialty beer in honor of a world hall of famer
In heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here.
And for a long-time Owatonna musician, he has a special reason to drink a little extra beer. World-renowned concertina player Luverne Wanous is celebrating his very own beer compliments of Mineral Springs Brewery of Owatonna.
MSB’s first pilsner is crafted as a tribute to Luverne’s legacy. The craft beer features several grains, including Pilsner, 2 row, Vienna and CaraPils, Lager yeast and Saaz hops. “We’re confident it hits all the right notes,” MSB says.
Wanous has entertained fans all over the world with his concertina since 1952. Last year, he was inducted into the World Concertina Congress Hall of Fame. He is the first inductee ever from Steele County. At 84 years old, he continues to entertain folks with his old-time music, though the coronavirus pandemic has slowed his performances over the past few months.
With his concertina in hand, Wanous performed during an open house celebrating his beer at MSB a few weekends ago. MSB initially had a spot roped off for him to play to keep social distancing. People brought lawn chairs to join in on the fun. However, a short time after he began playing, MSB informed him he had to quit because “you’re attracting too many people.”
As many as 75 people had congregated to hear Wanous play his favorite polkas. Most of his selections were what else, but beer songs. Some of them included In Heaven There is No Beer, Beer Barrel Polka, Blue Skirt Waltz and Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie.
When MSB owner Mark Sebring contacted him about naming a beer after him, Wanous said, “I was dumbfounded.” He added he initially thought it was a scam.
Naming a beer after Wanous is part of an effort by MSB to offer beers representing longevity in Owatonna and Steele County. MSB is featuring 11 other beers.
Asked if he enjoyed his special beer, Wanous responded, “Hell ya, what do you think this is Sesame Street?”
He actually stocked up with about $400 of Luverne’s Concertina beer so he could give some away to family members, including his grandchildren.
While playing at thousands of performances over the years, Wanous has enjoyed tipping back some brews. “I drank a lot of beer over the years,” he admits. At one point he switched to brandy, but now he has gone back to beer again.
Wanous was just 8 years old when he began playing for his first paid job. His first gig was at the Steele Center Town Hall in 1944 when a neighbor took him to perform at the Farmer’s Union meeting. He received 75 cents for playing.
In the early 1960s, he formed a seven-piece band that was popular for more than 20 years. In most recent years, he has cut back to a one-piece band averaging more than 100 shows a year, mostly at nursing homes, senior citizen dances, anniversaries and birthdays.
“I’m just so blessed and thankful,” Wanous said.
Through it all, Wanous has developed a fondness for making people happy. One of his greatest thrills is watching people tap their legs and arms as he performs music. “You don’t buy those memories,” he says. “It’s in the heart.”
Since the COVID-19 crisis hit, Wanous has missed opportunities to entertain as many of his venues are off limits. Over the years he has been through other health and economic scares, but nothing quite like this. “It hasn’t been this bad where they have shut down everything,” he said.
With most entertainment venues at a standstill, Wanous says it’s all the more reason to store up on some extra beer. “Have a beer on me,” he said.
After all Wanous reminds us as he sings one of his favorites: “In Heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here.”