There have always been those who like to imbibe from time to time. With the onslaught of inventive beverages sneaking their way into the mainstream, lines are being crossed, and so too are loyalties to any one beverage. More adventurous consuming is becoming the norm, breeding bi-curious indulgers and producers alike. The latter are now approaching beverage making in a way that’s more; well, fluid.
Promiscuous partakers are discovering the budding popularity of the hybrid brewery-winery-distillery folks. Winemakers are becoming brewers, and brewers are becoming vintners; while some like to dabble in distilling. These dual fabricators bring the best of both worlds to customers, combining their expertise in wine, beer, and spirits. So swirl, sniff, sip, and soak it all in, at these winery-brewery-distillery hybrids from southern Minnesota. It’s a whole new world of frolicking!
CHANKASKA CREEK RANCH, WINERY & DISTILLERY
(www.chankaskawines.com – Kasota, MN)
Open year-round, Mike Drash, vice-president of alcohol operations, oversees the production of 18 different wines and a dozen spirits from the distillery. The company’s newest creation is their 2017 Reserve Marquette, which comes 100% from Estate Vineyard. Aged for 20 months in a mix of new and used French Oak Barrels, this wine will change your mind on how good Minnesota wines can be. Chankaska offers tours, wine and spirits tastings, along with a menu that features delicious brick oven pizzas. They sponsor various events and are able to rent spaces for corporate meetings, holiday parties, social gatherings and weddings. The majority of harvest is in September and October, and the crew works seven days a week, nonstop. “We just completed about 18 months of construction, with the addition of a 9,200 square foot event center; and a new addition to the winery; a distilled spirits cocktail room. We have 14 cocktails that our tasting room staff have created!” exclaimed Marketing Director Courtney Malone.
J. CARVER DISTILLERY
(www.jcarverdistillery.com) – Waconia, MN)
J. Carver Distillery is a grain-to-glass micro-distillery. “We explore and celebrate the bounty of Minnesota grains, fruits, and botanicals, as we forge community relationships with farmers and barrel coopers from right down the road; along with unique collaborations with three wineries and two breweries in Waconia,” explained Founding Partner Gina Holman. The local farm-to-glass spirits are produced entirely on-site in the Waconia facility. “We are proud to be putting J. Carver Distillery and our Minnesota grain-to-glass barreled spirits on the map, with our award-winning line of bourbons, ryes, and wheat whiskeys, brandies, barrel gin, and specialty spirits,” added Holman. J. Carver offers discriminating clear spirits aficionados, four distinctly-different gins, and two distinct vodkas. The distillery’s newest creation is a Minnesota wheat whiskey, actually first produced four years ago; and brought back by popular demand. J. Carver offers tours, tastings and events. Every weekend, the distillery staff can be found in the beautiful Cocktail & Tasting Room; where they welcome guests for a tour and tasting. J. Carver Distillery announces the introduction of Everlasting Absinthe Verte. This mystifying, once illegal spirit was inspired by a tradition of craft and curiosity. It was produced in collaboration with Minnesota Vintners; and grapes grown locally at Waconia’s three wineries located just outside the Twin Cities. Stay tuned for the new J. Carver malt whiskies, rolling-out in 2020.
10,000 DROPS CRAFT DISTILLERS
(www.10000drops.com – Faribault, MN)
Owners Jake Hvistendahl, Pat Jacobs, and Rob & Kristie Kruchoski; distill spirits from raw, mostly local ingredients. “Specifically, we make rum, bourbon, and gin, and are currently aging all of these products in 53-gallon barrels,” stated Hvistendahl. The company’s newest product is their American Gin. It’s an 11 botanical gin that isn’t overly juniper tasting. The folks at 10,000 Drops boast a large cocktail room and patio, where they serve craft cocktails, Wed-Sun. They offer tours on Saturdays; they host parties of many sizes and for many occasions. On most Friday and Saturday nights, live music and food trucks are available. The business is located in an old furniture factory, turned salvaged warehouse. “We spent three years renovating our spaces largely by ourselves and re-used a ton of salvage and other elements from the demolition; to put back into the finished space,” Hvistendahl commented. Next on the drawing board is Aged Gin and Dark Rum. The 10,000 Drops staff looks to expand its distribution throughout Minnesota; in an attempt to get their products closer to Faribault visitors.
ANGRY INCH BREWING
(www.angryinchbrewing.com – Lakeville)
Jon Erickson is the owner of Angry Inch Brewing, a production brewery and taproom. Jon’s most recent creation is a beer called Happy Juice, an all-Minnesota ingredient East Coast IPA. Drinkers should expect crisp, bright, orange flavors with a refreshing and slightly bitter finish. The Angry Inch provides flights, special events, weekend food trucks, and Wednesday night trivia. Erickson finds satisfaction in educating those who purport to dislike beer. “Honestly, I like having conversations with people who “don’t like beer” and find out what flavors they enjoy, their perception of beer, and then being able to convert them to someone who now seeks out craft beer,” Jon explained. The Angry Inch is not just a bar that chooses to serve only beers with funny names. Folks may be pleasantly surprised when they discover that what they are drinking has been crafted on site, brewed on site, and served on site. “We’re a friendly, geeky bunch that loves beer and the community we’re in. We enjoy the craft of beer (both ours and others) and we enjoy being able to give back with our craft,” Erickson said. The first weekend of August is Angry Inch’s three-year anniversary. Watch for celebration updates!
(www.harmonyspirits.net – Harmony)
Owners Andy Craig, Larry Tammel and Jim Simpson, currently distill vodka, whiskey and rum. They will have bourbon whiskey ready in September and another bourbon whiskey release in November. Their vodka is corn based and very neutral and smooth, with a creamy texture, a brown sugar finish, and a hint of almond scent. “Our whiskey is 80% corn and 20% oats. It has a very “bourbonesque” flavor, with a bit of the same bite you get with a rye whiskey and a sweet finish from the oats,” said Simpson. Harmony Spirits has a tasting room/cocktail room, where they offer tastings and hand-crafted cocktails, created on the spot. The most popular cocktails are the Blackberry Vodka Mojito and the Fillmore Lemonade.
LOON LIQUOR COMPANY
(www.loonliquors.com – Northfield)
Loon Liquor Company was co-founded by Mark Schiller and Simeon Rossi. Loon distills delicious locally-sourced grains to make organic-certified whiskey, vodka, gin, liqueurs, and other spirits. They feature a cocktail room, where they make ginger ale, tonic water, simple syrups, bitters, and other mixers. “Our newest creation is an experimental series of distilled spirits. The inspiration comes from a desire to try out all different kinds of flavors to see what folks enjoy the most,” stated Schiller. Along with tours, the company offers a variety of spirits, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks, which are crafted from scratch. Additionally, they have added delectable, local meat and cheese plates, plus other tasty treats. “It is most rewarding to watch our customers’ reactions to the first sip of their cocktails, spirits, or sodas,” Schiller added. Loon Liquor was the first, legal distillery in Southern MN in about 100 years. This year marks their 5th-year anniversary. Watch for details and stay tuned for the Loon’s experimental series and food series.
TURNING WATERS BREWING COMPANY
(www.turningwatersbrewing.com – Wabasha)
Turning Waters Back Alley Brewing Co. is owned by Brenda and Ford Pearson. They brew craft beers of all styles; Pale Wheat, Milkshake IPA, Milk Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Red & Brown Ales, Saisons, and Kettle Sours. Some of the ingredients utilized by the couple are: real fruits, toasted coconut, toasted almonds, and more. “My husband, Ford, turned 50 and since everyone is making Pastry Stouts, he brewed a cake-inspired Red Velvet Stout at 7.5% ABV. We served it with fresh, whipped cream blended with Woodford Double Oak Reserve Bourbon. It is a double milk stout with red velvet cake undertones, and a light cream cheese flavor with bourbon on the nose. We also served a 9-month bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, clocking in at 18% as a bonus beer. Our patrons love Ford’s stouts!” Brenda exclaimed. Turning Waters offers tours, tastings, pizza, ice cream, snacks; craft beer, wine, cider, sodas; and occasionally, they host a martini night. “We love it when we can convert a domestic beer drinker, by trying our Chubby Chipmonk, Pale Wheat Ale, or our Skinny Biever. There are funny stories behind the naming of those beers,” Brenda commented. Brenda said that some people think brewers are tattooed and bearded. “LOL! Many think you can brew and serve a beer in days and that is not reality. We focus on small batches with BIG flavors!” added Brenda. The Pearson’s business is an extension of their home, which is a bed & breakfast. They plan to add additional outdoor seating, and more fun games, on the patio.
By Pat Garry