The first question our customers ask us when they visit our tasting room or see us at a tasting event is “What made you decide to open a Micro Distillery?” The answer can get lengthy, but at the core it is simple. Everyone has gone to work and about 3 hours into their day thought “What the hell am I still doing here?” All 4 of us (Andy, Damon, Jim and Larry) worked together at the same ethanol plant. In the beginning the work was hard but rewarding. We all worked together as a team and made decisions as a team. Over time the management decisions were shifted to the corporate level and fewer decisions were being made at the business level. If you have ever experienced the “one size fits all” philosophy at any point in your job tenure you understand exactly how we all felt.
One of the greatest things about making alcohol is the process. Cooking, fermenting and distilling are all interesting and challenging. Between the 4 of us we have 50 years of experience with every aspect of alcohol production. And we enjoy every part of it! We all have a lot more fun making alcohol for human consumption rather than fuel.
To manage through the drudgery of the corporate mindset we talked a lot about home brewing, micro breweries, micro distilleries and all kinds of other fun activities. Eventually we started touring breweries and distilleries on our days off. We had a lot of fun dreaming about having our own brewery or distillery. On one of the longer drives home from a distillery tour our “dream” discussion turned more towards our process experience and what we could do differently if we had our own distillery. We got a little more excited than normal and over a couple drinks we came to the conclusion that with our knowledge and experience we could make better products with local grains than other distilleries.
The key to opening a distillery is the ability to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and a complete lack of understanding of government process. We began with a business plan and from there we began looking for money. We were blessed to have the support of our family and friends and 47 of them provided us with the capital we need to secure a mortgage. We looked all over southeast Minnesota for a spot that would keep us close to home and within reach of the local grains we needed. Harmony welcomed us with open arms! It is difficult to put this 6-year process into a couple of sentences. There were lots of ups and downs………….lots.
In March of 2019 we finally had everything licensed and approved, we were able to start production! It was an emotional moment when we filled our first barrel. From there it’s all history, a history you’ll have to taste for yourself.