A virtual distillery tour

We LOVE when you guys come to visit us to check out our distilling process and spirits in person.  But, we know not everyone can make it here, so we thought we'd take a bunch of pictures of the distillery so you could come on a little virtual tour of the space.  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, and we have lots of pictures here, we won't say another word.  Welcome to Vikre Distillery!  Come on in... 20141006_7160










































Thanks for visiting!!!!!

Fall Cocktail Ideas! an illustrated primer

Summer is over, and with it go the light, airy evenings of sitting on the porch swatting at mosquitos and sipping on gin and tonics.  But that absolutely does NOT mean that it is time to put away your bottle of gin in favor of only whiskey and red wine.  No no no no no.  Don’t be so silly! Yeees, we make gin so maybe we’re coming at this with a little self-interest.  A lot of self-interest.  BUT, we’re also here in your self-interest because your fall cocktails are going to be so much more, well, interesting if you keep the complex herbal, floral, piney notes of gin in your cold weather drink line up (also pine = very fall-y and wintery, don’t you think?).  Plus, contrary to popular belief that aquavit is only for the winter holidays, we think aquavit is great in a lot of drinks all year round.  AND for the winter holidays (who’s looking forward to the 12 days of aquavit?!  We are!).

We have (well, Emily has) been playing around with all the seasonal ingredients fall has to offer -the fruits and spices and squashes that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside like you just put a cozy sweater on your tummy  - plus richly flavored liqueurs and aperitifs, and have come up with a bunch of autumnal gin and aquavit cocktails for you to try.   And Emily has taken pictures of them and used her photo shop skillz to put words on them, like the hip food blogga lady she is. Behold:

cedar + cider w words

Cedar + Cider has become our new go-to fall drink.  Boreal Cedar Gin stirred (to taste) into sweet-tangy fresh pressed cider (hot or cold) basically tastes the way you’d feel jumping into a pile of crunchy golden leaves on a glorious fall day and then getting handed a mulled cider and a cider donut.  Dreamy.

oslo mule_1

When it comes to drinks with ginger beer, we’re not letting Moscow have all the fun.  So, meet the Oslo Mule (sometimes also known as the Swedish Mule, but we were bothered by the lack of parallel structure in the naming (ie Moscow is a city, Swedish is a nationality) because that’s the fantastic kind of people we are).  Or The Dark and Snowy and Stormy.  Or maybe we should just call it Winter is Coming.  Whatever you call it, the combination of Øvrevann Aquavit with ginger beer and lime is nice and spicy and so simple to put together.

balsamic fig g&t_1

If you’re not quite ready to let go of your g&t’s (we know we’re not!) and you also happen to love the tangy-sweet flavor of drinks like kombucha and shrubs (fruit infused drinking vinegar), try adding a spoonful of fig or cherry-infused balsamic vinegar (you can get infused balsamic vinegars from snazzy grocery stores or olive oil places) to a gin and tonic.  Bitter, sweet, tangy, poignant, complex.  This might be what nostalgia tastes like.

Or, you can try a whole line up of cocktails that highlight yummy fall flavors like cranberries, apples, maple, and pumpkin.  Ta-da:

Vikre Fall Cocktails

If you’re looking to try some drinks that are just a little more complex to make (muddling! vermouth! interesting bitters!), these ones are 150% worth the effort.

schmancy fall cocktails_1

And lastly, but not leastly, and no matter how you feel about the ridiculous profusion of pumpkin spice lattes on every corner at this time of year, you should obviously give the Pumpkin Spice Cocktail a try.  Obviously.  (This cocktail is surprisingly good.  Like, I made it with apprehension, and then we were surprised by how much we liked it and then we drank a bunch more of them.)

pumpkin spice cocktail

SKÅL friends!

Pig racing - epic adorability

The other day we teased you - with an image of our epic tasting tent at the Northland Arboretum Country Picnic in scenic Brainerd, Minnesota. tent

But you could say we poked you - in the 'pigs in a poke' sense, whatever that means - because the tasting was mostly an excuse to attend a pig race.

We had never attended a pig race. We did not know what a pig race was. But we found it was happening, so we went.

But, since we like to do things whole hog, we also decided to sponsor a pig. We're socially responsible that way.

Anyway, here it is:

Pig Race

PigLETS! Yeah - wow.

Here it is with more epic:

Slow pig race

That's pretty much all we have to say. Stay tuned later this week for barreling our aged aquavit...

So many things

Hello! There's a lot happening. Behold:

First, we're open now from 12-6, Wednesday through Sunday.  There are two lovely folks here now chatting with Chelsy:


You can take a tour any of those days at 2 and 5, or you can do some self guided learning with our helpful infographics:


You can taste all three of our Boreal gins, plus smell all the different botanicals we use to make them so delicious:

photo 5

Not to mention our aquavit!:

photo 4

And in case aquavit's a little unfamiliar, or you just want more ideas for what to do with gin, you can pick up some post cards with cocktail ideas.  (Surprising fact: aquavit makes kind of astonishing cocktails, especially in the place of whiskey):

photo 3

All this, and you can learn a little bit about the history of distilling in Duluth. We have artifacts from Duluth distillers and bottlers of yore:

photo 1

And we have what we believe to be the control panel from the old Lake Superior brewery:

photo 1-1 Of course you can always just curl up with a book about whiskey:

photo 2

Or rest your elbows at our valhalla-esque table, at which I'm currently writing (see: mess at front corner):

photo 2-1

Sounds fun, right? This is not even to mention the fact that once the city grants us a license we'll be able to serve cocktails made with our products. Cocktails typically have several ingredients, and often several types of alcohol, but we can only use alcohol we make, which is a sort of funny limitation that we've decided to embrace. So we're only going to use things made in house - juices, vinegars, bitters, fortified wines, etc. Everything will be from scratch. It's like a haiku - the constraints of the form encourage creativity. This is our theory at least.

Also, of this writing our products are available in 195 places in Minnesota, from Rochester to International Falls, and Duluth to Park Rapids. You can search the map here: https://goo.gl/maps/MXwbu. Also our aquavit is available at one bar in Denmark. I am not making this up.


You can also buy it online at South Lyndale or at Merwin's.

Also, we're all over the news thanks to the amazing Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, who says: "I adore their cedar gin, which just has that great wet North Woods smell, because of the toasted cedar wood. It just smells like the wind over the Temperance River in the fall." You can listen to one of the stories here.

There has been one factual inaccuracy in these stories. Our gin is not made with rye from Far North Spirits, though we're flattered by the connection. We're actually partners with Bent Paddle Brewing Company here in Duluth, which brews up an all malted barley distiller's beer for us. Lately they've been infusing casks of blonde ale with some of our botanicals, making perhaps the hottest beer in the Northland. You can spot me at the far right (so jaunty) at their 1-year anniversary, better known as the "festiversary," which was epic in every way.


For example, it was attended by someone named "Mrs. Delicious":


This post is becoming epic itself, at least in length, so I'll just leave you with just one more fun tidbit - our ribbon cutting a few weeks back (look how huge Espen is getting!): ribboncutting

And let the mayor, Karen, Bryon, Colin and Laura take us out:



Joel (and Emily, Kevin, Ted, Chelsy and Squid)

71 Places to Try Boreal Gin! (the magical increasing number!)

The list of places to find Boreal Gin is quickly expanding. This is a very fun list to update! CLICK HERE FOR A MAP

Duluth-Area Restaurants & Bars At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Café Bellisio's Boondocks Saloon & Grill Canal Park Brewing Company Carmody Irish Pub Clyde Iron Works The Depot Dubhlinn Pub G.B. Schneider & Co. Grandma's Canal Park Grandma's Miller Hill Grandma's Sports Garden Grizzly’s Grill & Saloon Island Lake Inn Kitchi Gammi Club Lake Avenue Café Little Angie's Cantina McKenzie's Bar and Grill Pickwick Restaurant and Pub Pizza Luce Duluth Rex Bar Sir Benedict’s Tavern Spirit Mountain Va Bene Zeitgeist Arts Café/Zinema/Teatro Zucone

North Shore Restaurants & Bars Carmody 61 - Two Harbors Cove Point Crossing - Beaver Bay Cove Point Lodge - Beaver Bay Gunflint Tavern - Grand Marais Harbor House Grille - Grand Marais Lutsen Resort - Lutsen Mogul's Grille & Taproom - Lutsen Our Place - Finland Papa Charlie's Saloon & Grill - Lutsen Superior Shores Resort - Two Harbors Trestle Inn - Finland West Branch Bar & Grill - Finland

Duluth-Area Liquor Stores Big Bottle Shop Canal Park Liquor Cash Wise Liquor Cold One Liquor – Cloquet Fitger’s Wine Cellars Gramma Polo’s Bottle Shop – Scanlon Hermantown Liquor Store Lake Aire Bottle Shop Last Chance Liquor Mt. Royal Bottle Shoppe Pike Lake Liquor Silver Creek Liquor - Duluth Super One Liquor – Cloquet Super One Liquor - Duluth TJ's Country Corner - Mahtowa University Liquor Warehouse Liquor Woodland Liquors

North Shore, Range, & points North Liquor Stores County Market Liquor - International Falls Jerry's Warehouse Liquor - Grand Rapids Mike's Drive-In Liquor - Ely MLS Grand Marais Silver Creek Liquor - Mountain Iron

Minneapolis/St. Paul-Area Liquor Stores Elevated Beer, Wine & Spirits Falls Liquor France 44 Wine & Spirits Liquor Boy Wine & Spirits MGM Liquor Warehouse #10 Woodbury MLS Mound Navarre Liquors Oak Wine & Spirits - Oak Park Heights Perrier Wines & Liquors South Lyndale Liquor Stinson Wine & Spirits Zipp's Liquors


(Walk like an e-gin-ptian) IMG_5202



On the Shelf!

It's official... you can buy Boreal Gin! boreal gins on distillery bar vertical copy

After many many moons, our gins have hit the shelves and bars in Duluth, and Cloquet, and one shelf in Minneapolis! We're super excited to hear what you think, and to see what our talented bartenders are doing with it. We're just psyched.

Restaurants At Sarah’s Table/Chester Creek Café Canal Park Brewing Company Lake Avenue Café The Depot Grizzly’s Bar and Saloon Kitchi Gammi Club Pickwick Restaurant and Pub Pizza Luce Duluth Rex Bar Sir Benedict’s Tavern Spirit Mountain Va Bene Zeitgeist Arts Café

Liquor Stores Big Bottle Shop Canal Park Liquor Cash Wise Liquor Cold One Liquor – Cloquet Fitger’s Wine Cellars Gramma Polo’s Bottle Shop – Scanlon Hermantown Liquor Store Lake Aire Bottle Shop Last Chance Liquor Mt. Royal Bottle Shoppe Pike Lake Liquor South Lyndale Liquor  - Minneapolis Super One Liquor – Duluth University Liquor Warehouse Liquor Woodland Liquors

If you were one of the lucky recipients of a gift certificate from Mt. Royal Bottle Shoppe or Last Chance Liquor, you can now take those in and redeem them there. If your gift certificate is for aquavit, you can redeem it for gin or wait a little bit longer - our aquavit is still a month or two away... Oh yeah, and prices should be right around $30 at the liquor store.

If you are a liquor store or bar and want to be on this list, just get in touch with your Johnson Brothers rep. If you want your liquor store or bar to carry our stuff, ask them to get in touch with their Johnson Brothers rep.!

Enjoy! And tell us how it was!


Joel, Emily, Kevin, Espen & Squid

The Mayor's Birthday Party

Hello friends! Last night was a big night at the distillery. After a minorly epic push to get the bar mostly completed (thanks dad!) and the space cleaned up (thanks Kevin!), a bunch of folks came in from the cold...


Cold it has been. We were verging on -30f absolute, never mind the wind chill, and just about everything possible has frozen. Our boilers. Our chimney. Our truck. Our asses. Our minds. But it's warming up now - It was actually above 0 when we drove in this morning.

But no more complaining, because last night was awesome.



There was jazz:


There were miniature cupcakes:


There were beverages, especially from Bent Paddle Brewery:


And most importantly, the guests of honor, Duluth mayor Don Ness and his wife Laura.


We were celebrating Don's and Laura's birthdays. They're lovely people, and Don is roughly the best mayor ever. He has approval ratings in the 90s, at least in part because he's genuine in a way we don't expect from our public figures. Also, in case you wondered, he has the same Myers-Briggs personality type as Joel. And Emily as Laura. Yes, wow.

Speaking of, this is how Joel serves a drink! Much arm waving required.


Meanwhile, some folks congregated in the kitchen as people do.


And lots of great Duluth people got a good look at the place.



Which apparently was a delight.


We had fun too.

in other fun news, our gin labels have been approved, and our bottles are being printed and should be here in a couple weeks, so we should be on the liquor store shelves and bars in Duluth early next month. We can't wait!


Joel and Emily










Recipes, plus a timeline update, plus GIFT CERTIFICATES!

Hi peeps, Check it out - our cart is mostly covered with tri-clamp fittings, not tools. What does this signify, you ask? It means we're up and running! We've been distilling every day for weeks, tuning up our equipment, and testing and tweaking recipes.


You may remember we're doing 3 different flavors of our Boreal Gin.  "Juniper" is a relatively traditional gin - well balanced, floral, with a touch of citrus from rhubarb we grew in our garden this summer. We've done lots of testing, and that recipe is just awesome. We're very happy with it. "Spruce" is a little different - it has the spruce tips we picked this spring, and it's earthier - more like being in the forest. We're getting there on that one, but not quite happy with it yet. The last is "Cedar," which has burnt cedar wood, black currant and grapefruit peel in it. We'll be doing our first infusion of cedar this week - it's taken a little while to get it underway because there's some prep involved - including zesting grapefruits and cutting, toasting and charring red cedar wood.


We've also dialed in our aquavit recipe - and it's just f&*$@** excellent. My apologies for the vulgarity, but it's insanely delicious. I brought the most recent iteration over to our partner brewery Bent Paddle the other night after they got their new fermenters in, and we had them taste it to get their input - it's warm and tasty and delicious, and so smooth. If you've had any experience with aquavit, this is just a whole different ballgame.

Today we're redistilling all our test batches to recover the alcohol, which isn't quite as exciting as developing new flavors, but you can see Kevin's hanging in there.


The other night Emily and I were pouring out some old experimental liquid infusions we did with filtered store-bought vodka and botanicals as we began working on recipes over a year ago. It was a delicious moment, realizing we'd come so far from the dream of a distillery, to actually distilling, to producing spirits we're really excited about. It's a joy, and frankly an immense relief!

Now for a little good news/bad news routine. Bad news first - we've been waiting on the federal government to approve our gin labels and our aquavit formula, and they've been running an increasing delay. And we're still waiting. As soon as we get that approval, we'll get the bottles printed and filled and on the shelf, but we can't do any of that until they say go. In other bad news, it's -15 degrees fahrenheit here today, and we can't get our truck started to go pick up our next batch of distiller's beer from Bent Paddle. No biggie though, we're Duluthians.

Now the good news - even though the product won't be ready for christmas, if you're willing to go out an a little limb with us, you can buy it now! Our friends at Mt. Royal Bottle Shoppe in Duluth are selling gift certificates for the holidays, and you can buy one for any or all of the varieties you wish. They'll be redeemable the minute our product is ready, which should be (fingers crossed!) in late Janauary. They're around $30/bottle. Mt. Royal is located at 1602 Woodland Ave, Duluth, MN 55803. (218) 728-6168.

Anyway, those are the haps! Come on down and say hi if you want - anytime from 10-4 on weekdays is good. We're in the Paulucci building, right off lake ave, right before the lift bridge. Also - we're going to be open on Saturday for tours from 10-6 for the Canal Park open house thingy. We hope to see you soon!

That's all from 'round here. Stay warm!

Joel, Emily, Kevin, Squid, Espen, and Genevieve

Now we're an actual distillery

Hey friends, Lots to report. For example, this article in the Duluth News Tribune. Mmm, word play.

So here's the last month, distilled into a handful of pictures.

Bent Paddle started brewing our distiller's beer - a special recipe of fermented stuff that's great for distilling and very unlike the beer we drink. Here we are picking up the first batch in our sweet truck. See if you can pick out brewmeisters Colin and Bryon from the pictures.

DSC01332 DSC01328 DSC01327DSC013312.5 miles and about 125' of hose and pump later, here it is in our stripping still.

DSC01349Next step (and this is always the next step), clean the tanks and hoses!

DSC01351Maybe we can assign that to Kevin Evans, future master distiller? Assuming, of course, he's not as scary as he looks?

DSC01356Then we'll fire up the boilers and get the still going. Getting the boilers ship shape turned out to be a real task. Many thanks to Don Doty, our in-house boiler guru, and Badger at Canal Park Brewery for his advice, and of course the boiler ninja from Jamar.



Then about an hour later, our temperatures will start to spike, and we'll dial back the steam, turn on the condenser, and start getting alcohol out the other end!

DSC01336If you're an eagle-eyed distiller you'll notice our first order of business was puking the still. Every still is a unique snowflake, and there's always a learning curve!

After stripping, the so-called low wines are pumped into the spirit still, on the right.DSC01347

The sauce goes through the spirit still 3 times, each run being about 8 hours long. Cutting to the chase, we're building up a good supply of nice clean vodka, which we'll start infusing to make our gins and aquavits later this week. It's funny, and very happiness inducing, after 14 months of work, to stand there at the spirit safe and taste crystal clean ethanol coming through at 190 proof. Who would have thought we'd ever make it?

Getting to this point has been sort of a sprint, involving lots of weekends and late nights, and more copper fittings, spools of solder and canisters of MAPP gas than we care to count.


But any distiller worth his salt does his own plumbing. And it's been fun getting the hang of all the bits and pieces of equipment required to make this place run.

DSC01360In between the distilling, we've been cleaning and scrubbing and getting the furniture installed.DSC01310

Between now and the holidays we'll be tweaking recipes, doing some finish carpentry, and waiting on the government to approve our labels so we can get our bottles printed.



But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel! DSC01316

And in early January we'll emerge from our chrysalis, bottle our guns and aquavit, and get them on the shelf for you to enjoy!DSC01319


Cheers, and happy thanksgiving!

Joel, Emily, Espen, Kevin, and Squid






Construction Update - for Giants

Hey folks, It's been too long, for the following reason:

Bev and Espen

Em's grandma came to visit.  Just kidding - it's the baby! Espen was born on September 12th - just squeaked by there. Espen is the name of the ashlad from Norwegian folklore - the plucky young boy who outsmarts the trolls by asking the princess what to do. His middle name is Noah, because we hope he'll become a project man - you know, taking on big ideas and trying to make them happen. You can visit Emily's blog if you want the details of just how magnificent and exhausting it has been, plus a recipe for cherry tomato cobbler with bleu cheese (the french kind) biscuits. As dad, I'll just say: I'm proud of both of them.

We've been sleeping not much, and getting visits from lots of wonderful people, and been well taken care of by family and friends. Meanwhile, the distillery has been going great guns.


The vodka column was raised by lowering a cable through the roof from a crane on Lake Ave.

Crane on Lake Ave



Moar CraneCrane Ball

Lifting Column

Almost Up

COlumn standing

The boilers were installed.

Boilers Better

Steam lines were fitted.


The kitchen was installed, mostly by screwing together some stainless tables.


With the invaluable assistance of my awesome dad (who also did an epic amount of painting, cleaning, assembling, etc. during a visit to meet Espen. Come back dad!), the stills were set into final place.

Dad and Joel

I started working on the vapor and water lines for our stills.


Final P&ID Vendome Spirit Still

We endured some mild dangers.

Oxygen Sign

There was a little extra steel work to do for a new wall requested by our regulators, the TTB.

Steel Better

Steel Work

And the floor off of Lake Ave was ground smooth-ish for your impending visit ;)

Visitor Floor

And this is not even to mention our appearance on television (I think that's some sort of antiquated device for watching netflix?), and in print, some important regulatory approvals, and our ongoing brand work.

Oh yeah, Espen's getting into the game too.



Joel & the gang

p.s. Bonus quasi-factual Duluth joke: Given how plumbers in Duluth wear their pants, now that Jim Carlson is in jail there's truly no crack in Duluth.


Construction continues apace - plus a surprise from the federal government!

Things are going like crazy up here, and we're happy to say it's mostly the good kind of crazy. We put together a little construction gallery for your perusal. Annotated, for your edification. [gallery ids="380,382,384,383,385,386,387,388,390,391,392,396,398,400,401,403,404,405,406,408,411,412,413,414,415,417,418,419,420,421,423,422,424,425,426,428,427,429,430,431,432,434,435,437,436,438,440,439,441,442,444,445,447,449,446,456,448,450,453,451,454,458"]

Also - to our delight and surprise - we received our federal license a couple months earlier than we expected! Now we have a few more hurdles to clear for the state, plus lots of local inspections - but we're getting there!

It's been too long!

We've been very busy. Extremely, crazy-making busy. But we're also having a ball. Here are a few choice bits: 1. Our facility is about a month from complete. Check out this dry fit of some of our equipment, including two headless stills. And don't worry, our equipment has adjustable feet for leveling :)


2. We're making progress on our branding and packaging and like. We love our brand guys, the Minnesotan New Yorkers! Here's a sneak peek of a draft of an imaginary rendering of a future bottle lineup...


3. We're waiting on various levels of government for various permits of various kinds. Cross your fingers for sequester-busting speed and success!

4. We're about to launch an indie-go-go campaign (like kickstarter, but more alcohol friendly :)) to help fund a visitor experience center at the distillery, to make your visit more fun. More on this coming soon...

5. We're about a month from Emily's due date. Emily's hanging in there. We're incredibly excited for baby.

That's it! Stay true friends.

Cheers, Emily and Joel


Well, it took a bit, but summer is here in Duluth! (Sort of... it's about 45 out right now). The lilacs are just starting to bloom. Maybe it's spring? It's not snowing, at least. spruceupclose

Point is, things are blooming. And this is very important, because the spruce tips are out! Every spring, spruce grow little buds. And as the weather warms up, they shed their little papery hats, and break forth in sparkly shiny green.

We've been out and about in the woods and in people's yards, and enlisting as many friends as we can. Here's a word from one of our master foragers, Matti Erpestad, and Emily's dad Steve:


Good spruce tips aren't good to eat in the same way as, say, apples. But they are tart, piney, and a little floral. There's a lot of variety between trees, so you have to taste each one before you load up your basket. But if you find a good one, they're pretty magical. Juicy, almost.

Those are the characteristics we're going to be building on in our Tree Line Spruce Gin, come August or September. Of course by then the spruce tips will be old and disillusioned, so we're picking now and storing them in the freezer.

basketofspruceIf you live in our neck of the woods, and want to assist in the foraging, give us a jingle!

And oh yeah, the other thing Minnesota has in the spring... bugs.



The Teardown

Allo! It's high time we came out with it: We're the new tenants at 525 Lake Avenue South, Duluth, MN, 55802! Take Lake Avenue to the lift bridge - we're the last building on the right.

overheadMany moons ago when we first looked at the space, it looked like this: 2012-12-13 15.31.53It hadn't seen use for decades, was split up with a bunch of walls, and was crammed full of junk*. Including - for example: duck a la planche;2012-12-13 15.02.43

(*one man's junk is another man's treasure)

bears;2012-12-13 15.01.21


and asbestos-covered pipes.2012-12-13 15.05.34

Round about 100 years ago it was a horse stable, and later it housed the canning line in a big factory operation. One section was used as a linen store where they handed out uniforms to the workers. Most recently, the chunk that will be our retail area was used as a private garage by the illustrious Jeno Paulucci. With the help of a stair chair, he could go right from his car to his office without once leaving red carpet.

2012-12-20 13.26.07Long story short - we dreamed up one big connected space, we made a deal, and we got to work! (Okay, actually the guys who run the building got to work - that was part of the deal :) ) Here it is mostly opened up:2013-05-10 15.02.14

And now, after sandblasting, it looks like this:


IMG_2055_4857Next step: doors and windows. Then it's on to mechanical work. Here's a full gallery of the excitement.[gallery ids="305,304,303,302,301,300,299,298,297,306,296,313,307,308,315,309,310,311,312,314,294,295,293,292,291,290,289,288,287,286,285,284,283,282"]

Stay tuned!

Hello PDD!

Well, apparently we've made the big time! That's to say - we've been mentioned on Duluth's awesome news/everything site: Perfect Duluth Day! Here are answers to some of the great questions we've gotten today. (Not that it took us a while to figure out why we were suddenly getting lots of questions ;) )

Emily seriously evaluating bottle options

1. Where are you?

We're going to be located in the Paulucci Building - in Canal Park just before the bridge. Build out should start next month. We're incredibly psyched.

2. What are you going to make?

We'll be making several gins inspired by local herbs and botanicals - we're calling it "Treeline." They'll all have lots of good flavors going on, with one sort of signature. Treeline: Spruce will have spruce tips. Treeline: Cedar will have burnt cedar. Treeline: Juniper will be a dry gin with juniper. You get the idea.

We'll also be making aquavit - but good aquavit - with a balance of caraway, cardamom, orange peel, etc. Like great rye bread.

We'll also be making rye, bourbon and a scotch-like whiskey, but you're going to have to wait wait wait for those. We'll start making them right away, but the longer they age in the barrel, the better they'll be. They'll start to get good around 2 years, and we'll be able to start serving them then. But if you can wait, say, 30 years, they'll be truly phenomenal!

3. When will you be open?

August, we hope. Cross your fingers.

4. How can I help?

We're going to do a kickstarter campaign here real soon. We'll let you know as soon as it's up.


Joel & Emily

Please help! Legislation to support craft distilleries in Minnesota!

Good news! Our state Senator in Duluth, Roger Reinert, together with Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, have introduced 3 bills to the state legislature to support craft distilleries. Here's Roger!


Together they're much like the Surly law - they would allow us to provide samples, to sell a bottle for people to take home, and to serve cocktails at the distillery. Doesn't that sound like a much more fun tour?! Laws much like these have been the jump start for craft distilling in other states - Washington, Oregon, New York, Wisconsin, etc. These days visiting craft distilleries is about the coolest thing to do in Seattle and Portland, and we're seeing phenomenal cocktails with their spirits served in more and more places.


So... this is very good news. But - we have to get these bills through the Minnesota legislature! We've formed a Minnesota Craft Distillers Guild, and we're writing letters and even have a lobbyist working for us (gasp!).

But we need your help!

If you have a plausible connection to Minnesota, could you spend a few minutes to write or call your state legislators?

Step 1: If you don't know already, look up who your state rep and senator are.

Step 2: Call them or send them an email! Below is a concise yet compelling text you can personalize.

Step 3: Cross your fingers

Check it out - It's like participating in our democracy! What a novel idea.


If you do hear back from your senator or congressperson, please let us know what they said. Joel's trying to track votes (like Josh from the West Wing).

Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

Joel and Emily and the Minnesota Craft Distillers Guild


Dear _____________,

I am writing to ask you to  support three bills which are part of the Liquor Omnibus Bill currently before the House and Senate. They would allow micro distilleries to sample their products, sell a bottle of spirit to a consumer, and sell a cocktail in a hospitality room (House: HF 940, 941, and 942; Senate: SF 623, 624 and 625). These bills are essentially the same as the Surly bill of 2011, but applied to distilled spirits.

I believe these bills will help invigorate our local economy through new jobs, new taxes, and support for agriculture and tourism. I believe they will also create a strong new industry we can be proud of. Minnesota has all the ingredients for great craft spirits,  and the craft spirits industry is poised to be the next craft beer. Wisconsin, following the lead of numerous other states, has modernized its laws around distillation of alcohol and now boasts at least 9 distilleries.  High quality local spirits also, I believe, will contribute to a more positive culture around alcohol. As they say, "drink less, drink better."

Thank you very much for your support of these important bills.



The journey home: snow, ice, and uneventfulness

After saying my goodbyes, I drove onto the ferry back to Seattle. The still is hiding in the Penske truck on the right there, which I narrowly avoided crashing into one of the upper decks. Hey, first time driving a truck onto a ferry, what can I say?! Image

So long Bainbridge Island - we miss you already.


By the time we reached Seattle, darkness and rush hour had settled in. I drove down to the airport to pick up my brother and doppelgänger  Ryan. And we took off over Snoqualmie pass for our parents' house in Spokane. This part of the journey, which I've made about a million times, was relatively uneventful, though the roads were a little wet, and the tires a bit dodgy.

Hi mom!


Spokane had a little fresh snow, but it was nice and cold so not too slippery.

The next morning we had a little family breakfast at the Rockwood Bakery. To those of you who know my family, this will surprise you not at all.Image

Then Ryan and I took off into the frozen east - through Idaho, over Lookout pass, and down into Montana.


Montana is a lovely state, but very wide. It starts out beautiful and dramatic, and slowly by slowly flattens out into a plains state.

It also, slowly by slowly, got colder and colder.

We drove until 1am, crashed for 4 hours at the Motel 6 in Miles City, Montana, and then drove on into North Dakota. By this time it was really quite cold. By the far side of North Dakota, it was -20F, and we were afraid to get out of the truck.

List of things that happened in North Dakota:

- We passed this weird evocation of Scotland


- We saw a sundog in Fargo


- We passed the world's largest Holstein CowImage

and the world's largest buffalo:


And that's about the long and short of it. Ryan was an amazing driving and conversation partner. There's no one I'd rather do such a thing with. Here's an unedited taste of the magic:


The still is now safely ensconced in our future space (still not telling). The truck is back to Penske. Ryan's back in San Francisco. And on we go!

A western sojourn: practice, and our first still

Hi friends! Apologies for the radio silence. Let the noise commence!

2 weeks ago today, we took the ferry from Seattle across the sound to Bainbridge Island, to Bainbridge Organic Distillers. They were sizing up to a bigger still, and we bought their old one, a 250 gallon Vendome, handmade in Kentucky 3 years ago.

We spent a week learning how to operate this:

ImageOur teachers were Keith Barnes and Charlie Merrill. Keith is the founder and owner of Bainbridge, and the mastermind behind Motive Marketing, and kind of a distilling sage. Charlie, who spends all day tending the still and the mash cooker and fermenters is a man after our own heart - a guitar maker, vintner, and general renaissance man. He and his lovely wife Jill put us up in their home and took great care of us. Here's Charlie, who's also a crack forklift operator:

ImageWe got lots of good hands on time with our new still:


ImageWe practiced making and cleaning up big spills, which is one of the basic competencies of a good distiller.

Sample dialogue: Joel: "Sorry I turned on that pump before you were ready for it, spewing hundreds of gallons of boiling hot mash all over the place." Charlie: "You're going to be a great distiller in no time." Joel: "What else can I do for you boss?"

ImageAnd then Emily flew home to take care of Squid and her dissertation, and Joel spent a couple more days taking the still apart and packing it up.


ImageAfter a week together, it was saying goodbye to good friends. I think they felt the same about us - they definitely felt that way about the still.

ImageBut they're in good hands - their new still arrived just before we left. It's a looker too!


Black Bear Lounge

This bear is a famous figure in Duluth. At least we think it's this bear.  Back in the late 20's, after following a truck of fresh fish down the shore in the early morning, a bear broke into Hotel Duluth's coffee shop in search of, I don't know, honey? An inebriated fellow chased the bear out into the street with a hammer, where the cops unsuccessfully tried to lasso it. After a scuffle and a few lunges at passersby, the bear was shot. Afterwards it was stuffed and displayed in the coffee shop, which was renamed the Black Bear Lounge by popular accord. After prohibition the coffee shop became a bar. bear

There are a few take-homes here, the first being that as recently as the 20's the Duluth police were not great rope handlers. Also, for those of you interested in local geography - Hotel Duluth became Greysolon, and the Black Bear Lounge eventually became Black Water Lounge. Also, and here we're getting a little closer to the provenance of this particular bear, after it stood in Black Bear Lounge, the bear moved to Grandma's, where it stood for many years, though there's some debate about whether or not it was, indeed, the same bear.


Now, stick with me here, this is where it gets EXTREMELY RELEVANT. The bear still stands - in storage.This bear is currently standing in the very same space where we're hoping to build Vikre Distillery. We can't say exactly where that is quite yet. But the bear is standing there, waiting. To us, he looks game (ha) for a new venture. Don't you think?


Dry Fly is my hero

We're in the Northwest this week - visiting friends, visiting distilleries, and talking to a few potential investors. Emily's flying in tomorrow, but I (Joel) took the chance to visit Dry Fly, Washington's first distillery since prohibition - er, first legal distillery anyway. Dry Fly had to get the laws changed before they could start operating, and their good work opened the doors for my home state of Washington to become the early leader in craft distilling. Just five years later there are dozens of distilleries in Washington. And last year Dry Fly was named Distillery of the Year by the American Distilling Institute, which is kind of a big deal. As the guy next to me on the plane yesterday would say, it's "tough sledding." I don't know what it means either.

My dad and I got a great tour from Mike, and tasted their wheat whiskey and gin. We have a bottle of the wheat at home, so that wasn't new. It's light and smooth - a very good introduction for a new whisky drinker - not complex enough to have what our friend Tim would call a finish - but he likes the stuff that tastes like railroad ties rising up into the heavens on seagulls' backs. (For the record: so do I). Can't please everyone.

But the gin - what a phenomenal surprise! Dry, but still fresh and floral. Very well balanced. They vapor distill through juniper, coriander, lavender, apple (WA!), and... wait for it... hops! Yes, hops. Emily's been infusing some gins with hops - Em - you're headed in the right direction!

Dad came away with the two bottles that I've placed between myself and the editorial page of the Spokesman Review. And I came away with a hat. Yep, I'm a fan. And look - there's snow out that window!

Perhaps a hot toddy tonight?