Minnesota distilleries (and corn!) shine in craft spirits competition

Earlier this month six Minnesota distilleries competed in the first-ever Heartland Whiskey Competition, which brought together 75 distilleries from the 10-state region in America’s Heartland. Sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), the competition featured craft distilleries that utilize corn in their spirits.

The whiskey competition was held, in part, to highlight the burgeoning farm-to-table movement. Customers are interested in the story behind their spirit, and for those distilleries participating in the competition that story starts with the corn base often acquired from nearby farms.

For several Minnesota craft distilleries participating, the final product was highly regarded by American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) judges who supervised the competition. Led by J. Carver Distillery, the results were as follows:

  • Carver Distillery’s Brickyard Straight Bourbon (Waconia): Named “Best Craft Whiskey in Minnesota”
  • RockFilter Distillery (Spring Grove): Won a silver medal and two bronze medals
  • Panther Distillery (Osakis): Won a silver medal and a bronze medal
  • Isanti Spirits (Isanti): Won a silver medal
  • Eleven Wells (St. Paul): Won a silver medal
  • Wander North Distiller (Minneapolis): Won a bronze medal

The day-long competition required that judges evaluate each spirit within its appropriate category (bourbon, corn whiskey, etc.). The competition was underwritten by several state corn marketing associations with the goal to send a message that corn is used in a diverse range of products.

“ACSA thanks the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the other corn groups for supporting our burgeoning industry and the small businesses that compose it,” said Margie A.S. Lehrman, executive director of ACSA. “Our members’ products are made from grain, largely from the states in which they manufacture, and oftentimes our producers have personal relationships with the local farmers planting the seeds.  High quality ingredients, with a bit of ingenuity from the producers, result in stellar spirits.”

There are more than 1,300 craft distilleries nationwide, an increase from only 92 in 2010. Most distilleries will say that it takes about 3 pounds of corn to make one bottle of spirits. At 56 pounds in a bushel of corn, that means that distilleries can produce roughly 18 bottles of spirits for each bushel of corn.

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