(KMSP) - It's a journey that's been neither cheap or easy, but for the man behind Minnesota's newest single malt American whiskey, it's all been worth it.
The space is perhaps meant for Brother Justus, the cinder block hallway and winding metal stairs leading to a room that you can smell long before.
“We found a tiny space, underground…out of sight,” said Founder Phil Steger. “In the back of my head I was like, ‘geez is anybody going to want to come here and are they going to be able to find it?’”
For the past four years, Steger and his partners have had one focus: make a great American whiskey using Minnesota ingredients from start to finish.
“We intentionally stayed underground to give ourselves that time and space to just work and practice the craft,” he said.
And so far, the results are impressive.
“After just four months in these five-gallon barrels, we get this beautiful amber color,” Steger said.
Oak barrels from Stearns County add a distinct look and flavor, the single malt’s aging accelerated by the barrels small size.
“By shrinking the barrel down, that whiskey doesn’t have to travel as far, so it can have those interactions much more quickly,” Steger said.
But just as important as the body, texture and flavor of the whiskey is the story and reason behind it.
While Phil was working out his recipe, he read about Brother Justice, a Benedictine monk in Stearns County who turned to bootlegging as a way to help struggling Minnesotans in the 1920s.
“He used his skills and he used the materials he could gather to build these exquisitely crafted whiskey stills,” he said.
And it’s in that spirit that he hopes his spirit can also thrive, with Brother Justus Whiskey officially opening for business in 2018.
“We are really excited to show Minnesotans what a true Minnesota flavored whiskey can be.”