Brock Berglund and Anna Wilson’s 77 acres outside Alexandria, Minnesota, are beautiful, bordering on idyllic. The land is enrolled in the Minnesota DNR’s Conservation Reserve Program, in which private land is set aside to encourage wildlife habitation. It’s full of native grasses and pollinator plants. The DNR even installed a berm to create a wetland pond. “It’s great to take a break and stand outside and just look,” says Berglund.
The break he’s referring to is from distilling. The couple founded Ida Graves Distillery in a renovated pole barn on the property that formerly housed an auto repair shop. Sometime in the future, two or three years perhaps, they hope it will include a cocktail room. For now, they’re working on distributing their gin and vodka in Alexandria and the Twin Cities, with more spirits on the way.
The vodka is a compelling new addition to the Minnesota spirits scene. There are relatively few craft vodkas in the nation distilled from honey—the difficulty of sourcing at that volume, the expense, and the struggle of competing in the high-end vodka market are among the many reasons why. But theirs is a lovely spirit worth the hassle.
It starts with a blend of Ames Farm honey varieties from all over the state that they fashion into mead through a long, cool fermentation. It’s then distilled twice for a vodka with a floral aroma, a creaminess to the sip, and a mild sweetness to the finish. They plan to install hives of their own on the property next year and make the vodka a seasonal product, sold from May until it’s gone.
Berglund calls their gin “strategically simple.” The corn-based spirit delivers lemon and coriander on the nose, with an herbal affect from rosemary, juniper, and fennel nicely balanced throughout the sip. They developed the botanical blend with help from Casqara Consulting, a new project by Marvel Bar’s Tyler Kleinow. They’re going for versatility—it’d make a G&T as easily as a martini.
Further on the horizon, Berglund and Wilson are working on their recipe for a dill-forward aquavit they’re planning to release around September. They also hope to barrel a rye whiskey and single malt barley whiskey this fall.
Though currently residents of the Twin Cities, the couple hopes to move back to Alexandria full-time as the business grows. Especially in the summertime, Berglund notes, “businesses in Alex are slammed. There’s a huge fervor for local businesses. It would be a great place to have a cocktail room.” Until then, you can check their Instagram highlights for a list of all the places in Alexandria and the metro area that carry their product.
Distiller: Brock Berglund
Spirits: Organic Gin and Vodka available now; Organic Dill Aquavit coming fall 2019.