The Growler: Issue 73 – November 2019 – Spirits

The Growler Issue 73 cover art // Art by Anne Ulku

Distillers are led by their hearts, not by their heads. 


Yes, in a literal sense, when alcohol is distilled from the fermented wash, distillers make a first “cut” to separate the initial portion of distillate called the “heads” from the spirits that are destined for your bottle—the “hearts.” But it’s also true in a philosophical sense. 


Starting a distillery today, especially a craft distillery, requires a person to overlook all the factors stacked against them: six- to seven-figure start-up costs, a market dominated by major distilling conglomerates, waning interest in alcohol among millennials, and restrictive legislation that limits growth opportunities (pg. 42). Not to mention the fact that gaining practice with distilling means either scoring a production job at another distillery or dipping into the illegal world of moonshining. 


Speak with any of Minnesota’s distillers, though, and it’s immediately obvious that they are driven by something besides cold rationality—something deeper at the very core of their being. 


In the case of Far North Spirits and RockFilter Distillery, it’s the quest to unlock the flavor potential of rye and corn varieties, respectively, grown at their distillery farms (pg. 28). For others, like Loon Liquor Co. and Vikre Distilling, it’s the joy derived from crafting a whiskey recipe and coaxing it along through the aging and blending process to its ultimate expression (pg. 32). And for others, such as Brother Justus (see “In the Land of Peat & Whiskey” on pg. 10) and Dampfwerk (see “Distiller Profile” on pg. 37), it’s paying homage to history and culture while putting their own signature on it. 


Unsurprisingly, the avidity that drives distillers extends behind the bar as well. The Twin Cities (pg. 56) and greater metro (pg. 18) are awash with bartenders and mixologists dedicated to building complex, novel flavors in visually exquisite cocktails. They are ambassadors of taste, spreading the good word through cocktail menus and through personal recommendations for the home mixologist (see “The Ultimate Home Bar in 20 Bottles” on pg. 49). 


It’s easy to imagine a world in which drink-makers lead with their heads rather than their hearts. Like any industry, businesses are beholden to the bottom line after all. But thank goodness that’s not the world we drink in. 


Brian Kaufenberg


The Growler’s Holiday Guide 2019


Craft Whiskey
It Changes
By John Garland & Zach McCormick

Variety is the Spice of Whiskey
By John Garland

Wine Time: Grapes of Cognac & Armagnac
(Or, the virtues of neutrality)
By Britt Tracy

The Ultimate Home Bar in 20 Bottles
By The Growler Staff

In the land of Peat & Whiskey
By Ellen Burkhardt

Minnesota’s Industry Icons
Badass bartenders leading innovation in the North
By Zachary Sapato

Opinion: Minnesota’s distilling laws are creating a high bar for spirit makers to clear
By Nels Gilbertson-Urtel

Distiller Profile Ralf Loeffelholz
And the opening of Dampfwerk Distillery’s cocktail room
By Isabelle Wattenberg

What We’re Drinking
November 2019
By The Growler Staff


Review: Welcome to Willards
Cambridge’s fine dining star is a community space to savor
By James Norton

The King of Croissants
Marc Heu’s University Avenue patisserie sells paradise by the slice
By James Norton


Artist Profile
Designing the written word with Anne Ulku
By Lauren Sauer

Making Moonshine and Dancing to Dixieland
A tour through Minnesota’s prohibition-era music venues
By Collen Cowie, The Current

Growler Crossword
This month: “Bartender’s Guide”
By Andrew J. Ries and Victor Barocas

Looking for past issues? Browse The Growler Archive.