All great ideas start with good friends and a few drinks. Brian Cummins and his friends were enjoying handmade cocktails at a mixology bar in Minneapolis and the idea for Great Northern Distilling was born. Located in Plover WI, Great Northern is known for making handcrafted spirits from local ingredients. With statewide distribution of its Polish style Potato Vodka beginning earlier this year, Great Northern plans to launch a gin, brandy and whiskey soon.
Cummins set his career in Wisconsin’s paper industry aside and followed his culinary palette to the distilling drawing board. By trade, Cummins is a chemical engineer but always wanted to find a way to combine his engineering skill with a talent in sales and marketing and a love of the culinary arts. Although Cummins is familiar in all these areas he doesn’t take all the credit. He shares the workload with Peg Lewellin, a retired sales and marketing professional, Justin Young, bar and retail manager, and Tom Macak, who tends to the daily operations.
Cummins and his investors spent a year and a half studying different distillery techniques and writing a business plan. They visited more than 20 other craft distilleries, asked a lot of questions, and took notes on things they should and shouldn’t include in their distilling process. After all this research and study, Great Northern Distilling officially opened their doors to the public in April 2014.
Craft distilling is set apart from the typical mass-market spirits because of the care and attention paid to the small batch distillation process. Monitoring each distillation run and including only the best spirits in the finished product yields a superior tasting liquor. Also, a craft distiller is more focused on sourcing fresh, high quality ingredients to ensure the quality of the finished product. Essentially that is why all of the ingredients used in Great Northern Distilling process come from within a 150 mile radius of Plover. They use grain from Lone Rock and Chilton, Wisconsin and use potatoes from a family farm less than three miles away from the distillery. When looking for other ingredients they turn to family owned farms or the Portage County Business Council directory.
The next rainy day, take a day trip to the Stevens Point area and check out Great Northern Distilling. It’s the perfect place to go with a small group of friends or have your next social gathering. For more information on tours or to learn more about the distilling process visit Great Northern Distilling at greatnortherndistilling.com.