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Cheers! Turning beer into whiskey

Sep 22, 2017

Distillers in Beer City, USA are turning beer into whiskey.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids has been working with (so far) four local breweries to produce some distinctive whiskeys. Look for more in the series in 2018.

The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen of Tammy's Tastings and Lester Graham of Stateside had to check that out.

Long Road has a bar and restaurant on the first floor of the distillery as well as the distilling operation. A second floor bar was not open that day and that’s where Kyle Van Strien poured samples of two of the whiskeys in the "Beer City Whisky" line. (Long Road uses the "whisky" spelling for their products.)

“We thought this was an opportunity to partner with those breweries that have made us so famous and create a line of spirits that was unique and really highlighted some of their more popular beers,” Van Strien explained.

Coxen first tried a sample made from Mitten Brewing Company’s IPA, Mitten Country Strong. “It smells like whiskey, but it also has a bit of a hoppy aroma going on,” she said before taking a sip. “Wow! So much of that hops on the finish which I don’t expect in a whiskey at all, but I love it,” she said.

The idea of turning beer into whiskey started as a bit of a whim. Mitten Brewing had rejected a batch of its IPA and was about to get rid of it. The distillers next door at Long Road asked if they could have it and experiment a little. The distilling experiment turned out well. So, the next time they got a good batch of Mitten Country Strong and everybody involved was happy with the results. After a couple of years aging in a barrel, they're even happier.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Long Road has also worked with Perrin Brewing, Harmony Brewing, and Greyline Brewing, all located on the west side of Grand Rapids.

The second sample we sampled was the Perrin Black. The malt "whisky" is really smooth, has a nice malt roast characteristic, and seems a natural for distilling.

“I can taste that dark roast malt that I like in beer and it translates to the whiskey so well,” Coxen noted, adding, “I also love that it’s completely different than  the Mitten (Country) Strong in the way those two beers would be different.”