Iron Fish Distillery breaks ground

Members of Mansitee and Benzie county's business communities attended a groundbreaking on Monday for the Iron Fish Distillery, which will be located on a farmstead in Springdale Township. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

Members of Mansitee and Benzie county’s business communities attended a groundbreaking on Monday for the Iron Fish Distillery, which will be located on a farmstead in Springdale Township. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

From land to bottle, ingredients will be grown on-site

SPRINGDALE TWP. — Members of the Manistee and Benzie county business communities attended a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday at the future site for a distillery in Springdale Township.

Owners of The Iron Fish Distillery, Richard and Sara Anderson, David Wallace and Heidi Bolger, lifted the first shovelfuls of dirt from the farmstead that will serve as the distillery’s future location at 14234 Dzuibanek Road in Thompsonville.

Richard Anderson said the main products will be vodka, gin, rum and whiskey. He also said they will work on some collaborations with other area wineries and breweries.

“The equipment we are importing from Germany has that kind of flexibility,” he said.

David Wallace, Heidi Bolger, Sarah Anderson and Richard Anderson break ground on Monday at the future location of the Iron Fish Distillery, which will not only create spirits, but grow the grain used to make them.  (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

David Wallace, Heidi Bolger, Sarah Anderson and Richard Anderson break ground on Monday at the future location of the Iron Fish Distillery, which will not only create spirits, but grow the grain used to make them. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

He also said that that Iron Fish will be a self-sufficient distillery; the grain for the spirits will be grown on-site.

“We’re really excited to offer craft spirits,” Richard said. “The craft spirit movement is unfolding, and our contribution to that movement is being a field-to-glass distillery. We’ll be planting the seeds, growing the grain, harvesting it and milling it. Everything will be done right here.”

He said some grain will be purchased from regional growers.

Sarah Anderson said once the facility is built, the Iron Fish will feature the production facility, as well as a tasting room and rental space for community and private events, such as weddings. A large barn, located on the property, will be renovated.

“People will be able to come here and try (samples) of our products,”she said. “There will also be cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks for children.”

With number of distilleries opening in Northern Michigan, Sarah hopes a whiskey trail, much like the wine trails of Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties, gets established.

According to Richard, the distillery should be open in March. Sarah said Iron Fish will be open year-round.

The Andersons said the idea behind the Iron Fish is to celebrate the connection between the land, water and agricultural resources of the area.

“The Betsie River is so close,” Richard said. “The steelhead run in the river, and that became our inspiration for the brand. There is a connection between the watersheds, these fields and our future distillery.”

Wallace said the idea to start a distillery came from a trip to Scotland.

“We took a tour of Scotland’s distilleries,” he said. “Were on the Island of Islay and came up with the idea. We got to about the fourth distillery, and were listening to the distillers talk about how they did it, when we started discussing it. It was a seed planted. Over the years, we started talking about it more and more.”

Eventually, Wallace purchased the Chamberlain farmstead where Iron Fish will be located, and began planning with the others. He said the farmstead was a working farm until its previous owners could no longer operate it, and left the farmstead to live at The Maples Medical Care Facility in the late 1990s.

Tim Ervin, resource development director for the Alliance for Economic Success, said he was glad to see the distillery break ground.

“We’re excited about this,” Ervin said. “This is a complete farm and food asset. They are leveraging what they have: the land, the farm, and creating products on it. This is a poster child for agricultural manufacturing.”

He said the AES helped connect the owners of the future distillery to resources, such as the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Michigan State University Product Center and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The AES also worked with the owners and Springdale Township, to redistrict the zone to allow the brewery to function.

“We were really happy with the welcome we got,” Richard said. “We were able to connect with local government and business groups to help us get started. It was overwhelmingly helpful to have this kind of support. We’re proud to be part of this community.”

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