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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Central Standard Craft Distillery

Raising Milwaukee’s spirits

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Evan Hughes, Pat McQuillan and Brandt Foster share a passion for craft spirits and beers. A night of bourbon-fueled brainstorming late in 2012 led to these friends co-founding Milwaukee’s newest craft distillery, Central Standard (613 S. Second St.). Located in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, Central Standard shares space in the building housing the Milwaukee Brewing Company, though the businesses aren’t affiliated. “We came to the MKE Brewing guys looking for advice and ended up being offered space to rent in their building,” says Hughes. “We could want for no better place than Walker’s Point to start a craft distilling business. Everyone here has been so supportive of us.”

Hughes, McQuillan and Foster brought Brian “Blaze” Blazel onboard to be head distiller. “He has the creativity and desire to ‘break the mold’ we are looking for,” says Hughes. “There are no set rules in craft distilling, so we want Central Standard to make spirits that are a bit different and not chasing trends.”

For starters, the distillery is producing three products expected to be ready for sale before August. The first is a 100% rye-based vodka. “It has a nice balance of fruity and spicy flavors,” says Hughes. Second is a wheat-based gin, which “isn’t at all like a dry, piney, London gin,” adds Hughes. “Our gin has lots of botanical and floral flavors.” The final offering of this first round is a white whiskey, un-aged and lacking the traditional brown whiskey coloring. “Our white whiskey was made from oats, so it’s actually quite approachable and sweet, which is unique to most white whiskeys,” says Hughes. Down the road a bit the distillery will begin to offer the more mellow, brown bourbon whiskey people are used to seeing. But, that process takes two years at a minimum.

Central Standard is also a “grain to glass” distiller. They are focused on obtaining as much as 80-90% of their ingredients from local farmers. “We are a true Wisconsin operation,” says Hughes.

Even its tasting room has Wisconsin flair. The founders bought an old Amish-built barn from 1906 in Wautoma. They reclaimed all that beautiful wood to use for the walls of the tasting room. A picture of the original barn and its builders is displayed in the space. The chairs were built locally and topped with leather from a local tannery. The result is a warm, inviting place to enjoy a flight of delicious spirits or custom craft cocktails.

For these first few months Central Standard’s products will be available directly from them in the tasting room. Eventually, you’ll be able to find their spirits at local liquor stores and area restaurants. “We are making spirits that we want to drink, so we hope other people will want to drink them too,” says Hughes.

For more information visit thecentralstandard.com.