Quenching the local thirst for craft spirits

Two downtown Cedarburg distilleries are capitalizing on a demand for specialty liquor
Ozaukee Press Staff

 Following in the footsteps of the craft beer craze, local distillers are seeing craft spirits take flight.

In recent years, two niche spirit providers — Handen Distillery and The Shinery — have emerged in Cedarburg and both are reporting high demand for specialty liquors such as brown sugar moonshine and locally distilled whiskey.

Parker Dolphin, the head distiller at Handen, said while spirit consumption in Wisconsin still lags behind beer, in recent years he has seen a large increase in demand for niche liquors.

 “Spirits are becoming more popular all across the United States. For me, it’s really cool to see. It’s a passion of mine,” he said.

Handen opened in 2018 at W62 N590 Washington Ave. and distills a variety of spirits including vodka, gin, bourbon and whiskey. Its liquors are incorporated into a rotating variety of cocktails the distillery and bar offers.

 While the business does not have a liquor license, it is able to serve cocktails crafted with spiritis it distills in house.

Dolphin said the craft beer craze helped create a culture of spirit enthusiasts who are interested in sampling a variety of niche liquors.

 Distilleries often offer flights of spirits much like breweries offer flights of different brews, he said.

Much like popular alcoholic seltzer beverages like White Claw, Dolphin noted that,  spirits have a lower calorie count than beer.

Troy Reissmann, owner of The Shinery, said he has also noted a growing market for niche liquors, such as moonshine.

Reissmann said moonshine is much like other craft liquors except that it is not aged in barrels and is often flavored.

The Shinery first opened in Lena in 2015 as a gift shop inspired by moonshine shops in Gatlandburg, Tenn., but now operates its main store in Appleton. In addition to its Cedarburg location at N676 W63 Washington Ave., The Shinery also has another location in Green Bay.

Reissmann said he was considering a location in Lake Geneva before he discovered Cedarburg by chance six years ago.

“There was just something about Cedarburg that called out,” he said.

Initially the shop did not sell any of its own products, but Reissmann said he started partnering with Wisconsin distillers to make his own moonshine after seeing a strong market for the liquor. The Shinery now has a selection of 27 moonshine flavors.

“We have the most varieties of any other moonshine company in the world,” Reissmann said.

The selection of flavors is one reason Reissmann said he believes there is strong interest in niche spirits. He said historically liquor has been viewed as something without variety, but in recent years, spirits have branched out into niche categories like beer has.

“If everyone just made IPAs, I think the beer craze would be over but there’s a million different beers, just like whiskey,” he said.

Reissmann said moonshine is still catching up with craft liquors but it is growing in popularity each day. He said The Shinery often sells more Bulldog Whiskey than moonshine.

“There’s days where the whiskey sells more than the moonshine because I think that’s really hitting its stride right now with craft distilleries,” he said.

Helping move the moonshine trend forward is the television show “Moonshiners.” Reissmann said moonshiners from the show have made appearances at The Shinery and will be developing a moonshine specifically for the shop soon.

“The show has been huge for us,” he said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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