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FOOD + DRINK
Middle West Spirits
Ohio's only artisinal micro-distillery turns out small-batch spirits using local ingredients
by Karen Day
on 25 May 2011
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You may know that a few big brands (The Limited and Abercrombie & Fitch) call Columbus, Ohio home, but more recently small-batch operations (Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream and Homage) have been helping get the Midwest some of the recognition it deserves. A new creatively-minded business, Middle West Spirits, is the latest to join the movement. Ohio's first and only grain-to-bottle micro-distillery, the upstart brews their distinctly smooth Oyo vodkas and whiskey from soft red winter wheat that's sourced locally.

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Founders Brady Konya and Ryan Lang imported a 600-liter copper and stainless steel distillation system from Germany, which German master-craftsmen (in the business for over 200 years) came on-site to build in the 3,200-square-foot facility (a former taxi cab center).

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Lang comes from a long line of distillers (his grandparents were even bootleggers) and uses that family history to marry cutting-edge technology to traditional techniques. Also a nod to the past, the name—pronounced Oh-Why-Oh—was the old-world name given to the Ohio River Valley by the Native Americans settled there, which means "beautiful river."

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We recently tried the three varieties on tap at Middle West Spirits—Oyo whiskey, vodka and a honey vanilla bean vodka, which infuses local wildflower honey and fair-trade vanilla beans from Uganda. All three are super pleasant on the palate, perfect for sipping or pouring over ice cream. Popping open the wax-sealed top immediately reveals an enticingly robust aroma begging for play.

With their hands in Columbus' community arts scene and a host of liquors that embody a farm-fresh mentality, Middle West Spirits is a great example of the power of independent production and future Ohio endeavors. Each bottle is hand-numbered and sells for around $35.

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