South Minneapolis distillery-to-be launches Kickstarter to get off the ground

Lost Falls's 11-ounce whiskey tumbler.
Lost Falls's 11-ounce whiskey tumbler.
Andy Underwood-Bultmann

Nils C. Collins and Brian Nackerud want to make artisan vodka, rye whiskey, black cherry rum, and aquavit with local twists -- think Minnesota wild grapes, chokecherries, and juniper berries. First, though, they need a still, and like many foodies with business dreams lately, they've turned to Kickstarter to fund it.

See also: 
Are craft spirits the next big thing in the Twin Cities?

Nackerud, who will be head distiller, and Collins, who's running the business side, launched the campaign to get Lost Falls Distillery off the ground last week, and now have 22 days left in a 30-day push to raise $11,500. They reason that amount is the bare minimum they need for start-up essentials, which include, along with the still, odds-and-ends like a mash tun, fermenters, a boiler.

Though their crowdfunding appeal is modern, Nackerud and Collins's spirit-making motivations are more old school: Lost Falls, named for St. Anthony Falls, is their effort to revive a heritage craft that's been largely missing from the Twin Cities since Prohibition. Along those lines, their vision is of handmade, classic drinks with a regional identity.

"There are things that are available in Minnesota that are just not used right now," explains Collins, citing local plants and flavors that could fit in nicely with, say, a vodka. Lost Falls hopes to change that.

If they make their funding goal, Nackerud and Collins have their next steps lined up. They've snagged a space at City Food Studio just west of Powderhorn Park, and have already had meetings with City Council members about securing the proper permits. They hope to be able to start recipe testing in early 2014, and be open for full production by May.

For Lost Falls and other emerging distilleries, "open" will mean selling spirits to local bars and liquor stores, not hosting tastings and making sales in their own space. That's because in Minnesota, on-site sales at distilleries are illegal -- at least for now. Already, Nackerud, Collins, and other members of the Minnesota Distillers' Guild are talking about engaging legislators in a quest for their own version of the "Surly Bill," the state law that cleared the way for microbreweries to open taprooms.

"It's pretty exciting," says Collins. "I think we all understand that the bigger craft spirits get in Minnesota, the more successful we'll all be."

For more on Lost Falls, check out their video below, and head over to the Kickstarter page to peek at cool rewards from buttons to whiskey tumblers to cribbage boards, all emblazoned with the Lost Falls logo.

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