New Clinton-based distiller commits to local ingredients, collaborates with Saline's Macon Creek Malt House

 12/05/2018 - 15:48
Atlas Distilling Co.
Atlas Distilling Co. will open in spring of 2019 in Clinton, sourcing all its ingredients locally, including from Macon Creek Malthouse in Saline. (photo courtesy of Atlas Distilling/Justin Gizinski)

A new maker of spirits based in Clinton, Atlas Distilling Co., will open in 2019 with a commitment to source its ingredients locally, including sourcing much of its malt from Macon Creek Malt House in Saline.

Atlas Distilling was established by owners Ryan Penterics, Ethan Gibson, and Jeffrey Gudes, with Justin Gizinski serving as head distiller. The plan for the new distillery included sourcing raw corn from Penterics’ own family farm.

However, making a variety of distilled spirits required additional ingredients, so Gizinski reached out to Megan Phillips Goldenberg at Macon Creek.

In September, Atlas Distilling Co. ordered 1,200 pounds of grain from Macon Creek Malt House, which was able to fill the order, but when Gizinski came back asking for another 6,000 pounds of malt and grain in November, Goldenberg knew she was going to have to reach out to other local producers to fill that order.

She ended up sourcing barley from West Acres in Croswell, sourcing wheat from West Acres, Vierzen Farms in Ionia, and Luckhardt Family Farm in Saline; and rye from Zilke Vegetable Farm in Milan, Schmidt Farms in Auburn, and Janie’s Farm in Ashkum, Ill.

Goldenberg says Macon Creek is one of the smallest malt houses in the state, and while that can be a drawback for a distiller who needs lots of grain all at once, being small also means that the company is “very flexible.”

“We do a lot of malted barley, but we also malt rye, wheat, and oats,” Goldenberg said. “We’ve even malted peas, and Blom Meadworks in Ann Arbor asked us if we could malt buckwheat.”

Despite the challenges, Gizinski remains committed to buying ingredients local to Michigan, and within 50 miles of Clinton where possible.

“Most spirit styles originally used what was local,” before the industry grew so large, he said. “We want to get back to that. Instead of using the grain that everybody else does that’s cheap and easy to get, we want to use ingredients that are harder to come by but taste like our geographic region, like our grain and our water.”

Atlas Distilling originally announced they would open in January, but the opening date has been pushed back to late April or early May. Gizinksi says he preferred to put off the opening for a few months while all their issues were sorted out rather than “take shortcuts” to open in January.

“We’ve started production already, and we’ll be offering vodka, two variations of gin and a rum to start,” he says. Bourbons and whiskeys will come next.

At first, the Atlas will offer a tasting room and tours of the distillery, but eventually, the company would like to sign a contract with a distributor.

“We plan on getting into Ann Arbor and the rest of southeast Michigan and expand from there,” he said.

Learn more about Atlas Distilling at http://atlasdistillingco.com.

Learn more about Macon Creek at www.maconcreekmalt.com.

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Sarah Rigg
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. She has worked in community journalism for over 20 years covering education, business, arts & culture and other topics as a reporter, with experience in copy editing, layout, and proofreading.