There aren’t many craft spirit companies named after a graveyard. However, count Alexandria’s newest distillery among them.
Ida Graves Distillery is located near Lake Ida and Lake Ida Cemetery, and has been distributing products since July.
Co-founders and owners Anna Wilson and Brock Berglund wanted to produce spirits locally sourced and environmentally responsible. The two are married and work full-time jobs in other industries, but sought to follow their passions into the craft spirits market as a side endeavor, hopefully turning it into something larger.
“I think people romanticize being a brewer or distiller because they’re home brewers. And you always imagine, what would it be like if I’m actually doing this for a job?” Berglund said.
He was a home-brewer before starting the business, so he had some experience with alcoholic beverage production. However, both Wilson and Berglund were excited about the science and art of distilling, which inspired them to launch the business.
The couple currently produces vodka and organic gin, and is planning on producing aquavit – a Scandinavian gin with a spicier kick – plus rye whiskey and a single-malt whiskey in the next several years.
The gin is made with a corn base, plus botanicals such as rosemary and lemon. Unlike most gin, it does not have a strong juniper taste. While the juniper is still in the ingredients, it’s not like drinking a Christmas tree, Berglund said.
Wilson said they are really proud of their gin. They wanted to make sure it paired well with tonic and was easy to make into martinis and negronis.
“It’s pretty well-balanced. It’s sweet off the tongue and has this nice herbaceous take at the back end, which is really nice and goes really well with tonic,” Berglund said.
The couple lives in Minneapolis but comes to Alexandria every weekend to spend time on the lake (and attend to their business and family living there). Their go-to drink is gin and tonic while out on the lake, Wilson said.
“We wanted a drink that really fit the spirit of the area. I think our gin makes a fresh, summery, light gin and tonic,” she said.
The vodka is distilled from Minnesota honey. The only reason the vodka wasn’t organic was because bees making honey are hard to control to see where they get their pollen from, Wilson said. Because honey is seasonal, the next batch will be ready in the spring.
Wilson said a grounding principle for the couple has been to make sure each product is thoughtfully crafted.
“We don’t want to put anything on the market just to have something on the market," she said. "We want to make sure that it’s really good and our consumers are going to like them.”
Right now, the spirits are distribution-only and are available at stores, bars and restaurants in the Twin Cities area and Alexandria. The couple wants to eventually move out of its current location on 77 acres of pastoral farmland at 5422 Lake Ida Way NW into a spot with a tasting or cocktail room for public use.
They plan on moving to Alexandria to be with family, grow the business and live a quieter life. Berglund is originally from Alexandria and Wilson grew up camping near Lake Carlos every summer. In addition to their full time jobs, they also have a 16-month-old daughter.
“We have a lot on our plates,” Wilson said.
Wilson said their friends, Tyler Kleinow and Andy Kaul, have been very helpful in launching the business and the products. They have also had a number of other friends and family help with bottling and even welding their distillery equipment.
Having a vision and executing it in a way better than what they originally imagined has been very rewarding for both. Berglund called seeing their product on the shelves in Alexandria and how well it has been selling "amazing."
“Spirits, beer or wine, I’ve always seen it as a really easy way to connect with people,” Wilson said.