Long Road Distillers

On Monday, December 5, Long Road is partnering with a bunch of our friends (The Peoples Cider Co., Creston Brewery, Two Scott’s BBQ, The Grand Rapids Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, Local First of West Michigan, and SideCar Studios) to throw the first Annual Grand Rapids Repeal Day Party to celebrate the end of the 18th Amendment and the fall of Prohibition. As a bit of a pre-game to Monday’s party, we thought a bit of background might be useful in understanding the gravity of the Day! So, in honor of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, 21 fast facts about the rise and fall of Prohibition:

  1. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919, effectively banning the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.
  2. The State of Michigan had already enacted their own prohibition on liquor 2 years earlier, on May 1, 1917
  3. The Eighteenth Amendment was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, a social effort against the consumption of alcohol which began in the early 19th Century
  4. The temperance movement was strong in Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole with the headquarters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Petoskey, Michigan and the establishment of a Grand Rapids Chapter.
  5. The National Prohibition Act was enacted to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment.
  6. It was known informally as the Volstead Act, named after Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who help enact the legislation.
  7. The Volstead Act aimed to: prohibit intoxicating beverages; regulate the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquor; and ensure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research.
  8. The Volstead Act did NOT specifically prohibit the use of intoxicating liquor.
  9. The Act defined “intoxicating liquor” as any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume.
  10. Under Prohibition, crime rates skyrocketed as gangs took over the production, importation and distribution of alcohol
  11. One of the most infamous gangsters of the Prohibition era was Chicago’s Al Capone.
  12. Al Capone has West Michigan ties, having owned a hide-out cottage on Gun Lake and a favorite corner booth at Nick Fink’s, Grand Rapids’ oldest bars.
  13. Canada became the primary source for illicit alcohol in Michigan, and the Detroit-Windsor connection was the hub of bootlegging activities.
  14. There were an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 speakeasies operating in Detroit in 1928
  15. The Michigan State Police found 800 people inside on speakeasy in Detroit, the Deutches Haus, including Detroit Mayor John Smith, Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.
  16. Congress proposed the 21st Amendment on February 20, 1933
  17. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that repeals a prior amendment.
  18. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was ratified by state ratifying conventions, rather than being offered to the state legislatures for ratification.
  19. Michigan was the first of the 48 states to respond to the amendment and ratified it at a “state ratifying convention” on April 10, 1933.
  20. Ratification of the 21st Amendment was completed on December 5, 1933.
  21. Section 2 of the Amendment gives states absolute control over alcoholic beverages, with some states maintaining a prohibition on alcohol long after the 21st Amendment was ratified (Mississippi remained “dry” until 1966 and Kansas prohibited public bars until 1987!)


The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


To celebrate the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of the 18th Amendment, join us Monday, December 5 from 8 pm to Midnight and enjoy cocktails, beer, cider, bbq and live music at 642 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page. Here’s a link to purchase your tickets for the event in advance. Highlights of the evening include:

  1. Cocktails from Long Road Distillers
  2. Beer from Creston Brewery
  3. Hard Cider from Peoples Cider Company
  4. BBQ from Two Scott’s BBQ Food Truck
  5. Live Music with The Bootstrap Boys and Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish

Dress in your Sunday Best and party like it’s 1933! Cheers!

Long Road Distillers

Grand Rapids has nurtured craft beer lovers for around a decade now, calling all types of beer drinkers to appreciate the subtlety of just four ingredients.  Breweries have covered the region and bolstered the tourism and restaurant industries immeasurably.  Now, the spotlight turns to the next tier of craft beverage production as local businesses like Long Road Distillery come onto the scene to steal the hearts and palettes of Grand Rapid’s west side.

Jon O’Connor and Kyle VanStrien decided to bring the first micro distillery to Grand Rapids to share their own love for high quality spirits with fellow connoisseurs. Long Road is set to open this fall on the corner of Leonard and Quarry, in the heart of GR’s west side.

I immediately asked about the name for their business, and was pleased with how multi-faceted the answer was.  “First, Leonard St is a very long road, running from east of town all the way to the Lakeshore on the West. It also happens to be the longest traditional business district in the City, something we’re proud to highlight.  Second, and more importantly, the name Long Road Distillers speaks to the way we craft our spirits – the right way, taking no shortcuts,” says Van Strien.   “That means we will take the time to source our ingredients locally whenever possible in order to support and highlight the rich agricultural resources of our region. It means we will mill all of our own grain, and mash, ferment and distill all of our own spirits in-house.”

The building itself has had a long road to being distillation friendly.  As the second floor was formerly apartments, on top of century-old tin ceilings, O’Connor and Van Strien have worked carefully to maintain the historic integrity of the building, while crafting a destination for craft beverage lovers to flock to that can showcase the craft distillation process.

Educating the consumer about the process is at the forefront of the business plan to bring this craft to Grand Rapids.  While there will be small meat and cheese boards and light appetizer options for customers, the owners plan on continuing a partnership with their neighbors The Mitten Brewing Co. and Two Scott’s BBQ, a new venture set to open in the newly renovated Rootbeer Stand just across Leonard St.

For the drink menu, O’Connor was already able to hint at the goodness to come.  The first product will be a vodka distilled from local Red Winter wheat.  Vodka is a jumping off point for their two gin varieties, a traditional Bristish style and a unique style referred to as New American.  A good vodka is also an opportunity to utilize this region’s impressive agricultural offerings; a blueberry vodka will be the first infusion experiment of many.

Although all of those, and an Applejack as well, will be wonderful to round out Long Road’s spirits flights, O’Connor says that “Whiskey is what really got Kyle and I excited about distilling, however to craft a whiskey of any quality takes time aging in a barrel. Our production for aged spirits will begin right away, however as Un-Aged or White Whiskey is quite delicious and growing in popularity, we will offer both an un-aged rye and un-aged corn whiskey. The rye and the corn whiskies will, after spending a couple years in barrels, be released in the future as a straight rye whiskey and a bourbon.”

This is an exciting step for Grand Rapids and it’s great to see this city take that step from brew culture to craft culture.  “People in this area understand and appreciate the importance of a locally made product. We owe a lot of credit to all of the breweries who have helped create a culture of adventure in expanding the palates of consumers. People are curious about where their food and beverages are coming from, who made them, and what went into the process”, says Van Strien.

Experience Grand Rapids – Full Article

Lyndsay Israel, August 14, 2014

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