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, Mich (WOOD) – Now that November is well underway, it’s the perfect time to introduce a new libation that can warm you up from the inside out. Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor from Long Road Distillers joined eightWest with some samples of their latest offerings. They will be releasing their new Long Road bourbon whiskey Tuesday, November 8, including a big release party from 4 p.m. until midnight. Come grab a seat at the bar to enjoy half off whiskey cocktails during the party. Check out the video to see more details about this tasty release party.

Single barrel releases will be put out in some retail locations throughout the state at Meijer, Art of the Table, the Side Bar, Rishi’s Intenational Beverage.

Original post on WOOD TV 8 Website here.

Wendy Peppercorn Long Road Distillers

International Flavored Vodka Tasting Event Awards Grand Rapids Distillery with Double Gold

Long Road’s Wendy Peppercorn Vodka stands out from a crowded field of flavored spirits.

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Internationally recognized Grand Rapids distillery, Long Road Distillers, announced more top honors for their line-up of spirits, this time coming from a competition in New York City. The distillery was awarded a Double Gold medal for Long Road Wendy Peppercorn at The Fifty Best Flavored Vodka tasting event.

The award-winning-101-proof spirit is made from 100 percent locally grown red winter wheat, milled, mashed, fermented and distilled on-site at the Westside distillery,  then redistilled with pink peppercorns, the berry from the Peruvian Peppertree. Non-chill filtration techniques give all of Long Road spirits a smooth, handcrafted taste rather than the overly processed, astringent flavors that result from the carbon and charcoal filtration technique used by many. Wendy Peppercorn is  a whopping 101 proof, or 50.5  percent alcohol by volume (ABV), a full 10.5% higher than any of the other entries in the Fifty Best competition.

“As far as we know, Wendy Peppercorn is the only pink peppercorn flavored vodka in the world,” said Co-Owner Kyle VanStrien. “Pink peppercorn happens to be one of the botanicals in our gin, and since we’re distilling each gin botanical individually, we discovered that we loved pink peppercorn all by itself!”

“We’re products of the 80’s,” said Co-Owner Jon O’Connor in reference to the name Wendy Peppercorn. “Most of us on the Long Road team grew up watching the movie The Sandlot. We all remember the scene where Michael “Squints” Palledorous expressed his passion for Wendy Peffercorn, the lifeguard at the community pool, and we feel the same way about this vodka! This is our nod to a classic movie for our generation, and a fun way for us to play up the high proof of this spirit. Wendy 101 has a great ring to it, but we’ve also left the spirit at 101 proof to amplify the flavors and keep the essential oils that carry over in the distillation process suspended.” Similar to an absinthe or ouzo, Wendy Peppercorn will cloud up with the addition of water, altering the aromas, texture, and flavor to make the spirit more floral and fruity.

Spirits from around the world were entered into the Fifty Best event. 17 pre-qualified judges evaluated each spirit separately based on preset tasting rules. Each spirit was served to judges in fresh glasses from newly sealed bottles and was served slightly above room temperature to ensure optimum flavor. Judges noted their nose, palate and finish impressions of Long Road Wendy Peppercorn, which provided, “attractive spice notes, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a surprisingly sweet, soft and subtle finish.” The judges added that it would be, “perfect for a Bloody Mary!”

Long Road Distillers has garnered a multitude of international honors for their line of spirits. The most notable accolades were earned at the world’s largest spirits competitions and include several “Best in Show” awards, nearly a dozen double-gold medals, and numerous gold, silver and bronze medals. The West Michigan Distillery has also expanded distribution to over 400 Michigan grocers, specialty retailers, and bars and restaurants in the past year.

“This has been a huge year of progress for Long Road,” said O’Connor. “Every award won and distribution expansion made motivates our team to stay committed to our mission and values. We look forward to what the future has in store for our distillery.”

Long Road Distillers

There’s a lot more to Long Road Distillers than just being Grand Rapids’ first distillery.

Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor took an old grocery store on the west side and turned it into a state-of-the-art distillery that, within the first year of operation, is already one of the state’s largest.

As long-term proponents of the city’s west side, Van Strien and O’Connor are expanding on the organic neighborhood revitalization occurring on the corner of Leonard Street and Quarry Avenue with The Mitten Brewing Co. and Two Scotts BBQ.

It helps that the two owners are involved in the community, with Van Strien on the Grand Rapids Planning Commission and O’Connor a newly elected city commissioner – and a Business Journal 40 Under Forty honoree.

The pair are fond of telling their story, highlighting the process of going grain-to-glass with their product, with ingredients sourced from within 30 miles of their Grand Rapids tasting room.

The products are better for it, too. Long Road has already been named Michigan Vodka Distiller of the year, and is helping define what cocktails can be in the Mid-west.

And they know they’re doing in right.

“I’ve tasted it. We know good spirits when we taste them,” Van Strien said. “We went out to find the right equipment you need to make it; we found the guys capable of making it; we’ve put the pieces together to be able to make the best liquid.”

See the full publication for GRBJ’s Newsmakers of the Year here.


Long Road Distillers

GRAND RAPIDS — The West Grand neighborhood in Grand Rapids soon will offer residents and visitors the ultimate trifecta when it comes to craft alcoholic beverages.

That’s because a local cidery plans to open a tasting room in the growing neighborhood along West Leonard Street, a development positioned to complement its neighboring businesses: a microbrewery and a craft distillery.

While having locally-made beer, booze and cider available at consecutive addresses may be a boon for craft beverage fans, those developments and others underway in the immediate area signal a renaissance for one of Grand Rapids’ hardscrabble neighborhoods.

That’s a vibe that Jason Lummen, owner of Grand Rapids-based The People’s Cider Co. LLC, wants to tap into as he plans to open the company’s first off-site tasting room. If his plans are approved by the city next month, he hopes to have cider flowing by May at 539 Leonard St. NW, next door to craft distillery Long Road Distillers LLC and two doors down from The Mitten Brewing Company LLC.

Lummen admits that his plan to move into 450 square feet of space is fairly modest in the broader scope of Grand Rapids development, but it’s indicative of a period of growth not just for his nearly four-year-old business, but also for the West Grand neighborhood as a whole.

“It’s not too much of a stretch and it’s responsible for us,” Lummen said of the tasting room. “It allows us to keep the blue-collar ethic of the cider company intact and allows us to do something to get into what’s going on (on West Leonard). We’re just very fortunate to piggyback with (Long Road) and the guys at The Mitten and to have supportive neighbors.”

The move would give People’s Cider more exposure than it has at its current tasting room and production facility at 600 Maryland Ave. NE near Oak Industrial Park in northeast Grand Rapids, Lummen said. The site would offer seven ciders on tap — including one guest tap — and would be open to guests bringing in outside food.

If approved by the city, Lummen would rent the West Leonard Street space from Long Road’s owners, Kyle VanStrien and Jon O’Connor, who were also drawn to the opportunities presented by the neighborhood revitalization. Indeed, VanStrien and O’Connor plan to “double-down” on that revitalization with a proposed new mixed-use development of their own.

They’re in the early planning stages of converting an abandoned and contaminated gas station property at 555 Leonard St. NW into a two-story or three-story project with potential apartments or offices upstairs and a ground-floor commercial tenant that’s “complementary” to neighboring businesses.

Currently, the Kent County Land Bank Authority is using state funds to clean up the contamination at the 96-foot by 132-foot site. Following the remediation process, an entity controlled by the owners of Long Road plan to acquire the property.

VanStrien said he wants to attract some mixed-use development to the area along the West Leonard corridor similar to what’s developed in neighborhoods like East Hills and along Bridge Street in recent years.

“We need more density and to build up the population so that they can support the businesses,” VanStrien said.

O’Connor agreed.

“We believe in developing in a good urban context,” he said. “We see opportunity in this neighborhood and we are putting our money where our mouth is.”

The West Grand Neighborhood Association welcomes the prospect of adding new housing and other businesses to the area.

Interim Executive Director Annette Vandenberg told MiBiz the neighborhood strives to support developers, provided they attempt to accommodate all income levels and make a push to hire people already living in the West Grand area.

“Anyone who’s willing to create jobs and housing for all income levels, we think that’s a great idea,” said Vandenberg, adding that the neighborhood association board is in the process of drafting a letter of support for the proposed People’s Cider tasting room.

She added that the board is aware of the proposed gas station redevelopment, but the parties have not yet had formal talks.

“Nothing functions here without the support of the community,” Lummen said. “That’s the big thing. I love the vibe and it’s the residents that will continue to support these things. People are walking from their houses to come to these establishments, and it’s more and more people everyday.”

While plans for the gas station site remain in the early stages, VanStrien and O’Connor said they hear increasing demand for newly built quality housing options in the neighborhood.

As proof, they noted that many staff members at Long Road now live in the immediate area.

Other investors appear to be taking note of the demand as well. A drive or walk down the West Leonard corridor shows multiple older buildings — many of them vacant — quietly being worked on and at various stages of construction and redevelopment.

Additionally, the property at the southwest corner of Leonard Street and Broadway Avenue went up for sale in early January for $1.5 million, according to the property listing. The site consists of two single-family homes and four commercial buildings with frontage on Leonard Street. It last sold in 1999 for $60,968, according to property records.

Long Road’s owners say they’re hopeful more developers come into the West Grand neighborhood and activate many of the vacant buildings in the area. And while they’re confident that their proposed mixed-use project will take place, VanStrien and O’Connor said it was too early to offer a specific timeframe for the redevelopment because the growth and sustainability of their distillery operations must take priority.

Since launching in late May last year, Long Road has focused on ramping up its distribution efforts and already expanded with an upstairs event space and music venue. In the coming months, the distillery also plans to release a variety of small-batch aged ryes and whiskeys.

As they continue to develop the plans for the mixed-use project, they’re watching the neighborhood grow and eyeing needs that could be filled in the ground-floor commercial space at the redevelopment.

“The first two things that came to our head were cider and coffee,” O’Connor said of needs in the neighborhood. “We saw this as a really great opportunity to do something unique in the fact that I can’t think of another place in this country where you can get beer, liquor and cider in consecutive addresses and independently owned and operated. … The fact that we have three independent things is just a unique opportunity to sort of put a foothold here as this corner of craft beverage making.”

Full Story by Nick Manes available here.

Long Road Distillers

Grand Rapids, MI –  In only its first year of production, Long Road Distillers was named “Michigan Vodka Distillery of the Year” at the New York International Spirits Competition. The famed competition, now in its sixth year, judges nearly 500 world-class spirits each year. Submissions were made from over 35 countries, which were tasted and evaluated by an accomplished panel of judges.

In an industry crowded with international corporations and non-distiller producers, Long Road Distillers is setting a new standard for how spirits are produced—not only for Michigan, but also for the region as a whole. Each spirit in their growing lineup is sourced as locally as possible, milled from whole grain, and fermented on-site—never being treated with carbon or charcoal filtration techniques to maintain a smooth finish and full body.

“This is obviously an exciting achievement for us in our very first year,” commented Kyle Van Strien, Long Road Co-Founder. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the growing craft distilling movement in Michigan and around the country, and we’re humbled to receive this honor, particularly in a very challenging competition often dominated by much larger brands.”

Long Road Distillers was also awarded a bronze medal for Long Road Vodka, a classic spirit boasting surprising hints of vanilla, caramel, toffee, and biscuit. “Long Road is fortunate to have access to the rich agricultural resources of West Michigan which serve as the foundation of all of our spirits, said Jon O’Connor, Long Road’s other Co-Founder.” This medal and the individual award reinforce our commitment to crafting world-class spirits in an honest and transparent manner. We look forward to building upon this initial recognition in the years to come as we expand our spirit offerings.”

The New York International Spirits Competition was founded in 2010 and takes place annually in New York City. The panel consists of trade-only judges, comprised of retail buyers, restaurant and bar owners, beverage directors, distributors and importers. Together, they evaluate entries received from around the globe. The full results can be read at

About Long Road Distillers

Long Road Distillers was born from the belief that making world-class spirits means never taking shortcuts along the way. After becoming the first craft distillery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Long Road Distillers formed relationships with local farmers to bring that mission to Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood. Each spirit produced at Long Road Distillery is milled from locally sourced ingredients and fermented on-site. The result is an uncompromised lineup of spirits – including Vodka, Gin, and White Whisky – a handcrafted collection of cocktails, and a wide variety of food options.

Long Road Distillers

There is an added sense of connectivity when we frequent the places that reside within a few miles of our home. When a business puts down roots in the neighborhood where owners and workers and goers live, a deeper sense of community grows. Long Road Distillers, located in Grand Rapids West Side, is more than the city’s first distillery, it a place where people commune together over unique, handcrafted cocktails. Owners Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor call the West Side Grand Rapids neighborhood home; the elbows of guests lean on the dark wooden tables in the dining space, wearing them down with story; the bartenders behind the bar craft a unique drink of homegrown flavor. It is as much about the spirits being consumed as the souls in the room.

Long Road honors the journey, respects the craft, and takes no shortcuts. Their story encompasses the local community. At Long Road their ingredients come from Michigan, from the places they know and places that resemble home. Whether it be wheat, corn, rye, fruit, or cider it has a Michigan label. They are, as Van Strien shared “highlighting what we have available.” Long Road is an in-house distillery, making everything on location. They are perfecting the art of draft cocktails, stepping out, doing new things, and embracing the long road.

We are delighted to have Long Road Distillers joining us at Fork Fest this week Thursday, October 22. They will be on site with their draft Gin and Tonic, as well as Teta’s Lemonade (vodka, lemon, lavender syrup, rose water). Stop by their bar and give one of these a try!

Interested in learning more about Long Road? Sign up to take one of their tours. Or stop by for a midweek dinner and drink. They are open seven days a week and house a delicious food menu. They also recently expanded their upstairs space which can be rented out for private events, wedding receptions, and corporate events. Find out more at

Local First of West Michigan, Mallory Huizenga

Full Blog

Long Road Distillers

A local distillery has launched its Michigan distribution.

Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids launched two of its spirits into statewide distribution this month.

The distillery’s gin and vodka are now available to all restaurants, bars and retailers in Michigan.

The distillery opened in May, and distribution is coming right about when co-owners Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor expected in their timeline.

“We wanted to make sure we could meet demand here and work out our kinks,” O’Connor said. “A lot of times, distillers go into distribution and can’t satisfy demand. They get an initial launch and can’t provide more.”

Van Strien said one of the most common questions from a restaurant group is, “If we run a featured cocktail at our three locations, will we run out?”

Now, Van Strien said that assurance is possible and within the first week, The Winchester in Grand Rapids had a cocktail menu featuring spirits by Long Road Distillers.

Van Strien added that several other local businesses will carry its products: Donkey; Siciliano’s Market; Rishi’s International Beverage; and Essence Restaurant Group.

“To see some of the places we respect so much have our products . . . it’s a lot of fun,” Van Strien said.

O’Connor said they welcome restaurant and bars to bring in owners, managers and staff to show them the manufacturing process.

“We encourage other folks to reach out,” O’Connor said. “We love to host potential partners. We want to educate people on what makes our products different and what’s unique about it. The more people we talk through the process, the better.”

Long Road Distillers

A local distillery has opened up an addition.

Long Road Distillers just opened its upstairs, The Rickhouse at Long Road, at 537 Leonard St. NW.

Event space

The space holds 160 people and is available for special events and general overflow on the weekends.

The space rents for $100 an hour for a three-hour minimum and a $500 food-and-drink minimum on weekends. The weekday rate is considerably cheaper, said Kyle Van Strien, co-founder, Long Road Distillers.

“We want people to use it, but we do anticipate to raise it as we see demand,” Van Strien said.

Cocktail classes

Long Road Distillers will use the space to host its first cocktail class next Tuesday.

The class is the first of many events Long Road expects to host in the space.

Cocktail classes will be an ongoing series for the distillery, said Jon O’Connor, co-founder, Long Road Distillers.

“There’s a heightened awareness in the country about cocktails, and it’s just starting to make its way to Grand Rapids,” O’Connor said. “We’re hoping to be a part of that transformation.”

While the first class will be a general overview of the history of distillation and cocktails, future classes will have a specific focus on different cocktails.

The class on Tuesday will be hands-on, as students will taste every aspect of the cocktails, from simple syrup and sugar to bitters and the spirits.

“This class will be history and structure, techniques,” Van Strien said. “We use many methods to craft cocktails and how to make better drinks at home. It will also require lots of tasting.”

Grand Rapids Business Journal, Pat Evans

Full Article

Long Road Distillers

The Grand Rapids Public Museum announced a collaboration on Thursday with a local distillery for a new exhibit that explores Prohibition.

“American Spirits: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition” opens on September 26.

Long Road Distillers, on the city’s west side, has created a “bathtub gin” kit to commemorate the exhibit. It includes everything you need to infuse your own gin at home, and comes with a special prohibition-labeled bottle.

You can pick up the kit at Long Road Distillers. Doors there opened June; it’s the first craft distillery in the history of the City of Grand Rapids.

– WZZM 13, September 3, 2015, Link to page here.

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