On growth, food, inspiration and what's next for Middle West Spirits

On growth, food, inspiration and what's next for Middle West Spirits

Middle West Spirits recently expandedits facilities, tripled its production capacity and reopened for public tours and the sale of spirits in a bigger bottle shop. Also in the works is the Service Bar, an in-house restaurant headed by chef Avishar Barua, formerly of Veritas Tavern. We caught up with Middle West owners Brady Konya and Ryan Lang, who shared details on the distillery's expansion.

What led to the expansion, and what will it allow you to do?

Konya:Our expansion started five years ago. We had to increase our capabilities as a manufacturer and a brand company. We can produce more spirits consistently, in higher quality and more safely. It allows Middle West to become a craft producer, to partner with other distilleries and provide muscle to their production capability.

Lang:We could not physically keep up with demand, and we ran out of room for creativity. We went from 9,000 square feet to just shy of 18,000, plus 23,000 square feet for bottling, warehousing and filling barrels. Different spirits need dedicated equipment, so you don't pollute base spirits with oils. We now have a still for dark spirits, a still for light and a still for spirits with a high level of oils [like gin]. It used to take us a week to make four barrels; now we can do 15 barrels every six hours … on just one still. We now have three [stills].

Did you have any particular inspiration for the design of the new space?

Konya:The new facility was constrained by its footprint and the dense commercial neighborhood. We had to deal with a lot of zoning and fire restrictions to build an ethanol plant in a neighborhood. We had to take the project up instead of out. What resulted was the greatest expression of our two personalities combined, something both sculptural and functional, appropriate for the neighborhood and the heritage of the building. That's the balance that Middle West Spirits is built on.

What will the new bottle shop do forthe business?

Konya:We expanded the bottle shop to twice the size. It delivers on two promises: the ability to sell spirits direct to the customer and to surround that with merchandise for folks wanting to enjoy the brand beyond the bottle.

What led you to pick Avishar Barua as chef for the Service Bar?

Konya:We wanted to build more than a simple tasting room. Avishar has a talent far beyond his years. He's thoughtful, and at heart he's an educator with an insatiable curiosity. The Service Bar features nostalgia-driven, contemporary New American cuisine, taking things from Avishar's youth in Columbus, influences from Ryan and I growing up on the East and West Coast, respectively, and developing a menu that pays homage to our childhoods.