THIS IS IRON FISH
Iron Fish Distillery is Michigan’s first working farm solely dedicated to the practice of distilling small-batch craft spirits. Our family reclaimed a late 1890’s abandoned farmstead with a simple mission in mind: we create exceptional spirits from the ground up, growing our own grain and sourcing grain from Michigan farmers with practices that respect the health of nearby watersheds. Our true passion is to offer customers and visitors the craft of soil-to-spirit distilling from a family business that cares about our employees, community, and the living land.
Every step of the process – from growing and harvesting non GMO grain to cultivating native yeast, milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, aging and bottling – is done by hand at our distillery. We replace global with local wherever we can, with the highest standards along the way.
RETURN TO THE RIVER
Come tour Iron Fish for a taste of exceptional spirits, locally harvested and passionately produced and distilled in small production runs. We take our inspiration from the powerful, determined and strikingly beautiful Steelhead fish that run the Betsie River nearby. As the Steelhead return each year, we bring back the heritage and unique flavors of American small farm distilled spirits.
The two-generation farm along the Betsie River watershed went quiet for over two decades. Having grown up vacationing nearby, we knew the spirit of the landscape and wanted to do what we could to preserve it. We purchased the farmland in 2011, without purpose until 2013, when a trip to Northern Scotland changed our course. There, we drew inspiration from distilleries generations old and from a farm distillery on the Island of Islay. From this inspiration, Iron Fish Distillery came to life – and vitality has come back to this farmland through our long-shared family passion of craft spirits. Beyond family founders, our success lies in the hearts and skills of our team and in our shared commitment to give back to our community and protect the land.
~ Heidi Bolger & David Wallace, Sarah & Richard Anderson
GRAIN TO GLASS - OUR PROCESS
Even before Iron Fish Distillery produced its first bottle of spirits, we decided that our production and business practices would be as sustainable as possible. We would restore and protect the land, water, and air we depend on—not just to do less harm, but to do more good.
We would rebuild the health of the soil on the 120-acre abandoned farm we were bringing back into production. We would use farming practices that protect the surface and ground water of the Betsie River watershed, our home. We would reduce our carbon footprint by installing solar panels and state-of-the-art heat pumps that extract heat from the air, without burning fuel. We would plant trees, compost organic material, use spent mash (high protein, low sugar) as feed for bison, and recycle what’s used in the distillery and tasting room.
All of this has come to pass. Our farming practices have been certified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program. Our solar panels produce 7,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, adding to the Michigan-leading renewable energy we obtain from Cherryland Electric. Our planting of cover crops—clover, winter peas, forage turnips, and more—improves soil health naturally and acts as a carbon sink. Our farm fields act as a carbon sink. We also manage and preserve 47 acres of maple forests. And we reduce our water footprint by limiting irrigation to just gardens and using a closed-loop chiller in the fermenting process.
But there is always more that we can do. So we are piloting the planting of Sunn Hemp as a cover crop with accelerated production of nitrogen and organic matter to build up the soil and capture more carbon. We are starting a conversation with glass suppliers and label printers to increase recycled content. We are also looking at ways to capture more of the carbon produced in the distilling process.
This is Iron Fish’s “Sustainable Spirits” pledge to our customers, partners, community and Mother Nature:
- We will continue to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
- We will use renewable and recyclable materials as much as possible.
- We will use sustainable farming methods.
- We will maintain our forests in a sustainable manner.
- We will always strive to be better and better stewards of our watershed and ecosystem.
Our estate spirits a distilled from grain planted on nearly 60 of 80 acres, with the balance of our production fields in cover crop to build nutrient levels. We are working with Michigan State University to adopt practices under the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, designed to protect surface and groundwater. Based on the advise of organic farmers and experts, we are following a multi-year plan that starts with an initial use of minimal additives, leading to and followed by sustainable and natural practices.
We control every step of the process, from selecting and growing the grain, to milling, mashing, distilling and aging for all of our products, with the exception of our initial release whiskey, which is contracted and will be finished on site.
We are working with Craft Cultures from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to identify native yeast strains captured on our farm. These will be used in trial production of our single grain estate releases, bringing the practice of fermentation back to its original art form. If all goes well, our single grain estate releases will use native liquid yeast, rather than the craft industry standard of dry industrial yeast.
Iron Fish Distillery distills with a custom-build pot still, handcrafted in Germany by Kothe Destillationstechnik. Our pot still, specifically made for the production of whiskey and brandy, and our column still, for vodkas, gins, liqueurs and other clear spirits, have been designed to provide the right amount of surface area for the spirits to develop aroma and flavor.
The process of changing the physical state of grain – milling, mashing, fermenting and distilling – will be on full display for visitors and customers. Tours will take visitors through our farm production process, distillery and barrel room, ending with a round of tastings. Book a tour!