On Tuesday, July 18th, Grand Rapids craft distillery Long Road Distillers will release Harmony Black Squirrel Malt Whisky made in partnership with Harmony Brewing Company and Harmony Hall. This is the third release in the Long Road Beer City Whisky Series, a line-up of whiskies collaboratively made with four local breweries that have helped earn Grand Rapids the title of “Beer City USA”. Harmony Black Squirrel Malt Whisky is distilled from the same mash as Black Squirrel Peated Porter, a flagship beer from the Grand Rapids-based brewery.
Harmony Brewing Company founders Barry Van Dyke, Jackson Van Dyke and Heather Van Dyke-Titus opened their first brew-pub in 2012 in the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids. In 2015, they opened a second location, Harmony Hall, with a larger brew house on Bridge Street, just a mile south of Long Road on the City’s West Side. The move west offered new opportunities for the Harmony and Long Road owners to work together, including making whisky from beer.
“I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time,” said Kyle VanStrien, co-owner and co-founder of Long Road Distillers. “Black Squirrel’s rich smoke characteristic carried over into the whisky, just like we had hoped! Besides that, it gave us another excuse to get together with the Van Dykes and work collaboratively on something in a neighborhood we all love!”
Grand Rapids has won the title of “Beer City USA” for several years running, and has also been named “Best Beer Town” and “Best Beer Scene” by USA TODAY readers. These titles are an acknowledgement of the many world-class breweries that call Grand Rapids home, but also a nod to the passionate beer lovers that support them.
The idea behind the Beer City Whisky Series stemmed from shared base ingredients between beer and whisky – namely, malted barley. To create the four whiskies in this series, Long Road acquired brewers mash from each brewery and distilled it into malt whisky on their 500 gallon Vendome Pot Still. After each beer was distilled into whisky, it was aged in new American Oak barrels for 12-24 months.
Long Road Distillers has partnered with four Grand Rapids breweries for the initial year of the Beer City Whisky Series and distilled some of their most popular beers: The Mitten Brewing Company (Mitten Country Strong IPA), Perrin Brewing Company (Perrin Black), Harmony Brewing Company/Harmony Hall (Harmony Black Squirrel Peated Porter), and Greyline Brewing Company (Greyline Solshine).
Each whisky is being released in-house at the distillery over the course of the summer in extremely small batches ranging from 100 to 200 bottles per batch.
The first release in the series, Mitten Country Strong Malt Whisky, made in partnership with the Mitten Brewing Company, was released May 23rd. The second release, Perrin Black Malt Whisky, made in collaboration with Perrin Brewing Company, was released on June 20th.
Harmony Black Squirrel Malt Whisky will be released on Tuesday, July 18th beginning at 4pm at the distillery on Leonard Street.
In addition to having Harmony Black Squirrel Malt Whisky available for tastes, cocktails, and bottles to take home on Tuesday, a special three course dinner, inspired by flavors from the kitchens of Long Road and Harmony Hall, and paired with beer, whisky and a cocktail will be featured for just $35 from 4pm to 11pm.
“The goal for these release night events is to have fun, but also to raise awareness about the collaborative spirit that exists in West Michigan,” said Jon O’Connor, co-owner and co-founder of Long Road Distillers. “This series has given us an opportunity to highlight that spirit and have a lot of fun in the process!”