“I’m a fourth generation farmer, second generation Navy fighter pilot, and first generation distiller.”
– Christian Myrah
Christian Myrah was eager to return to his family farm following his service in the War in Afghanistan. The first Myrahs began tilling the soil of southeastern Minnesota back in the 1850s. They are not the sort of people who buck tradition.
But Christian didn’t relish the thought of sitting on a tractor all day. Perhaps the veteran fighter pilot had grown too accustomed to far faster vehicles. He wished instead to make greater use of the Driftless Area’s vast natural resources, and create more value with his farm than the market prices for organic grain and meat would permit.
Whiskey and bourbon – these were Christian’s ambition, so he founded RockFilter Distillery. Today it is one of only two farm craft distilleries in the state of Minnesota.
“Spring Grove, Minnesota is just about the best place in the country you could want to make whiskey and bourbon in,” said Christian. “That starts with our ground water, which is filtered through limestone just like in Kentucky downstream from here. The naturally occurring minerals in our water contribute a lot to the flavors and fermentation of our spirits. A water snob could taste our water and tell the difference right away, but it doesn’t take a connoisseur to appreciate how our water makes RockFilter whiskeys better.
“All of the heirloom grains and corns that go into our whiskeys grow within two miles of where the distillery sits. We keep it even closer to home by taking our grains to Schech’s Mill for grinding. They’re the oldest water-powered mill in the state, and they’re still using the same quartz millstone they imported from France back in 1876. That stone came up the Mississippi and made the last leg of its trip by oxcart.
“Even the white oak that our barrels are made from comes from this region. Staggemeyer Stave mill, just ten minutes up the road, has been cutting white oak staves for 80 years.
“All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. To be classified as bourbon the spirit must meet three additional criteria: It has to be made in the United States, it has to be aged in new charred white oak barrels, and its mash bill has to be at least 51 percent corn.”
RockFilter currently offers six different organic whiskeys. Their rye whiskies are Barrel Roll and Red Rider, and their bourbons are Giants of the Earth, Stone’s Throw, Fence Jumper and Rail Splitter. They also offer special, limited releases under their Test Acre label which are usually only available for purchase from the distillery. Keep an eye out for their new limited release which is expected to have been announced earlier this year.
“Right now we’re still pretty small,” said Christian. “Our product is currently being distributed throughout Minnesota to select bars and liquor stores, but once COVID calms down we’d like to expand into Iowa and Wisconsin.”
To learn more about RockFilter Distillery and their award winning whiskies, and to see where their fine spirits are available for sale, please visit rockfilterdistillery.com.
By David Scheller