Lakewood hits a new tippling point with Western Reserve Distillers

It’s a great time to be a fan of craft spirits—especially in Cleveland. That was made evident when Western Reserve Distillers celebrated its Grand Opening ceremony in Lakewood on Saturday, September 8.

 

Co-owner Ann Thomas described the well-attended event as “giddy,” calling it “a moment to share all of the hard work with those who have been on this journey with all of us for so long."

And the end result is impressive. After four years of planning, the family-owned business—run by Ann and her husband Kevin Thomas—looks every inch the modern distillery: exposed brick, enormous copper stills, and an industrial-chic attached restaurant called Distill Table.

 

Consumers will soon be seeing a lot of WRD’s distinctive, hand-blown bottles around town, with its handcrafted organic vodka, gin, and spelt vodka available in area liquor stores and restaurants (including all Melt locations). Those looking just to sample the spirits can order them at Distill Table, where the cocktail menu pays homage to local lore with names like “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Pope of Slavic Village.”

 

But running a local distillery is about more than the spirits for the Thomases. They now run one of only a handful of certified organic distilleries in the US.

 

And the label’s not just for show. The stills are designed to recapture and reuse water. There is no dumpster at WRD, just receptacles for plastic and other recyclables. And all the ingredients for spirits—with the sole exception of molasses for the forthcoming rum—come from within a 100-mile radius of the distillery.

 

“Even our waste stream is organic,” says Kevin. "The byproducts of brewing and distilling get re-used as animal feed and compost."

 

The reasoning behind this is simple. “There are enough chemicals out there being used on a daily basis,” said Ann. “We didn’t need to add to it.” Through his time at Nestle, Kevin picked up on sustainable practices in the food industry and is now incorporating them at WRD.

 

But there’s also a family component to the decision. “By taking on the challenge of owning our own business,” said Ann, “we wanted it to be something that would last long after us and something [our granddaughter] could be proud of.”

 

Though not quite yet at drinking age—granddaughter Isabelle is just six years old—she’s still an integral part of the family business.

 

The WRD logo, an antique-looking compass, recalls the exploration of the historic Western Reserve all Northeast Ohioans now call home. The bee flying to one side of the logo is a family touch: a symbol of Isabelle “Izzy Bee” Thomas on every bottle.

Let the good buzz begin.

Read more articles by Billy Hallal.

Billy Hallal works as a freelance writer and an adult literacy advocate at Seeds of Literacy. You can find his writing on Northeast Ohio dining and culture at Thrillist and Cleveland Scene.
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