Karen and Greg Brunelle put labels on bottles of Holstein Rum at Warner Distillery in Holstein, Iowa
HOLSTEIN, IOWA (KTIV) -
You may be familiar with Templeton Rye, the liquor made in the western Iowa town that is its namesake. Now, there is another player in the homemade booze business at northwest Iowa's first distillery in Holstein. It's where Holstein Rum is made.
Since Greg and Karen Brunelle opened their distillery a block off of Holstein's Main Street late last year, business has slowly been building. They'd never made rum before; not even a batch of home-brewed beer.
Greg Brunelle explained the seed was planted during a discussion with his father-in-law.
"I asked him, you know, I'm a city boy, I said, 'What do they do with all this corn? What do they make with it?' And he said, 'Ethanol or cattle feed. That's it.' 'Doesn't anybody make whiskey?' And he said, 'They do, they just don't tell you about it.' I started making rum to experiment with. We got the system up and running and discovered that I like rum and I'm good at it," said Brunelle.
They call their business Werner Distilling. Karen is a fifth generation Werner family member.
"The label is a picture of the Werner family farm that is still farmed by Werners and it's got my grandpa and my great-grandpa," said Karen Brunelle.
Karen described the first time they saw the label on one of their bottles as "awesome."
"But not as awesome as it was the first time we went into a liquor store and saw it. It's been exciting for my whole family," she said.
So how does one make rum? It starts with some derivative of the sugar cane plant. Greg uses molasses.
"We'll put a bunch in the barrel and fill it up with hot water and add yeast and it ferments. It takes about 3 days," said Greg Brunelle.
Then it's transferred to the stills.
"During the whole process of distilling it while it's coming off of the still, you're constantly tasting it, while you're watching your temperature and your proof," said Brunelle.
Asked if he ever gets tipsy at work or needs a designated driver to get home, Brunelle laughed and said no.
"When you're tasting it, you're literally just putting a finger in it because it's coming off at a proof that you don't want to drink," he explained.
The whole process takes less than a week.
Greg Brunelle is a full-time letter carrier in Cherokee, but making rum is more than just a hobby for him. He hopes to build upon this business.
"I'd like to see us in 300 stores by the end of the year," Brunelle said.
And he's expanding the product line, too. During KTIV's visit, the first batch of Dark Holstein Rum was brewing in the barrel. Better for sippin', according to Greg. They are also waiting for approval on three flavored rums: mango, raspberry and coconut.
Holstein Rum is available in several Hy Vee stores in northwest Iowa, and any Iowa liquor store can get it if you request it. Greg and Karen are hoping to expand into Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas within a year. It sells for about $20 per bottle.
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