Tom Herbruck never intended to expand his Bainbridge micro-distillery. He was perfectly happy focusing solely on his fine Ohio apple brandy, Tom's Foolery, which sells out as fast as he can make it. Then again, he never expected to meet members of bourbon royalty and learn about an historic bourbon still system.
"I wasn't looking for bourbon stills," Herbruck said at his Bainbridge shop recently. "But I met the Beams, and they had a great, historical piece of equipment that was available, and it seemed like a great opportunity to make traditional bourbon the traditional way."
That equipment — a mash cooker, wooden fermentation tanks, and copper pot stills — for years was used at Michter's in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, one of the oldest American whiskey distilleries.
David Beam had purchased the system from Michter's when it closed in 1990, intending to launch a new Kentucky bourbon microdistillery with his sons. He never did — and the equipment sat unused for 16 years.
After purchasing, moving, and installing the multi-piece system, Herbruck tracked down the only man who ever ran the stills: Dick Stoll, who worked at Michter's from 1955 until it closed.
Now 77 years old, Stoll was happy to come to Cleveland to show Herbruck and his wife Lianne how to make traditional sour-mash bourbon. Also in attendance for last month's inaugural run was David Beam.
"Me and my brothers and father had been sitting on this equipment for so long. We said, 'We gotta see this through. We have to see something come out of it at some point,'" Beam said at the very moment the first trickle of Northeast Ohio's only bourbon began to exit the still.
Made from corn, rye, and malted barley, the straight bourbon will sit in charred American oak barrels for approximately four years. Herbruck recently built a rackhouse to store barrels of apple brandy and bourbon. Like the rackhouses of Kentucky, his is not temperature controlled.
"What you want is a good four seasons," explained Beam. "The expansion and contraction creates the interplay between the bourbon and the oak."
Although we'll have to wait a few more years for the bourbon, we can enjoy Herbruck's exquisite applejack right now. His second batch just hit the shelves of Ohio liquor stores. For more info, check out applejackohio.com.
Open for business: Taza Lebanese Grill, the upscale addition to the Aladdin's restaurant group, has opened a second outpost in the former Crop Bistro location in the Warehouse District. Featuring an expanded bar, new furnishings, and colorful decor, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily. Best of all: Nothing on the Middle Eastern menu checks in at more than $18.95. You'll find them at 1400 West Sixth St. Call 216-274-1170 for information.
Closed for business: Heather Haviland's East Side presence, Vine & Bean (12706 Larchmere Blvd.), will close on Monday, October 31. Sunday will be the café's last day of service.
"I've been battling with this call for at least six months, and I know heading into winter we'd be taking another hit," Haviland says.
Like her Lucky's Cafe in Tremont, Haviland's East Side spot has been a favorite destination for weekend brunchers since it opened in June of 2008. But weekday business never followed suit.
"I've been so grateful for our regular customers," Haviland says.