When Chicago-based International Harvester Co. built its second assembly plant in St. Cloud in 1928, they erected it in an area that was producing what was considered some of the best moonshine in the country. That said, workers assembling farm implements in the building likely couldn’t see the Prohibition-beating distillers making Minnesota 13 whiskey in the hardwood forests around St. Cloud. But as of this past January, Iron Street Distillery opened in the former International Harvester Building on the city’s East Side, and it has begun producing the city’s first legally distilled spirits.
“That local history [of high-quality Prohibition-era liquor] we’re pulling from,” says John Martens, president and CEO of Iron Street Distillery. “One of the spirits we’re probably two, three months out from making is called the Stearns 13 Whiskey. We’re playing off a lot of those old storylines and creating our spirits with the history involved around the building, around the area. It’s a lot of fun to bring the storylines to light and recreate some of the history that happened here, and really to be able to just tell a story about it. People love stories, you know?”
The historic building sits on a 4-acre plot and has 64,000 square feet. Under Minnesota law, the distiller is allowed only to serve cocktails made from spirits distilled on-site. In addition to the main 7,000-square-foot Cocktail Room of the distillery, an 80-person gathering space, and three meeting rooms seating up to 20, the building will also house the Harvester Square event center on the second floor, which will open this summer. Martens says they plan to open a rooftop bar within two years, which would also be a first for St. Cloud.
When asked of his favorite cocktail, Martens calls out the Cocktail Room’s Bourbon Old-Fashioned. “We accent it with a Luxardo cherry, which is from Italy. Everything in that cocktail just tastes delicious.”
The distillery is open Tuesday through Sunday. The space can bring in food trucks for events.