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Moonshine gets day in the sun

FARGO — Plans are still in the fermentation stage, but before year’s end Fargo could be home to a micro distillery. Joel Kath is leading an effort to establish a location downtown to make whiskeys and vodkas, and Fargo officials are drafting an ordinance that would allow Kath and his group to do just that. Federal red tape will likely take longer to clear, but Kath said he hopes a distillery could happen sometime in 2014. “Nationally, these (micro distilleries) are growing in popularity similar to what the microbrew industry did starting in the ‘80s,” said Kath, who operates a consultant engineering firm in Fargo and describes himself as a foodie with a taste for classy spirits. “I have done the microbrew in the past, but in all honesty, I like spirits better than beer,” said Kath, who added that changes in federal and state regulations across the country have made it easier for micro distilleries to start up. Kath said a micro distillery is similar to a microbrewery, which makes beer from malt barley, but a “still” takes the microbrew process a step further. “We make a beer and run it through a still and create various products from that,” Kath said. He said products will include single-malt whiskeys made from barley and corn-based whiskeys. Potato-based vodkas are also planned. Wood barrels will be instrumental in the production of the whiskey, Kath said. “In distilled spirits, all of the color of whiskeys and much of the flavor is actually created by the chemical reactions that happen when you store the alcohol in barrels,” he said. While a location for the distillery is still being worked out, Kath said discussions have been held with distributors, and he doesn’t see a problem getting the word out about what they plan to make. He’s probably right, said Bill Owens, president of the American Distillery Institute, a California-based organization Owens founded about 10 years ago. People want the “shock of the new,” Owens said, citing a recent call he received from a man in Alabama who was setting up a distillery.