The farm-to-table movement has swept through restaurants nationwide. Farm-to-table booze, though? That's a trend Gut Check doesn't encounter very often. The folks at Pontoon Beach, Illinois-based Mastermind Vodka want to change that.
Business partners Carl Levering, Joel Berrye, Nick Roady and Dave Geertz opened the distillery last month. Their goal isn't simply to supply St. Louis with another libation. They want to support the area where they live and work, keeping production close to home.
Their slogan: "Better drinking through thinking." Strikingly similar to the wording on the Gut Check clan's coat of arms ("Better Drinking Than Thinking"), but our mother always maintained that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
"We completely support local business. In fact, that was one of our founding principles," says Roady, vice president of sales and marketing. "All of our products, from the glass bottles to the artwork on them to the raw products used to make our vodka, is produced locally."
The vodka is made from a combination of corn and wheat harvested by nearby farmers, and the distillery buys its glass bottles from a local small business. They believe this tightly linked supply chain yields a high-quality vodka that isn't cheapened due to mass production.
"The market was missing a vodka that was elegant and sophisticated that came from a local source," asserts Roady. "As the big three buy up all the distilleries, they divide the market and leave the consumer looking for quality. Our goal is to find those consumers looking for that little extra, and cater to them. I'm optimistic that a craft distiller can do just as well as a craft brewer."
How does Roady suggest one drink Mastermind? "Straight up. I don't like to mix things with it. That clouds its crispness and purity."