Published May 1, 2003 | May 2003 issue
What else can you make in your ethanol distillery? Farm co-ops in Benson and Winnebago, in west-central Minnesota, are partnering with a California-based firm to produce ultra-premium vodka from locally grown wheat.
The state-of-the-art Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co., the only grain distillery in Minnesota that refines ethanol, a fuel additive, into industrial and food-grade alcohol, has reconfigured part of the Benson distillery to make vodka.
The farmer-investors had been seeking ways to add more value to their basic commodities, which include livestock feed, and came up with the vodka plan. The venture serves to smooth out the highs and lows of volatile crop and ethanol prices.
Select wheat is grown near the plant, and once distilled the vodka is bottled in Princeton, Minn.
Currently, the vodka is distributed in several Minnesota locations and at least 10 other major metropolitan markets.