Member Spotlight: Red Cedar Spirits

Not all distillers hit the ground running in the distilling business. Sometimes it takes a change of heart—of journey—to lead a person here. This explains the start of Red Cedar Spirits. The brand was initiated in 2012 with the combined yet varied backgrounds of three individuals: Kris Berglund, Dianne Holman and Mike Beck. The experiences of these individuals brought together a great background of science, agriculture, engineering, business, and regulation which triggered the forming of Red Cedar Spirits—a very unique distillation venture with many facets. 

Before Red Cedar Spirits was dreamt up by this trio, each of the three had their own business ventures. Kris, a Michigan State University professor of agriculture and engineering, developed the Artisan Distilling Program at MSU. This program helped many aspiring distillers become inspired to go into the distillery business. Since 1990, Kris had also been working with wine makers, farmers, and growers across the state of Michigan to help build the craft beverage industry. Along his journey, Kris had worked on many projects with Mike Beck of Uncle John’s Fruithouse Winery and Distillery. Mike’s expertise in business, fruit farming and other areas of agriculture brought Kris and Mike together to collaborate on some of Michigan’s early brandy production. Completing this dream team was Kris’ wife, Dianne Holman. As a civil engineer with a strong environmental background, she started a company in 2006 called Working Bugs, which used fermentation processing to produce bio-based chemicals.

 

You may ask, how did the paths of these three individuals make up Red Cedar Spirits? In addition to the Artisan Distilling Program, Kris also set up a beverage minor program with a scientific approach at MSU.  The university then set up a cooperative agreement with Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, because the brewery had a facility  with milling, fermentation, and other equipment to enable the university program to offer a complete distilled spirits process.

After a few years, due to unrelated causes, the brewery went out of business and the program needed a new shared facility. So Dianne’s Working Bugs, with its own milling and fermentation equipment, stepped in. Mike’s winery also joined the effort by renting a portion of the Working Bug’s building and extending its own distilled spirits license for that purpose, producing spirits under the name Red Cedar Spirits. Working Bugs provided the fermentation processing for the operation and so it evolved.

The year 2018 brought the tragic passing of Kris Berglund, Dianne’s husband, though his enthusiasm about the distillery and all the activities at the facility seem to be ever-present to this day. Over the past nine years, Red Cedar Spirits has developed a line of products with complete grain to bottle processing. The location in East Lansing offers a hidden oasis where you can enjoy a large menu of fresh-made cocktails and now even cocktails-to go.

With 2020 bringing many unexpected obstacles, Red Cedar Spirits has remained on the front line of business among distilleries. Since its start, Working Bugs has had an industrial distilling license and expertise in hand sanitizer production. Correspondingly, Red Cedar Spirits was able to produce and sell hand sanitizer to the public amidst COVID-19, along with a line of other house-made cleaning products. Their tasting room and bar adds new features regularly, including a recent patio expansion to allow for social distancing. If you’re ever in East Lansing, head over to 2000 Merritt Road and experience one of the oldest and bona fide distilleries in Michigan.

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