In 2012, not long after Bill Welter started Journeyman Distillery, in Three Oaks, Michigan, I traveled there to interview him for a "20 Under 40" business feature. I remember asking Welter, a Valparaiso native (who lives in Porter), why he opened in Michigan and not Indiana. And although it didn't make the article, I recall Welter talking about how more progressive laws in Michigan made it easier for him to achieve what he wanted in a distillery. In Indiana, that wasn't possible.
Journeyman continues to grow. I'm always reading articles on updates to the distillery. I see his barrels everywhere. Rusted Oak, the men's clothier in downtown Valparaiso, sells them. About a block away, the new craft winery, Misbeehavin' Meads, uses Journeyman barrels for its wine-making process.
Just recently Robert Ordway, owner of Rusted Oak, penned an editorial on the fast growing indusry of micro-distilling. He wrote that in 2010 (about when Welter purchased his building), there were 92 craft distillers in the U.S. Today there are over 750.
"Unfortunately, none of that growth has come from Indiana," Ordway said.
Ordway talked about the barriers that exist for new-comers to the industry in Indiana and how Journeyman Distillery has become a mecca for high dollar tourists from Chicago while generating big tax revenues for Michigan.
"In addition, his commitment to source local organic ingredients has supported many other small business owners," Ordway said.
Imagine if this Welter had been able to open his distillery in Valpo, or somewhere else in the region. I say "this Welter" because other members of the Welter family have been investing in Valparaiso. You have Chuck Welter, who is restoring the old downtown building on Lincolnway and Franklin. Matt Welter and his father, Wayne Welter, purchased and are renovating the long-abandoned Fetla's building, which will soon be back on the tax rolls as a new business is moving in.
But Journeyman thrives in Michigan (granted, Three Oaks is a cool spot) and not in the Region.
Like my friend in Chicago says, "Indiana is weirdo when it comes to liquor laws."
There's this distillery issue. And you still can't buy alcohol in liquor or grocery stores on Sunday. And now legislation is close to making it legal to sell booze at the Indiana Dunes pavilion, despite opposition from a majority of local residents.
That last issue calls to mind the final lines in the film "The Untouchables."
Calls to mind the final lines spoken in "The Untouchables."
Scoop: Word is they're going to repeal Prohibition. What'll you do then?
Elliot Ness: I think I'll have a drink.