Middle West Spirits expansion underway for state’s biggest distillery

This article originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on March 29, 2023 by Jim Weiker

Middle West Spirits, the 15-year-old Columbus distillery, received state tax breaks Monday for a new facility on Alum Creek Drive that the company says will be the largest distillery in Ohio.

The tax breaks will help the company complete the 75,000-square-foot distillery and bottling plant on a 14-acre site it acquired in 2020 at 1165 – 1221 Alum Creek Drive.

Middle West started working on the project two years ago, converting existing buildings for its operation. It already is working out of the site and expects to start production this summer. The project is expected to cost $38.7 million for building, construction and equipment, according to the Ohio Department of Development.

“It will increase whiskey production over 10-fold,” said Middle West founder and CEO Ryan Lang. “The new plant will be primarily an American whiskey plant. We will continue to create bourbon, rye, wheat and single barrel whiskeys there.” 

The site also includes room for an unspecified hospitality function, according to the distillery.

The expansion is expected to create 80 jobs with an estimated annual payroll of $4.7 million. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved state tax credits for the project worth an estimated $420,000 at its Monday meeting.

“We are excited about the Alum Creek development and the future of our company,” Lang said in a news release. “The expansion of our operations allows us to hit capacities, aging goals and the volumes needed to continue to develop our brands and partnership programs.”

“Our team has worked tirelessly over the last 15 years to bring us to this point, and we are excited to start the next chapter of Middle West.”

Ferguson Construction Crews on job site – March 2023

Service Bar restaurant to remain

Middle West will retain its bottle shop, distillery and Service Bar restaurant on Courtland Avenue just north of East 5th Avenue, along with other facilities around central Ohio.

The company has steadily grown and now sells in 43 states, Lang said.

“It took a lot of time,” he said. “This is just our next evolutionary step as a company.”

Middle West Spirits produces 15 of its own branded products, including Middle West Bourbon, Rye and Wheat Whiskey, OYO vodkas, Vim & Petal and Lux & Umbra gins, and, for the holidays, Middle West Bourbon Cream.

“Those guys have been in the forefront of craft distilleries from the start, a leader in the movement for more than a decade,” said Alexandra Clough, spokesperson for the American Craft Spirits Association, a Virginia-based trade group. “We’re so excited about their expansion.”

Middle West’s expansion reflects the sharp growth the Ohio distillery industry has seen in recent years, including other Columbus-area brands such as Watershed DistilleryHigh Bank DistilleryNoble Cut DistilleryMagnolia Spirits, 451 Spirits and Echo Spirits Distillery.

According to the American Craft Spirits Association, Ohio was home to 74 craft distillers at the end of 2022, up from 47 five years earlier.