Brother Justus: the monk who made stills
Minnesota has always been … different.
Most people don’t know that farmers in Central Minnesota – from Stearns, Todd, Douglas, Morrison, and Benton Counties – made the best, most highly coveted moonshine whiskey of Prohibition. And the man who helped them do it wasn’t a mobster; he was a monk named Brother Justus.
Prohibition coincided with a mini-Depression in Minnesota, and many farmers turned to moonshining out of necessity. Grain prices were in the ditch, and families were suffering. They needed money to put food on the table and shoes on their kids’ feet. Hardworking German-Catholics, the farmers knew how to brew beer, but they lacked knowledge and equipment to distill beer into pure, high-quality whiskey.
Monks of a nearby monastery came to their aid. They explained that whiskey was illegal but, as a gift from God, it was not immoral.
One monk went further. He believed that although the farmers had a right to make whiskey, they also had a responsibility to make it right. They just needed the right training and the right tools. For years, the monk scavenged the monastery for scrap copper and clean tin and made world-class precision whiskey stills in the abbey workshop. He then smuggled the stills onto his neighbors’ farms and taught them the secrets of the ancient monastic art of distilling. He taught them how to cut heads and tails and preserve the pure heart of the whiskey run for the cleanest, highest quality spirit. He taught them the virtues of barrel aging for the best flavor, despite the extra risk of getting caught.
With the stills the monk gave them and the skills he taught them, Minnesota farmers made the most highly coveted – and only branded – moonshine whiskey of Prohibition: Minnesota 13.
He was a Minnesota Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Johnny Appleseed all in one.
And his name was Brother Justus.
The founders of Brother Justus Whiskey Company have deep roots in central Minnesota and close ties to Brother Justus’s monastery. We aim to emulate the example of Minnesota’s moonshining farmers and Brother Justus, the historical folk hero monk. Like them, we use the best, simplest Minnesota-sourced ingredients: malt, water, oak. Like them, we don’t take shortcuts or easy ways out. Every batch of Brother Justus single malt whiskey is meticulously handmade. Every drop passes the inspection of our master distiller to ensure it meets the highest standards of flavor, purity, and quality.
Anything less would dishonor the legacy of Minnesota’s moonshining heroes and its patron saint, Brother Justus.