Noble Prohibition Rebel
A BENEDICTINE MONK WHO BUILT WHISKEY STILLS
FOR MINNESOTA FARMERS DURING PROHIBITION
Minnesotans have always been a little... different. We work hard to do things well and don’t talk much about ourselves. That might be why most people don't know Minnesotans made some of the best Prohibition whiskey in America, coveted across the country and famed overseas.
In typical, trend-bucking fashion, Minnesotans didn't start making whiskey until Prohibition. And our Prohibition story is one of good, outlaw monks and honorable farmers; not mobsters,
Minnesota immigrant farmers kept much of Europe in food during World War I. When the war ended in 1918, French and German farmers began growing their own food again. A good thing, for sure. But hard on Minnesota farmers who saw the market for their grain disappear overnight. Prices plummeted, plunging Minnesota farmers into poverty.
Also in 1918, the States, including Minnesota, ratified the 18th Amendment and imposed Prohibition. German immigrant farmers in Central Minnesota took exception to the new law. Catholics from Bavaria, they had no moral issues with alcohol and knew how to make great beer.
Benedictine monks from a nearby monastery, renowned for their superior liqueurs, taught the farmers how to distill their beer into premium whiskey that could be sold to support their families. But since making whiskey was a federal offense, getting quality whiskey stills was a problem. A person couldn't just pick one up from the feed store or Sears catalog. Farmers could cobble stills together using scrap metals, such as old car radiators, but these contained toxic contaminants that caused worse problems than poverty.
When Whiskey Was Illegal, He Served a Higher Law
That is where a young blacksmith monk comes in. Believing the farmers had a right to support themselves the law could not take away, and concerned they have safe, quality stills for making whiskey, the monk crafted exquisitely-made, all-copper whiskey stills and gave them away to the farmers for free. The farmers used these stills, combined with the rich soil and clean water of Minnesota and their skills as famers and brewers, to make the purest, highest quality Prohibition whiskey in America; a whiskey so highly coveted that Paris night clubs advertised (falsely) that they served Minnesota 13.
He was a whiskey Johnny Appleseed, a hammer-wielding Robin Hood and black-robed Friar Tuck rolled into one. A Minnesota folk hero. A friend of the working poor and patron saint of the highest spirit.
He was Brother Justus.