Mad Paddle Brewery in Madison is Bringing Artisan Spirits to Their Historic Town

Mad Paddle Brewery in Madison is Bringing Artisan Spirits to Their Historic Town

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Madison, Indiana is a quaint town with a huge tourist population in all seasons. They have more than their fair share of festivals, and their history, geography, and art bring people in as well. But until just recently, they had been craft beverage starved.

Madison has had Thomas Family Winery and Lanthier Winery for a couple of decades (with Madison Vineyards Estate Winery further outside town), but it has only been recently that they were joined by two craft breweries – Mad Paddle Brewery downtown opened in 2018, and New Madison Brewing on top of the hill began serving beers in 2019.

image credit: Madd Paddle Spirits

Yet Madison, a town steeped in the history of Indiana brewing, hasn’t had a single commercial distillery as far as I could discern from reading the history…..that is until now. There were of course distilleries a century or more ago just over the bridge in Milton, KY. Kentucky and distilling have always gone together like alcohol and bad decisions. Just as Mad Paddle performed research on Madison brewing history in 2018 before opening the brewery, owner Jerry Wade did the same with local distilling. His business plan from the beginning of this venture was to include distilling in the operation.

Mad Paddle Brewery has recently started selling their flavored moonshines, branded as JB Wade Moonshine from Mad Paddle Spirits. Members of the Wade family were notorious moonshiners in the late 1800s and early 1900s in northern Kentucky. They brought corn to make their mash across the river to Madison to be milled in the feed mill that now houses Mad Paddle Brewery and Mad Paddle Spirits.

I talked to Jerry Wade, owner of Paddle Brewery and Mad Paddle Spirits about the expansion of their product line:

This is an interesting time to be expanding, how has Covid affected your business and did it have an affect on your timing of the distillery? “The good news is our business is up overall post Covid and we should beat our numbers for 2019 at year end. I expect the new distillery part of our business to do really well, really fast.”

“As you travel through Kentucky and Tennessee you see lots of billboard marketing for the two biggest Moonshine providers in the USA, both with multiple locations in Gatlinburg. The Sugarlands and Ole Smokey distilleries are the #1 and #2 most popular tourist destinations in Gatlinburg and third place isn’t even close. This leads us to believe that moonshine will work as a tourist draw in Madison as well.”

Where did you get your distilling equipment? Can you describe it? “We launched with a 15 gallon system. A new 50 gallon from Steven Stillz is coming in October which will have 4 plates. We may very well end up going to a 150 gallon system within the first year or so.”

image credit: Mad Paddle Spirits

What kinds of spirits will you be making? “Our focus will be on flavored Moonshine. The official grand opening is October 31st with “Shined Heat” (100 proof), and the 60 proof line up of “Electric Lemonade,” “Ringo’s Rootbeer,” “Cinnapple Fire,” “Just Peachy,” and “Smoke on the Water, Maple Bacon.”

“Doing your own Bourbon is a high cost, high stakes effort and I believe it to be a losers game for most who enter. We will buy Bourbon from MGP (as does 30% or more of the distilled spirits marketplace) and then further flavor or age to our liking, it will still be very much a Mad Paddle Spirits product.”

Is distribution a big goal for Mad Paddle Spirits? “Like with our Mad Paddle beer, our focus is building the brand and making Mad Paddle a place with a certain cache, a real destination experience. With crowded Vodka and Bourbon shelf spaces, yet relatively limited Moonshine availability in Indiana liquor stores, distribution for Mad Paddle Moonshine will probably come sometime in 2021.”

So you will be serving your spirits at the Mad Paddle Taproom soon? “We got our three way permit on Oct. 22, so we are serving beer, wine and spirits after that date. A unique offering will also be our flavored Moonshine Slushies. Plus, in July we added a food partner, Pizza Uncommon, who does gourmet pizzas to order. Our phase 2 expansion has begun with our beer hall (capacity 150) now open, our second floor game room, and the garage distillery opening October 31st. These improvements will increase our capacity from 49 to more than 400 people.”

Have you hired a distiller to make the moonshine and age/flavor the barreled spirits? “Compared to brewing, distilling is 75% simpler and only has to be as complicated as you want to make it. We have proven with Mad Paddle Brewery that you can build a brand, create a destination and brew good beer without investing millions of dollars in equipment. We have two part-time distillers now, but I am attending Moonshine University in Louisville in October and will lead the distilling team as we move forward.”

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