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It's the number one question we hear, "Why Cantilever?" Learn more about the historic event that inspired the hotel and distillery.
The next morning, Harry Erickson warmed up his sturdy ton-and-a-half Ford and parked it alongside the boxcar. Charles Houska directed the men to roll the barrels onto the truck. They stood them on end, one by one, until there were six or seven aboard.
Harry was instructed to drive down to the village dock in front of Duluth Street. The government officials were there waiting, standing around a large hole chopped through a foot of Rainy River ice beside the dock. By this time, a crowd of bystanders was following Harry’s truck.
“Drop the barrels so that they break on the iron cleats on the edge of the dock,” an official instructed, but the men dropping the barrels were poor marksmen and some of the barrels landed on the ice, still intact. The customs officials foresaw misses, and they were poised with axes to break the intact barrels. One by one, the barrels were ruptured and the golden whiskey flowed out onto the ice.
They intended for the whiskey to flow into the hole that the men had worked so hard to chop, but the law of physics worked against them. The liquor rather spread into a wide pool, contained by a rim of whiskey-candied snow.
By now, the cluster of interested citizens had grown to a substantial audience. Some of them pulled cups from their pockets and scooped up the stubborn whiskey and sipped it approvingly. Others lay at the edge of the whiskey puddle and lapped up what they could get. A few arrived with buckets, but Customs discouraged the carry-out trade and kicked over the buckets. Word spread quickly and soon nearly the whole town of International Falls was there scooping up whiskey. Some even came running with coal scuttles and wash tubs. A local bootlegger tested the liquid with his hydrometer - 100 proof.
Downriver, George Westermeier retrieved water for some tea from his water hole offshore from his house. As he boiled the water, his home smelled like a distillery. It was discovered that a crack in the river ice led from the whiskey hole to George’s water hole. Angry, he threatened to sue the government but never did get around to it.
The men rolled the last barrel of fine Canadian whiskey out of the boxcar and onto Harry Erickson’s truck, and they discovered something very peculiar. During the night, someone had drilled a hole up through the floor of the boxcar beneath where the barrels stood.
The barrels were dry.
There were no known fatalities from the whiskey dumping, but up to 79 barrels were added to the river that day. Which made everyone think about that odd number. Maybe the shipper in Winnipeg had overlooked the 80th barrel, or possibly Charles Houska knew where it went.
We will never know for sure.
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Cantilever Distillery + Hotel is opening January 2020 and features a boutique hotel, a cocktail room, private events space, and distillery tours.
Local stakeholders and supporters Friday joined development partners to celebrate the launch of The Cantilever Hotel and Distillery – a 31-room boutique hotel, cocktail room and distillery.
Developer Marty Goulet kicked off the ceremony by talking about the positive momentum in Ranier and the motives for the development in the community.
“There is a reason we are having this event at Loony’s Brew Pub and Rainy Lake Grill is catering the event, they are both part of the positive story that is unfolding and the momentum that allowed our development team to make this investment in the community,” said Goulet. "The approximate 100-invited guests in attendance received an inside look into the project, an introduction to the first two Cantilever employees, the release of two new brands, followed by a non-traditional ground-breaking ceremonial christening of the site. If you are here today, it is because you have helped or supported and are a part of the Cantilever Hotel and Distillery project.”
The Cantilever Hotel and Distillery, anticipated to open summer 2019, is a new 26,000 square foot boutique hotel and distillery located at 2078 Spruce Street in Ranier. The facility amenities include 31 upscale boutique hotel rooms, state of the art spirits manufacturing plant, cocktail room (only serving Cantilever products), restaurant, private events spaces, rooftop bar with sauna and hot tub, distillery tours, yoga studio, treatment rooms, and electric car charging station.
"A physical location, complete with a tour and tasting, is the biggest marketing asset a distilling company will ever possess," said Goulet. "As such, our distillery will be an extension of the brand. This requires that every element the consumer contacts will reflect the thinking and philosophy of the brand.”
The Cantilever Distilling Co., will offer single malt whiskey, bourbon, and gin made with local peat, local grains, and local water that showcase the skill and expertise of the distiller. The Cantilever Bridge located only feet away from the distillery is symbolic of the bootlegging history and connection between Canada and the U.S.
Released publicly for the first time Friday, Woody’s Fairly Reliable Spirits Co., will produce honest, reliable spirits and premium canned cocktails that are focused on lake life and the outdoor lifestyle. These products will be known for premium quality with affordable pricing so that that they can over-deliver on taste and price while always considering lake lifestyle.
“We are excited to announce for the first time with the personality of Ranier's own Barry "Woody" Woods – Woody’s Fairly Reliable Spirits," said Goulet.
General Manager Ed Gackley announced a partnership with Wyndham Hotels’ Trademark Collection Brand.
“The Cantilever Bridge Hotel – a trademark collection allows us to leverage the benefits of being associated with a world class hotel franchise while keeping total independence," said Gackley. He also introduced distiller Charlie Fuller who expressed his excitement for the project.
Developer Duane Cridland revealed the first artwork for the distillery called “Busted 1932” by Cher Pruys. In 1932, a train crossing the Cantilever Bridge with 79 barrels of Canadian whiskey was seized and destroyed in a public ceremony before it could reach its destination in Chicago. The artwork depicts the event and the locals who showed up to get a taste but were prohibited to use any cups or containers and resorted to slurping it off the ice.
Participants later Friday went outside to the site of the new hotel and distillery. Mayor Dennis Wagner, Hall of Fame Fishing Guide Woody and the Director of the Koochiching County Economic Development Agency Paul Nevanen, each took a swing with the ceremonial golden ax and attempted to break a barrel of whiskey. After a few attempts with the ax, the liquid from the barrel was released and the site christened.
Back inside Loony’s, developer Pat Bracken walked the attendees through an inside look at Cantilever’s first bourbon, explaining the mash bill (recipe) and finishing with a toast.
Mark Twain once said, “too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is barely enough."
Learn more about the Cantilever Story!