Craft distiller strives to defend title


Long Road Distillers competed and ranked No. 1 for the same honor in 2017. Courtesy Long Road Distillers

A local craft spirits maker is vying for a double win in a national competition.

Long Road Distillers has been nominated along with 20 other contestants across the U.S. for "Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery in the United States,” part of the USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice Travel Awards.

This is the second year in a row the Grand Rapids-based distillery has been nominated for the honor. The spirits maker competed and ranked No. 1 for the same honor in 2017, according to the Business Journal.

Owners Kyle VanStrien and Jon O’Connor emphasized how this award is different from other competitions, because they will be relying on their supporters and the community in West Michigan that has garnered similar national attention for the craft beer scene that has developed over the years to help them top the list of winners.

The public will choose the top 10 by casting votes at Each person may vote for their favorites once per day until Sept. 3. Winners will be announced on Friday, Sept. 14.

“We're humbled by this nomination and hopeful that we can spread the word far and wide to take home another win for Grand Rapids,” VanStrien said.

“This nomination is another incredible honor for us,” O’Connor said. “We have a ton of respect for every nominee on the list, and some have been leaders in our industry for years. To even have the chance to compete against them is a big deal for us.”

Nominees were chosen by a panel of American spirits experts, including Emily Arden Wells, editor and founder of Gastronomista; Brian Christensen, publisher and editor of Artisan Spirit Magazine; Ziggy Eschliman, founder of ZigStyle and award-winning radio host; Kevin Gray, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bevvy; Eric Grossman, a food and beverage writer and author of “Craft Spirits”; and Jack Robertiello, a writer and acclaimed wine and spirits judge.

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