Brother Justus Whiskey Raises $4.4M in Financing
Minneapolis-based Brother Justus Whiskey Co. has just wrapped up a new $4.4 million round of financing to help build its business. The financing closed on August 11. The company started with the seemingly unlikely goal of producing a top shelf, single malt whiskey in Minnesota.
“All that money was for manufacturing capacity, marketing capacity – essentially working capital for the business,” said Phil Steger, founder and CEO of Brother Justus. “This is the funding for our growth…We are going to be doubling our manufacturing capacity.”
The company began in what Steger calls a “basement distillery” for several years while trying to perfect its recipe focused on Minnesota-sourced ingredients. Now Steger said that the company will focus on growing its distribution in the Minnesota over the next but will then look beyond Minnesota over the next two to three years.
Most Brother Justus whiskeys are aged for 18 months. That creates a cash flow challenge. Once the whiskey is produced, it can’t be sold right away.
“The cash is to cover the working capital of our operations while the whiskey is aging,” said Steger.
The company operates out of 15,000 square feet of leased space in Northeast Minneapolis that houses both the distillery and its Whiskey Room, a hospitality space.
The company takes its name from Brother Justus who was a Benedictine monk at St. John’s a century ago. For Brother Justus, whiskey was a way to help struggling farmers generate more income.
“Brother Justus built whiskey stills for local farmers in the Stearns County area and taught them whiskey distillation during Prohibition,” said Steger. “Minnesota farmers during the 1920s were very, very poor.”
For a startup company, Brother Justus has an unusually high-powered board including Best Buy CEO Corie Barry, who Steger knew from his college days.
“Corie is actually a friend from St. John’s and St. Ben’s,” said Steger. “She’s been amazing, obviously. We’re extremely grateful for her. As she says, she just has a lot of confidence in the business.”
The board also includes Selemon Asfaw, CFO of Optum Care.
“I was introduced to Selemon through a mutual friend,” said Steger. “His leadership and advice is also incredibly valuable.”