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Local Spirits

Ugly Dog distills homegrown vodka

by Shelley Daily

From the January, 2011 issue

Ugly Dog Distillery makes and sells vodka under the same roof. "The idea was conceived at hunting camp with my German wirehaired pointer on my lap," says co-owner Jon Dyer.

Dyer, forty-seven, a Stockbridge resident who grew up in Dexter, breeds the bird dogs--commonly known by their "ugly dog" nickname--and long had an interest in making spirits. With his friends' encouragement he tested recipes, using different yeasts from around the world.

Dyer and business partner Dewey Winkle, forty-two, of Dexter have been selling all of each weekly batch since opening in May, and their vodka is for sale at retail outlets throughout Michigan.

Most such businesses use turnkey machinery from Europe. Instead, Dyer built Ugly Dog's three stills and handcrafted their copper domes, using techniques from an out-of-print coppersmithing book from the mid-1800s. He also designed and built thermal control panels for the stills and a grain grinder. He says he enjoys finding ways to innovate--even using an aluminum canoe paddle to stir the mash.

Ugly Dog vodka sells for $19.97 for a 750-milliliter bottle, and the retail shop also sells Ugly Dog T-shirts, caps, and glassware--and vodka accompaniments, such as Bloody Mary mix from a company in nearby Hell.

Dyer chose vodka as his premiere product because it's the best-selling liquor on the market. He plans to introduce rum next and then gin. "It's definitely a feel-good business," says Winkle, who previously worked for Thomson-Shore printers for more than twenty years. "We make people happy every day."

Ugly Dog Distillery, 14495 North Territorial. 433-0433. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m.


In July, husband-and-wife team Joe and Beth Jarzabek opened Jolly's Burgers, Grinders & More, sharing kitchen space with Gourmet Chocolate Cafe in the Main Street Shoppes. Joe says everything is "fast, fresh, and made to order." It's named after the couple's two children--Jake, age fourteen, and Holly, age twelve.

Joe previously worked for an auto dealership in Howell--where the family lives--but because of the economy he was eager to try a

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new business venture. His wife, Beth, had run a party store in Hell that sold grinders, so the couple included them at the new space. Jolly's seats up to twenty and provides to-go orders.

Jolly's Burgers, Grinders & More, 312 N. Main. 680-5033. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Closed Sun.


Rose Cottage, a home decor and gift shop on West Middle, closed at the end of July after holding a going-out-of-business sale. Owner Edna Middleton could not be reached for comment.    (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2011.]


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