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Canadian bitters firm crosses border to U.S.

Oct 05, 2017 06:54AM ● Published by Editor

By Kitty Mayo - Business North - Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Overskilled and overstaffed. That’s how Justin Frape describes his current workforce at Frape & Sons, an up-and-coming boutique bitters producer based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and he’s thrilled about it.

That’s because he has planned all along to make a leap across the border to Minnesota, and he’s ramping up to do just that, except that bitters were just the starting point. Distilling beverages is his real dream.

“The skill set is the same, and the Minnesota jurisdiction for alcohol is very attractive,” Frape said. Starting with distilling craft bitters made sense in his hometown, because they are not regulated or taxed in the same way, making them profitable on a small scale while he built his company’s home base.

With a name like bitters you would think it a tough sell outside of the elite cocktail-sipping fancy-pants crowd. Nonetheless, Frape has managed to take a craft attitude into this endeavor that appeals to people who are only just learning about bitters.

Distilling their own alcohol bases by hand with molasses from Ontario sugar refineries, local fruit and local grains, bitters are typically used judicially in mixed drinks, like a Manhattan. Under Frape’s influence, bitters are being used as flavorings beyond cocktails to infused butters, sauces and marinades. Think of bitters flavored with jaleapeno, basil, rosemary, oregano, garlic or lime.

Marking their three-year anniversary earlier this year, F&S celebrated with a move to larger production facilities and the addition of a retail store in Thunder Bay.

Firm plans are in place to not only bring his brand into Minnesota, but to expand operations exponentially, something that Frape says is literally a mandate of the company’s investors.

Frape came to Grand Marais looking for a reprieve from taxes.

“But now I’ve really started falling in love with the place, and found that every area is rich in its own history,” Frape said. Establishing an alcohol distillery in Grand Marais will add four new product categories to the F&S line-up: whiskey, gin, bourbon and liqueurs.

Small distillers in Ontario have to pay 80 cents of tax on every dollar, whereas in Minnesota they are taxed at the rate of 14 cents per dollar. Not considered a beverage alcohol, bitters are exempt from excise taxes. Though they do contain around 40 percent alcohol, that alcohol is considered a preservative, and therefore a non-beverage.

Calling himself “a recovering public accountant,” Frape spent his previous career working in the corporate tax accounting world. In 2014, he turned his distilling hobby into a business, one that he feels will keep him interested for the rest of his life.

“Doing corporate tax work for the rest of my life seemed like a way to die. Distilling holds the possibility of endless experimental variation, and I will not run out of experiments to do in my lifetime,” Frape stated.

Calling the whiskey program in Minnesota “the long play,” Frape says this is where his two young boys, ages 6 and 4, come into the “and Sons.” moniker. Planning an alderwood-smoked single malt in tribute to the North Shore tradition of alderwood-smoked fish, the whiskey barrel-aged programs will be set for eight and 12 years.

Gin, barrel-aged bourbon and liqueurs will also be produced at the Grand Marais facility. In the mix with every spirit he produces is Frape’s enthusiasm for creating unique flavors.

“We want to impart a sense of place in all our products, to tell a story using botanicals and local fruits,” Frape said. Sometimes subtle, other times bold, but always with the word “play” in the process, F&S flavors range from high bush cranberry liqueur to rhubarb with orange bitters.

In the works is a land deal in Grand Marais, and Frape says it is looking hopeful they will acquire commercial property located on the corner of Highway 61 and the Gunflint Trail by next spring.

Already established as a “C” corporation in Minnesota, Frape admits that crossing the border has been more complicated than he anticipated. However, as a show of good faith he has already ordered the production still for the new facility to be delivered to Grand Marais next spring. Manufactured in a 100-year-old factory in Louisville, Kentucky, the still’s rectifying columns will stand 30 feet tall, requiring the structure to be built around it.

While test runs of the new F&S spirits are not likely before the fall of 2018, back in Thunder Bay their head distiller is already working out recipes to produce to scale at the new distillery.

Currently selling through distributors in Houston, New York City and southern Minnesota, F&S is gaining a presence in locations dotting the North Shore and in Duluth. In tier one of his American business plan, Frape is hoping to secure distribution to 600 liquor stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The new facility plan calls for 10 people to work in the distillery, two in the retail store and 15 in the cocktail bar and restaurant. Split approximately into thirds, the 7,200-square-foot building will house production and storage, the retail store, and restaurant/bar on the first floor, and offices in the upper story.

To get operations up and running, key Canadian employees will work in Grand Marais under NAFTA professional visas as marketing, logistics, communication and food safety technologists.

The restaurant will showcase culinary and beverage creative efforts, with a complimentary menu of food and drink pairings, and what Frape terms “an avant garde cocktail program.” Working with seasonally available ingredients, interesting techniques will include playing with bitters as a finishing agent, such as finishing a lamb shoulder with coconut and rosemary bitters, glazed bar nuts with bitters in the glaze, and compound butters flavored with bitters.

Frape will be managing the new business by traveling with an E-2 investor visa, but permanent long distance commuting is not appealing to him, and he admits he is contemplating taking up residence south of the border.

He has no doubts that the time is right for F&S products to be well received in Minnesota.

“I find that the craft industry in Minnesota is more mature, and consumers there are five to 10 years ahead in their appreciation of spirits, cocktails and craft libations,” Frape said.

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  • Learn to Dance!

    01/30/2018
    07:15PM — 09:00PM

    Learn to waltz, two-step, foxtrot, and swing dance. Tuesdays at the 4-H Building, 7:15 to 9:00 PM...


  • The 100DayProject

    01/31/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    01/31/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    01/31/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Gentle Yoga at Cobblestone

    01/31/2018
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    For all with health concerns such as arthritis, high blood pressure, pregnancy or those who just ...


  • First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, inviting community conversation… Aging...


  • 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine

    01/31/2018
    11:00AM

    1/2 Price Bottles of Wine


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    01/31/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Creamy Chicken Casserole/Broccoli/Fruit/Milk


  • Women's Yoga at Cobblestone Cabins

    01/31/2018
    05:15PM — 07:00PM

    Continuing class for all women interested in Iyengar Yoga. Walk-ins allowed with permission from ...


  • Beginning Spanish

    01/31/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31, & February 7, 2018 | 5:30PM-7PM START LEARNING SPANISH or HELP REGAIN LOS...


  • Beginning Spanish

    01/31/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31 and February 7th on Wednesdays 5:30-7pm Focus on vacation and travel languag...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    01/31/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/01/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/01/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/01/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch At the Senior Center

    02/01/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Meatloaf/Baked Potato/Peas/Dessert/Milk


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    02/01/2018
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Film Night at North House

    02/01/2018
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Winter Series returns every Thursday in February at North House with film nights. We’ll revisit f...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/01/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/02/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/02/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/02/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/02/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Brats/Sauerkraut/Mash Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/02/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Brats/Sauerkraut/Mash Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • Friday Night Reels

    02/02/2018
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Friday nights from January 5 to March 9, the library is transformed into a Free-Admission movie t...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/03/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/03/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/03/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Voyageur Brewing Company Brewery Tour

    02/03/2018
    11:30AM — 12:30PM

    We offer tours on most Saturdays beginning at 11:30am but you need to reserve your space online i...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/03/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/04/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/04/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/04/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    02/04/2018
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/05/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/05/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/05/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Band Instrument Drive

    02/05/2018
    08:00AM

    The Cook County School band is looking to expand our program and include all 5th graders. Current...


  • 1/2 Price Burgers!

    02/05/2018
    11:00AM — 09:00PM

    1/2 Price Burgers at Moguls Grille and Tap Room


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/05/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Sloppy Joes/Baked Beans/Coleslaw/Fruit/Milk


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    02/05/2018
    04:15PM — 05:15PM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    02/05/2018
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/05/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/06/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/06/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/06/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Story Time at the Library

    02/06/2018
    10:30AM — 11:15AM

    Every Tuesday, January 9-February 27, story times are open to all ages and feature songs and othe...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/06/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Soup/Sandwich/Dessert/Milk


  • Bible Prophecy

    02/06/2018
    04:00PM — 05:30PM

    National and International speakers presented by DVD. The DVDs will be shown at the Community Ce...


  • Kids Eat Free

    02/06/2018
    04:00PM — 09:00PM

    1 free kids meal with any paid adult meal Available after 4pm


  • Colvill All-Levels Yoga

    02/06/2018
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    Join us for yoga. Vinyasa-style yoga set to world music. Come rest your mind and energize your ...


  • Men's Yoga at Cobblestone Cabins

    02/06/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    Iyengar style yoga class for men interested in a well rounded yoga practice.


  • Intro/Beginning Iyengar Yoga at Cobblestone

    02/06/2018
    07:05PM — 08:20PM

    Class suited for introductory or beginning students. The basics of Iyengar style yoga will be tau...


  • Learn to Dance!

    02/06/2018
    07:15PM — 09:00PM

    Learn to waltz, two-step, foxtrot, and swing dance. Tuesdays at the 4-H Building, 7:15 to 9:00 PM...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/07/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/07/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/07/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    02/07/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Gentle Yoga at Cobblestone

    02/07/2018
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    For all with health concerns such as arthritis, high blood pressure, pregnancy or those who just ...


  • 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine

    02/07/2018
    11:00AM

    1/2 Price Bottles of Wine


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/07/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Chef's Salad/Fruit/Dessert/Milk


  • Women's Yoga at Cobblestone Cabins

    02/07/2018
    05:15PM — 07:00PM

    Continuing class for all women interested in Iyengar Yoga. Walk-ins allowed with permission from ...


  • Beginning Spanish

    02/07/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31, & February 7, 2018 | 5:30PM-7PM START LEARNING SPANISH or HELP REGAIN LOS...


  • Beginning Spanish

    02/07/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31 and February 7th on Wednesdays 5:30-7pm Focus on vacation and travel languag...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/07/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/08/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/08/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/08/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/08/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Baked Chicken/Steamed Cabbage/Potato/Fruit/Milk


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    02/08/2018
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Film Night at North House

    02/08/2018
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Winter Series returns every Thursday in February at North House with film nights. We’ll revisit f...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/08/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...