When Middle West Spirits released its flagship vodka July 1, bottles flew off the shelves.

When Middle West Spirits released its flagship vodka July 1, bottles flew off the shelves.

During launch week, co-founders Ryan Lang and Brady Konya were making daily trips to state warehouses, reclaiming cases otherwise bound for liquor stores to replenish their own supply. The Short North distillery received a special license to sell bottles from its storefront, and people wasted no time heading over to get one in person.

"You never really know what's going to happen until the product is out in the public domain," Konya said. "The first couple of weeks were pretty overwhelming. It was really validating."

Middle West is the state's only commercially scaled micro-distillery, and the company has worked to introduce Ohioans to small-batch, hand-crafted booze. Initial label Oyo is made from top-shelf local ingredients through meticulous refinement, and it's built to compete with ultra-premium vodkas like Ciroc.

Even in a city of great ideas, the launch of the local micro-spirits industry was something truly unique.

Oyo is now available in about 50 state liquor agencies, and Columbus bars have started using it to create cocktails. Mouton sells an Oyo-fueled take on the Moscow Mule, while Alana's Food & Wine serves one known as an Ohio Cream Soda.

Lang and Konya expect to have a seasonal infusion ready in time for the holiday season. Lang, who handles the distilling, has also started experimenting with white whiskey and barrel-aging.

"Hopefully by the middle of next year we should have in our portfolio about five or six good products," he said. "We're hoping to have a few infusions out that really scream Ohio."

Beyond the bottle, the Middle West masterminds hope to encourage the artisan spirits industry and to develop a proactive, eco-friendly urban manufacturing community.

"There is a value to having a strong relationship between the brewing, the vinting and the distilling [industries] outside of just tourism," said Konya, who added that a local meadery and several local breweries have expressed interest in their neighborhood.

Lang and Konya insist that Oyo was only the beginning.

"This is the time when it starts getting fun and interesting," Konya said. "I can't tell you how long the list is of potential directions that Middle West could go. It almost makes your head hurt."