Adding craft liquor production to your brewery

Sponsored by American Beer Equipment thanks the following Brewstillery content contributors:
Brandon Wright, The Depot Brewery & Distillery
Clark McCool, McMenamins Inc.
Yusuf Cherney. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits (Now CutWater Spirits)
Eric Howard, Sinister Deluxe Brewery & Distillery

Making craft liquors is a market opportunity that could be a logical ‘brand extension’ to your craft beer offerings. Craft distillers report significant opportunities for ‘cross-branding’ between their beer and liquor products. Because you may already have most of the equipment, ingredients, and knowledge needed to produce craft spirits, the profit opportunities are boundless.

Contributor Question (CQ) – What made you decide to add spirits to your production?

Brandon Wright: “The most compelling reason is because craft distilling is a new frontier. We were operating in a new legal environment in Nevada and that opened the door. Once we put the pen to paper and realized that we could pull it off and the redundancies that exist between the two disciplines and the equipment needed, the decision was easy. Over the last few years, I had been noticing and was intrigued by the craft distillery industry. Already being a professional brewer for almost a decade, the more I learned about the science the more I was intrigued. It added an element of excitement for me and I hoped it would do the same for our customers.”

Clark McCool: “We opened our first Distillery at Edgefield in 1998. Mike and Brian McMenamin were at the forefront of craft brewing in Oregon and the Edgefield Brewery(1991) was and still is the largest production brewery in our company. We also operate a 25,000 case winery at Edgefield (1990) so it was a natural progression of ideas that led to the idea of a distillery at Edgefield. To my knowledge Edgefield is the only property that has a working commercial Brewery, Winery and Distillery, all located within a few hundred feet of one another and run by the same company.”

Eric Howard: “We were looking more at just doing a distillery. Since we needed all the brewing equipment anyway, we decided to do both.”

Yusuf Cherney: “Started 9 years ago, one of the first. It seemed it was the new frontier.”

Since almost all liquors are produced by the distillation of an 8 – 10% ABV ‘beer’, this process requires little additional equipment, other than a still, to produce great liquor in your brewery.
Modern brewery equipment can produce very clean worts; which are easy to distill and will mature quickly (traditionally the distillery wort was not boiled and after mashing there was no wort-separation, so the spent grain was included in the fermentation adding harsh flavor components which needed to be aged out).