At one time it was called moonshine and you’d get in a lot of trouble for brewing it. Now, with Federal regulations being standardized and state regs starting to be relaxed, craft distilleries are popping up everywhere.
What is Craft Distilling?
Also called Micro or Boutique Distilleries, these small producers of spirits are popping up everywhere. Unlike the larger, established distilleries, these smaller-batch producers are more hands-on in every aspect of the process from ingredient selection to fermenting, distilling, ageing and bottling along with sometimes even growing and harvesting their own ingredients.
Where Can You Find Them
Washington State leads the way with about 80 distilleries with Colorado coming in second with more than 50 and Michigan bringing up third with 40 or so. As other states relax their rules and regulations you can expect one near you, wherever you are.
Woodville Whiskey Co is tops in Washington State, producing Whiskey, Vodka and Bourbon lines. The Glass Distillery in Seattle makes a grape-based Vodka while Dry Fly, the first distillery in the state of Washington since prohibition makes a gin, a wheat whisky and a vodka.
In Colorado, Stranahans is known as the State’s “First-born Whisky,” and is in high demand as only 12 barrels a week are produced. In Crested Butte, the Montanya Distillers make what they call fine aged, high altitude rums in a female owned and female distilled process. They use only Colorado mountain water, yeast, sugar cane and a tiny touch of Colorado mountain honey that they caramelize themselves.
Red Cedar Spirits is said to be the largest distillery in Michigan and they produce Vodka, Gin, Corn Whisky, Bourbon Whiskey and Apple Brandy. Coppercraft Distillery also of Michigan produces Gin, Rum, Vodka, several whiskeys and something called Applejack.
They’re Number One
At the Thrillist.com a website obsessed with “everything that’s worth caring about in food, drink and travel” they put together a distinguished panel of 15 drink and cocktail writers to rate the nation’s craft distilleries. The winner by a landslide was St George Spirits of Alameda, California. At St. George they put out 3 varieties of Gin along with Absinthe, Rum, Single malt Whiskey and Bourbon, along with Fruit Brandies, Fruit Liqueurs and a coffee liqueur. They are also into experimentation at St. George. They have a “Flights of Fancy” category, which includes distilling oysters, Dungeness crab, seaweed and even their own Christmas tree. None of these may actually make it into a bottle but you have to give them a hand for trying.
Serious About Their Craft
The American Distilling Institute is one of the major trade groups dedicated to the industry. Another trade group, The American Craft Spirits Association, is a registered, non-profit, trade association representing the craft Spirit industry and was created to protect the craft spirits producers in the U.S. Their code of ethics is “to operate in an honest, transparent and non-deceptive fashion. They inform consumers truthfully and accurately about the sources and methods used to make their spirits through their labels, materials and communications.”