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Discovering Distilling at Craft Beverages Unlimited

Craft Beverages Unlimited 2015 in Richmond  offered a Distilling Session presented by Bill Owens from the American Distilling Institute and Mike Rasmussen from Painted Stave Distilling in Delaware.

Bill Owens, American Distilling Institute

Bill Owens, American Distilling Institute

Bill Owen’s presentation consisted of showing photos of a variety of distilling operations in the United States. Bill included small and large distilleries. When he showed a Copperworks Distilling photo he noted that “these guys know what they are doing.” Another distillery had started making beer in bourbon barrels. Another used copper stills from the 1940’s. Not all of Bill’s comments were complimentary as with one photo he noted that it was a “Mickey Mouse still.”

Bill is convinced that efficiency at a distillery is essential. That includes a distillery having the equipment large enough to make a quantity of spirits. According to Bill, “It’s all about efficiency.”

Mike Rasmussen started in the spirit industry eight years ago. The first thing he did was go to

Mike Rasamussen pouring Craft Beverages Unlimited

Mike Rasmussen at Craft Beverages Unlimited

Bill’s website, American Distilling Institute. Mike noted that it took eight months to get his equipment.

Today Painted Stave Distilling is located in the Old Smyrna Theater and using 2,000 square feet for the production area. His equipment included a 250-gallon hybrid pot still with a four plate column-rectification column-gin basket. He also has a 60-gallon experimental still that is able to be configure to multiple uses. He has a 500-gallon mashing tun plus grain milling. Mike’s presentation included a description of the production process.

Mike talked about the partnerships he has formed for Painted Stave Distilling including Harvest Ridge Winery  for fruit wine, pomace and barrels. Other partnerships included craft breweries for barrel sharing, grain sources and product and cocktail development. Finally, he mentioned state and county tourism including beer, wine and sprits trail, Good Libations Tours and festivals.

Later in his talk Mike talked about the important of Sales and Marketing and he mentioned how important it is to have a tasting room. One of his last comments was, “For most people, spirits are magic in that bottle.”

After the morning sessions, the attendees went to the Trade Show where a lunch was also provided.

Soon it was time to leave for a group visit to two local spirit makers.  Both are relatively new. The first one is producing vodka with potatoes. Owner Paul McCann, make a Vodka called Cirrus. The producer is able to use all kinds of potatoes including sweet potatoes. When fresh potatoes are not available, he uses potato flakes. Currently the distillery has stainless steel fermenters, steel columns and a bottling line. Plans are to purchase more equipment as needed.

After our first visit, we went to another nearby distillery, James River Distillery. Originally, the old 1940s brick building was used as a boiler room. It was converted to a vodka facility and the current owners purchased it and renovated  it. Dwight Chew, distiller, is enthusiastic and creative in his approach to making gin. He hopes in five years to add whisky to his line products.

After returning to the convention center we had time for a short tasting of spirits in the trade show area.

Late conference attendees were invited to visit the Capital Ale House where a special evening had been planned. It was set up for seven prepared appetizers. Each appetizer was paired with a wine, beer and spirits selection. The best pairing would be selected as the winner. The concept was great and the idea could be used any time.

Soon it was time to return to our hotel and prepare for the second day of the Craft Beverages Unlimited 2015.



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