Brewers in the Stillhouse, Part 1

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Recently, our neighbors over at Wyoming Whiskey were kind enough to extend an invitation to “brew” up our own custom Snake River Malt Whiskey.  They are the first ever “legal” distillery in Wyoming. We considered their proposal for about one nanosecond before accepting! Now, as a restaurant, we had already signed up for their  private barreling program. We are still awaiting the release of our very own barrel “#22” Wyoming Whiskey Bourbon. (22 is the county code on the Wyo license plate for Teton County)

Barrel 22 of Wyoming Whiskey Bourbon reserved for Snake River Brewing. Release date: ???

 

This project however was different: we brought our own brewer’s malt (Weyermann’s finest) and our brewer’s yeast to make the distiller’s beer that will become our very own all-malt whiskey. As you may know, bourbon making requires a corn mash. At Wyoming Whiskey, Master Distiller Steve Nally uses Wyoming-grown corn, wheat and barley for a true “loca-hol” concoction. While ours might struggle for a designation, we thought it would be interesting to make an unhopped version of a beer we’d probably like to drink and see what the resulting distillate might taste like. Not exactly a scotch, not a bourbon, but a beer brewer’s all-malt whiskey.

Weyermann of Germany has a distinctive "W M" logo.

 

Cosmic Coincidence: Wyoming Whiskey has a distinctive "WW" logo!

This endeavor took place over two road trips: first to brew up our distiller’s beer and then after a five day fermentation back again for the distillation. Cory, Auggie, Tim and I headed over in two vehicles with Cory and I getting caught in a nasty blizzard over Togwotee pass followed by a reprise of sideways blowing snow through the Wind River Canyon. People like to refer to sparsely populated Wyoming as one big town with a really long Main Street, which is kinda true except when the crosswinds are 60 mph and the vis is barely out to the hood of your car, then it’s a REALLY long Main Street! Our arrival pushed the Kirby, Wyoming population from 57 to 61 for two days.

Tallest building in Kirby

Speaking of the small world factor,  it’s remarkable how many tie-ins this collaboration has. First of all, our brewery spent grain in Jackson goes to the Mead Ranch of Brad and Kate Mead, co-founders of Wyoming Whiskey. Brad’s family is not “originally” from Wyoming, but you’d have to go back 4 generations before you find someone who isn’t from here! He is a  rancher, attorney and brother of our current Governor. Kate is a lawyer herself and a School Board member here in Jackson.Their natural beef  herd dines on our delicious leftovers. Co-founder David Defazio is COO of Wyoming Whiskey and consistently voted Jackson Hole’s best lawyer in the Jackson Hole Weekly’s annual “best of” poll.  This “cabal” (insert lawyer jokes here) has been conspicuous in their patronage of our Brewpub. I’ve pretty much decided for myself that their ambition to open a distillery was fueled by several to many pints of Snake River Beer. (I could be wrong…)

Jake from WW runs the show under Big Steve and he guided us through the process

 

Cory from SRB prepping for the mash in

 

Their steam heated Mash mixer gave us options to protein rest and step infuse that we don't get in our brewery. We had to quickly devise a program and then we let'r rip!

 

"Little" Steve runs the cooker.

Steve preps the fermenter that will hold our "beer". He hasn't fallen in...yet!

As the "wort"(?) pumps over to the fermenter, Cory pitches the brewer's yeast the old fashioned way! Yep, open fermenters in the distillery. Don't ask me how I know this, but flavor compounds from the yeast do seem to have a carry over affect in the distilled product. We expect our beer yeast to have different flavors from the distiller's yeast that WW uses.

To be Continued…

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