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  1. #11
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    I tend to side with Chuck. If I hear the description artisan I think of "home-made from scratch" not assembled out of semi finished parts. Locally Stranahan's in Denver started off buying their malt from Flying Dog but now that FD has gone back east they are buying from Oskar Blue here in the Longmont area.
    Dane
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  2. #12
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    To me the distinction between micro and craft/artisan is muddled.

    Micro is a term used in regards to operational size.

    Craft or artisan is a trade that can be applied to any level or business operation, big or small. There is an association that “craft” or “artisan” also necessarily means small and of highest quality. I think this is a fallacy. Why is it assumed that if someone is distilling spirits on a small scale that it all has to be better than what is done on the large scale?

    Distilling is a craft that you or I could start to employ after reading a book and purchasing a cheap still (although it's currently illegal). The level of our craft would, however, certainly be suspect. The method of distilling alcohol is not very difficult. The craft is what determines the quality.

    Microdistiller's products are on the same playing field as the big distillers. If they are not good it doesn't really matter if they call themselves "craft" or "artisan", does it?

    The terms “Craft” and “artisan” are generally associated with a certain level of proficiency and should be applied across the board in discussions of the quality of the whiskey or the processes used. In the end, good whiskey is good whiskey.


    Greg
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  3. #13
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    Some people wish to sample or be associated in some way with the products of a micro-level enterprise and regard quality as a relative thing. (Apparently the term microbrewery inspired the term "micro" in other beverage operations but the term itself derives from microprocessor, since small-scale brewing and early developments in the semi-conductor and computer hardware industries were more or less parallel on the West Coast 20-30 years ago).

    For example, some people find it interesting to sample the products of a Colorado small distillery which makes malt whisky aged in new charred barrels. Is it a quality product? Certainly it is different from anything out there today, some like it, some probably do not. It is different and distinctive because it is the vision of one person or small team. Just like Dane once told me and very properly, the whole idea of a single barrel is its specificity, its uniqueness. All the liquor we are talking about has quality in the sense of being palatable and safe to consume; after that it is a question of individual preference.

    The whole idea of slow food and craft wineries similarly is based on small scale production to achieve hopefully a unique profile. Sometimes this is questionable as the mondo vino controversy shows, but still, it is without doubt I think that the more producers there are and the more smaller ones, the more individuality of palate you will get.

    No doubt I won't like some of the emerging products of the small distillers just like I don't like some of the products of the big ones, but I find them a welcome development just as small-scale brewing was, ultimately. In other words, a wide range of flavors ultimately emerged as opposed to the mass production lager taste that resulted from industrial developments and industry consolidation.

    I can't count the bad beers I had in its early days (and I still run into some!) but the rewards outweighed the risks.

    The parallel to the bourbon indutsry is not 100% but undeniably there has been to some degree a uniformisation of bourbon palate since the restoration of the industry in 1933. The development of small-scale distilling will ultimately restore a broader range of flavors and bourbon styles.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 09-11-2008 at 15:07.

  4. #14
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    To me, the crux of the issue is that people want to know what they're buying and they want what they are told about the product and how it is made to be true. Even trying to hold some of these new distillers to that minimum standard of simple honest dealing gets pushback.

  5. #15
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    I'm a little confused, Chuck. Up-thread you said that one distillery makes it's own malt. Which one. As Dane said Stranahan's use to buy their malt from FD. but now buy from Oskar Blue. The program I saw on the Discovery Channel showed how FD fermented the mash bill as per Stranahan's specs, or supposed specs, and piped it overhead between the two buildings. Is Stranahan's now buying just the malted barley and fermenting their own mash or are they buying wash from Oskar Blue and having it trucked in?

  6. #16
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    Quote Originally Posted by cowdery View Post
    To me, the crux of the issue is that people want to know what they're buying and they want what they are told about the product and how it is made to be true. Even trying to hold some of these new distillers to that minimum standard of simple honest dealing gets pushback.
    Isn't the minimum standard the government regulations?
    "That rug really tied the room together" -- Jeffery Lebowski

  7. #17
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    Quote Originally Posted by NorCalBoozer View Post
    Isn't the minimum standard the government regulations?
    I guess you're right. My standard is higher than the government's.

    Rick Wasmund, at Copper Fox, in Virginia, makes his own malt.

    Stranahan's is getting its wash from Oskar Blue, which is not right next door, so presumably they're shipping it in some kind of containers. Maybe tankers, but I doubt they use that much. Probably some kind of plastic or stainless tank, maybe 50 gallons, maybe more. I don't know. I don't think it's a big deal. They don't need to be next door.

    It just occurred to me that with these stills, because they are batch, you don't need a beer heater. It probably doesn't matter what temp your beer is when it goes into the still, as it does in a continuous still.
    Last edited by cowdery; 09-11-2008 at 16:55.

  8. #18
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    To me this issue too is (within reason) all relative.

    No brewer today (or virtually none) malts its own barley, much less raises its own barley. Almost no brewer grows his own hops. Some brewers lease their property, some own it. Some own their own equipment, some lease it on finance.

    All buy malt and hops from around the world. If one buys wort from a fellow brewer because it is more cost efficient for him to do so, or brews at a borrowed brewery, to me this is as much craft as any other way of being a brewer. Sam Adams lager is a fine craft beer - some is contract brewed.

    To put it a different way: if a brewer makes his own malt extract and brews beer from it, I'd say he is a less authentic brewer than one who brings in wort from soneone with overcapacity.

    Gary

  9. #19
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    My reason for bringing up something like malting is that if you say you're "craft," shouldn't you do more of that sort of thing than the industrial producers do, rather than less? Otherwise, what's the point?

  10. #20
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    Re: A question for craft distillers? Where's the craft?

    Ideally you should, yes. But a fine and distinctive product can result short of this. In the bourbon context, since aging is such a big part of the process, even someone who buys commercial white dog and ages the product in its own warehouse may well end up with a distinctive product, as will an actual distiller who might, say, specify use of a specific yeast for a mash made off-site or even just specify the mashbill. If one adds the possibility of mingling products of different distilleries, once again the chances of a distinctive and even unique product resulting are greatly increasing.

    I regard Templeton's current product for example as a craft product, it doesn't taste like anything else in the market. However made and aged exactly, it is a craft product to a certain degree.

    KBD is not a distiller certainly but issues some fine and distinctive products. That is an example at the periphery of what I am speaking of but serves to make the point I think. But make no mistake: I am all for as many functions being performed as possible by the distiller; still, that is a sufficient but not necessary condition to making a craft product one might say.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 09-11-2008 at 22:19.

 

 

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