Saturday, September 22, 2012

New Columbia Distillery, A Committee Visit

On Saturday I went over to DC's first legal distillery since prohibition, New Columbia Distillery. The distillery is operated by Michael and John, a father-in-law and son-in-law team.  I arrived around 10 a.m. and the guys already had the still going.  Right now they are only making gin, and though none is available yet. They are experimenting with their still and making sure they get the flavor profile they want.  Michael and John welcomed me and and gave me a quick run down of the operation.  They are mashing on Mondays and Tuesdays; they're currently using wheat as their grain for the gin.  Fermentation takes 5 or 6 days and if I understood correctly, they run the beer through the still twice to get it to proof, add botanicals and water and run it one last time.  It's a time and labor intensive process, but I got to put my finger in the still's output and I can tell you that the gin tasted pretty damn good.*

The New Columbia still
They've got a 450 liter still with two columns they can turn off and on.  One of the columns has 10 adjustable plates, which allows them to get the proof up high enough to make gin.  They've got two fermentation tanks as well as a mash tank.  It's a small operation, but it looks like it is set up for efficiency.

Michael and John have plans for a Maryland style rye in the future, but as is the case with a lot craft distilleries, they're gonna keep the rent paid with their gin.  Both guys are legitimate gin "guys."  They aren't making it simply to get some revenue--though that's part of it--they both drink gin regularly and have a sense of what they want the gin to taste like.  I liked how they  joked about vodka and how boring it is--I suggested they could copy Van Gogh and  make a PB&J flavored vodka.  We all chuckled.  You know, cause vodka's bullshit.

I spent a little over an hour with the guys and I helped them bottle a test batch of the gin.  Bottling is a time intensive process, especially with just three guys.  You gotta put the labels on, fill the bottle, then cork it, and finish it by writing the proof and batch number on the bottle.  When you see one of these bottles on the shelf, you'll know that it was bottled with care by hand.  I think we did 6 or 8 cases of gin.

I'm excited to see what Michael and John come up with. I'm even more excited to taste the forthcoming rye. If you're in the DC area, look for this one on the shelves soon.

* I don't drink very much gin so YMMV.

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