Distilling with your Brewery

Brent Ryan Master Distiller Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling

What even is distilling… and how are brewers doing it? Co-founder, Master Distiller and all around good-guy Brent Ryan breaks it down by six simple areas of overlap.

First, you gotta know the facts. Distilling is the process of fermenting a liquid solution of sugar with yeast to create alcohol. By boiling this slowly, you evaporate the alcohol and condense it back to a liquid form.

What makes distillation overlap so closely with brewing is that fermentation/heating/cooling process. Brent helps us look at this commonalities step by step…

  1. A brewery is already set up to handle many of the elements needed for a distilling operation.

    • Open spaces for production

    • Drainage systems

    • Barrel/finished product warehousing

    • Shipping & receiving

    • Industrial finishes

    • Regulatory considerations

  2. The mechanical heart of a distillery is very similar to that of a brewery.

    • Steam

    • Glycol

    • Domestic and processed water piping & storage

    • Recycling & conservation opportunities

    • Advantages brewers have over start up distilleries

  3. Your existing brewing equipment is often not only functional in a distillery, but can be superior.

    • Fermentors

    • Brewhouse

    • Pumps & hoses

    • Clean in place

    • Sanitary considerations

  4. As brewers, you already know more about fermentation than a lot of distillers.

    • Fermentation times, curves, yeast & temps.

    • Mashing & lautering (Scotch Whiskey technique)

    • Ingredient sources

    • Aging

    • Sanity considerations

  5. Some things breweries will need to address…

    • Stills

    • Mash cooler/pumps (certain fermentables)

    • Fermentation capacity

    • Explosion proof pumps

    • Bottle filling equipment

    • Stillage/BOD/TSS

    • Water usage/cooling

    • Small community (home distilling is illegal in the U.S.)

  6. While generally regulated by the same entities, distilleries follow different rules than breweries.

    • Bonded areas

    • Tax reporting

    • Control states

    • Retail limitations

    • Labeling & marketing

    • Alcohol measurement

    • Fire suppression