Brewed, Tapped and Bottled
Drinking in the valley’s local liquid experts.
JACKSON HOLE, WY – An alcoholic beverage not only compliments a great meal—whether a quick lunch or fine dining—but it can make or break a repast.
Craft brewers numbers continue to balloon. Double-digit growth in small and independent breweries is fueling the economy and taking a bite out of the traditional heavyweights like Anheuser Busch. Small breweries now represent 12 percent of the total beer market industry. According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers produced 24.5 million barrels in 2015, and saw a 13 percent rise in volume with a 16 percent increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at $22.3 billion; that’s 21 a percent market share.
Craft distilleries are also growing fast. Market Watch Magazine reported 60 craft spirits makers in 2003. That number is now estimated at 760 with an estimated 200 more currently in construction.
The nationwide popularity of both brews and hard liquor has not escaped Jackson Hole. From small- to medium-sized canner and bottlers to restaurant amenity add ons, valley beer vats and stills are popping up all over. We’ve rounded up the regional players in the exploding world of breweries and distilleries and asked them what they’re most proud of and what makes them unique.
Melvin Brewing (Thai Me Up)
Jeremy Tofte, Backseat Brewer/Field Hoperative
Recent awards, distinctions?
We are the current Great American Brewing Festival Small Brewpub of the Year. There are a couple thousand more breweries these days, so it’s been an honor to have this award all year and we hope to repeat again this October.
After getting Second our first time entering last year in the National IPA Challenge, we were determined to win this year. It’s a super competitive competition with brewers from around the country duking it out. We won with Drunken Master.
We won the important medal with the most entries (ie, most competitive) with our Morris IPA in the North American Brewers Association. After winning 6th best brewery last year in the US Open of Beer, this year we won 2nd best brewery and got 3 golds and a bronze.
The World Beer Cup is a black-tie event put on every two years. This year it was in Philly and Japan’s breweries totally destroyed the rest of the world. We got silver for our Carlton Black IPA.
The ninja ingredient?
All our hops come from Yakima Valley (as do most hops in the US) and the grain is delivered from Twin Falls. We are going to Yakima Sept 22nd to select our fields of hops.
How is Alpine brewery going?
It’s going good beyond belief. We are growing at a clip that we kind of expected, but were not totally sure about. We just ordered an upgraded brewing system that will be delivered in eight months. It will allow us to brew 500 kegs a day instead of the current 120. We have an architect looking into where to put a second building so things are moving along. The Melvin crew down in Alpine, led by Brewer Dave Chichura, is amazing.
Grand Teton Brewing
Rob Mullin, Brewmaster and COO
Recent awards, distinctions?
We’ve won several awards in the last few weeks, including wins at the North American Beer Awards (NABA) and US Open Beer Tasting Championships. Our Cellar Reserve Series continued its years-long run of recognition. This collection of rotating and one-off beers designed to be cellared like good wines won gold at NABA for Gose and gold at the US Open for Black Cauldron Imperial Stout.
We’re pretty happy with our local ingredients. About 95 percent of the barley we use is grown and processed within 100 miles of the brewery—some of it grown right here in Teton Valley. About two-thirds of our hops are raised by four or five family farmers in Southern Idaho. We know them by name and look forward to visiting them every year during harvest.
We’re also quite proud of our Teton Valley water and think it helps make this the best place on Earth to craft beer. It’s Teton Mountain glacial runoff, filtered through Teton granite and limestone over the course of 300 to 500 years before coming up at a spring just down the road from the brewery. Our water is pure, clean, slightly sweet, with mineral makeup similar to Munich’s water.
Our two most popular beers are Ale 208, an all-Idaho golden session ale, and Sweetgrass APA. Ale 208 is brewed with Southeastern Idaho two-row barley and Southern Idaho Galena and Bravo hops. It’s light, crisp and refreshing, with a pleasant citrus finish. Sweetgrass American Pale Ale is crisp and fragrant with a grapefruity aroma and finish. It’s also brewed with Southeastern Idaho barley and an assortment of Southern Idaho citrusy hops. Teton Amber is our bestseller in and around Jackson. It was the original Jackson Hole craft beer, brewed in Wilson starting in 1989, when our brewery was known as Otto Brothers’ Brewing.
Q Roadhouse & Brewing Co.
Kendra Alessandro,director of communications
Recent awards, distinctions?
At the North American Brewers Awards we received a gold medal for “Avarice and Greed” and a bronze for “Sacred Brett.” Avarice and Greed scored gold at the US Open Beer Championship, while Innocent and Pure brought home the silver.
We’re fortunate to live in an area with great water. We use this water in our brewing and also source some of our grains through Mead Ranch.
Tell us about the expansion on Gregory Lane.
We are currently building a production facility south of town to allow us to bottle our Roadhouse beer for distribution and to allow space for other projects, including distribution of our Cream + Sugar ice cream and Blind Butcher sausage products. This facility will give us the space to make distribution possible, while also providing kitchen space for us to try out new things and get creative outside the restaurant setting.
What brews do you anticipate being your signature beers?
Family Vacation, Avarice and Greed, Rhombus and Trout Whistle are the brews we are planning to begin distribution with.
Snake River Brewing
Krissy Zinski Albert
Our summertime Hoback Hefe is considered a flagship brew. People love it so much and we are hoping to start canning that in the next year or two. We also made a specialty GOSE this year with hibiscus that we hope to brew a few more times. We also starting canning Pakitos this winter—a session IPA that has been a wonderful summer beer.
Recent awards, distinctions?
Lots of awards so far this summer. At the Mountain Brewers Festival in Idaho Falls we got awards for Hefe, Speargun (coffee milk stout), and 90 Day Wonder. At a canned beer fest in Arizona, Zonker stout, Jenny Lake Lager also scored. Hefe won at the Laramie Brew Fest and Zonker Stout took honors in the Lander event.
We try to be as local as possible. All of our base grain come from Pocatello, ID. We now get our cans from Worland, WY instead of the pacific northwest. There are no hops to source from Wyoming so most come from the west coast. Our water is fresh from the Tetons.
Wildlife Brewing was founded in 2003. The craft brewer began selling growlers with their takeout pizza in 2006. Barrel production (20 tanks) was added in 2010, and the brewery began canning distribution in 2015.
Recent awards, distinctions?
Wildlife scored bronze at the 2013 North American Brewers Association for their Screamin’ Eagle American Ale. The Teton Valley brewery also brought home a gold in 2012 at the same expo for their Ale Slinger IPA.
The most popular beer with locals is the Point It! pale ale. It’s not your standard pale. It has more body and mouth feel than regular pales, with focus on a big malty profile and a more hoppy finish. The brewery’s flagship beer is the Mighty Bison Brown Ale. It’s a dark American brown ale that is malty and complex with a hoppy finish.
WTF Wheat, TB-1 IPA, Ale Slinger, Black Claw Black Ale, Super Fly Rye, and Screaming Eagle American are also currently on tap over the hill.
Jackson Hole Still Works
Travis Goodman, Partner
How is everything going so far?
All is well! We are currently meeting a steadily increasing demand for our Highwater Vodka. Our 100 percent Wyoming-sourced juice is available at every liquor store in the valley, and nearly every restaurant and bar as well. As a two-man show, we are stretched to the limits on time and budget, but we are still whittling away some time for R&D on some new products to be released in the upcoming months.
For now our signature product is also our only product, Highwater Vodka! This bottle hit the retail shelves last November and it is what we are building our brand off of. We are brown-water guys at heart, so when we set ourselves out to make vodka, we were determined to make a product that we could enjoy in the same simple manner we typically appreciate our whiskeys: either on the rocks or neat. We are proud that we have successfully created a true “sipping vodka,” one that can be enjoyed simply over ice, or in a cocktail. We are looking forward to our upcoming highly anticipated release of our first gin (sorry, we can’t release the name yet!) in the next couple weeks.
Spill the beans on your special ingredients.
We here in the Jackson Hole valley are gifted with some of the best water in the world. Our water that is naturally granite filtered in the Tetons, in conjunction with our distillery filtration system, is one of the major contributors to the flavor and integrity of our Highwater Vodka.
Our raw material grains are all grown and harvested by farmers here in the great state of Wyoming. Our naturally gluten-free vodka is made primarily from corn grown in the greater Riverton area, with our small percentage of oats coming from GF Harvest, a gluten-free company in Powell, Wyoming. We perform every step of our production here at our little distillery, from milling the grains, through fermentation, distillation, proofing, and finally bottling. All of our spent grains go to Haderlie Farms in Thayne, where they are fed to the pigs and also used in compost.
David Defazio, Partner
First release batches of WW were a little rugged. Then things got a lot better, yes?
The short answer is that our first batches of bourbon needed at least another year to mellow in the barrel. After only three years, those batches simply hadn’t reached the level of maturity and complexity that is expected of a bourbon. The batches that you find on the shelves today have spent at least five years in the barrel and the difference is obvious. In addition to age, we work with a spirit specialist that has an incredible nose and palate. I call her the “wicked sniffa.” Her name is Nancy Fraley. She has created a much more sophisticated barrel selection process than we ever had before and, as a result, our bourbon is much more balanced.
Our corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley are all grown by Brent Rageth in Byron, Wyoming. All of our grains are non-GMO and have been selected for their high starch yield. Our water is also the best in the business. We draw all of our water from a mile-deep, limestone aquifer about 40 miles north of Kirby in the town of Manderson. When it comes to whiskey making, limestone water is the gold standard because limestone naturally filters out the minerals, like sulfur, that are detrimental to our process, while adding those that assist in the fermenting and distillation process.
Are there new products on WW’s horizon?
The first is a Private Stock barrel program. Under this program, a retailer is given five different barrel samples to choose from and selects the barrel that suits a specific flavor profile. We then bottle the barrel of whiskey and label it with the retailer’s name and barrel number.
The second product is Outryder, a straight American whiskey with a high rye content. We’ll bottle it in bond, which is 100 proof. It comes from a two different whiskies that we made about five years ago with winter rye grown in Byron, Wyoming.
The final product is a sherry-finished bourbon. This is a very limited release, but Wyoming will get its share. We took our fully-matured, five-year-old bourbon and put it in Pedro Ximenez barrels for the summer. We will call this our Double Cask Whiskey and it will also be bottled at 100 proof.
Where is WW distributing these days?
We are in 36 states across the country and doing our best to gain distribution.
Grand Teton Distillery
What’s Grand Teton’s latest news?
Our latest news is we have officially launched our vodka that we developed along with the actor Channing Tatum. It is called “Born and Bred” vodka. It is available for sale in Idaho now and will be available in Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, and California next.
Our current best seller is our Teton Huckleberry Vodka. It is quickly approaching our two main products, our Grand Teton Potato Vodka and Colter’s Run Bourbon.
Our potatoes come from Idaho Pacific in Ririe, ID, which is only 50 miles from our plant. Our sugar comes from Wyoming Sugar Company in Worland, WY. Our water comes from two onsite wells that pull amazing Teton Valley water.
We are currently sold in ID, WY, MT, OR, WA, CA, FL, and Ontario, Canada. The next states for our expansion are NV and HI. PJH