Distillers and Brewers Working Together, Love It!!

Distillery, brewery produce unique spirit


Distillery owner Nicholas Lee.

Posted: Saturday, March 17, 2012 7:00 pm


There was some serious sipping going on at Glacier Distilling Co. last week as the inaugural batch of Wheatfish Whiskey was bottled.

The consensus?

“We were very pleased with the flavor,” distillery owner Nicholas Lee said. “It has a light, slightly spicy flavor.”

The unusual 90-proof whiskey was the result of an innovative partnership between Glacier Distilling — housed in the red Whiskey Barn at Coram — and Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish. About a year ago Lee and his two employees, Lauren Oscilowski and Danny McIntosh, mulled the idea of putting a twist on their “drink local” mantra by distilling whiskey from beer.

Great Northern’s Wheatfish beer fit the bill, so nine months ago the beer was put in used barrels to age. Using barrels that already had contained whiskey allowed the Wheatfish beer to develop scotch-like qualities as it aged, Lee explained.

“Great Northern Brewery was great in lending expertise to this,” he said. “Part of the reason for the nice flavor is their brewing process.”

Most of the first batch of 400 bottles headed to the state liquor warehouse last week, with a portion of the yield kept for sale and sampling at the Whiskey Barn. Area liquor stores buy from the state warehouse, so Wheatfish Whiskey should be available for sale throughout the Flathead Valley in not too long, Lee said.

The distillery already has two additional batches of Wheatfish Whiskey in the works and will be distilling a batch toward the end of March that will be ready by early summer.

Glacier Distilling specializes in small-batch craft whiskeys made from Montana grains and local glacial water. Among their whiskeys are the North Fork On-The-Fly, infused with white peaches; Bad Rock Rye, a spicy rye with a rich oak finish; Glacier Dew, a briefly rested whiskey distilled from a mash of barley, corn and rye; and North Fork Flood Stage, a rye and barley blend mellowed in a charred oak barrel.

“We’ve gotten great support from the community and we’re happy with how the products have developed,” Lee said.

The Whiskey Barn, already a landmark in Coram, opened a year ago on St. Patrick’s Day, literally with one bottle on the shelf, Lee said.

Ramping up inventory has been an ongoing challenge, he added, but the distillery is now filling barrels to increase its quantity of whiskey.

“This is still in the heavy investment phase,” Lee said of the business, noting that he and his two employees all have other jobs in addition to the distillery. Lee is one of the owners of Great Northern Raft Co. near West Glacier.

The 2005 Montana Legislature opened the door for the distilling industry and two years later lawmakers added regulations that allow micro-distilleries to operate much like beer-making microbreweries in Montana. Distilleries can have tasting rooms and sell limited amounts of their products.


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