UNION—On a raw, rainy day in April, the interior of Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery was warm and inviting with the pleasant aroma of oatmeal in the air. Co-owner Keith Bodine was using an oar to move 500 pounds of malted barley in a stainless steel cooker that was partially filled with 125 gallons of hot water.
“We’ve always used Maine produced barley,” said Keith Bodine. “And we like using barley from Maine Malt House. They were the only ones actually available when we started distilling our whiskey.”
As the grains cooked, they released starches from the barley, which, when later added to yeast in the fermentation process, would turn into sugar for the yeast to gobble up. That’s one big monster mash. The milky liquid, called “the wash” that is derived from the fermentation process is high in alcohol, also referred to as “beer” but not the kind you purchase in the store.
“To make whiskey, we’ve got to make beer first, looking for all of those wonderful favor compounds that are in the fermentation,” said co-owner Constance Bodine.
On April 4, the Bodines kicked off their “Whiskey Wednesday” demonstrations with a display table set up with beakers of various distilled spirits and their corresponding dishes of raw grains. Constance provided a tasting of the beer to visitors, which tasted like a fruity lambic beer and was high in alcohol content.
“This liquid is probably about eight percent alcohol at this point,” said Keith Bodine.
Whiskey Wednesdays will take visitors through the entire distilling process week by week.
On April 11, the public will get to see much of the same process that happened on April 4 with a foray into the distilling process with a first run. On April 18, the copper still will be in action, making first run whiskey as they do a tasting to explore the differences a year whiskey in a barrel makes.
And on April 25, people will get to watch Bodine as he completes a spirit run and barrel their single malt whiskey along with sample bites that pair well.
“This will be the last year we do this,” said Bodine. “Because, it will be the first year we can introduce a whiskey we’ve been keeping for seven years.”
When all is done, the distilling run will produce about 700 bottles of whiskey.
“Every year we’ve done one batch of whiskey with 2,000 pounds of barley,” he added.
These events are free to the public. The Bodines will release their whiskey stored for seven years later this year. Find out more by visiting their website: sweetgrasswinery.com/events
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org