COVID-19 is challenging local drinks producers across the country. Yet for Warfield Distillery & Brewery in Ketchum, Idaho, the pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to place the final touches on its impressive expansion.
The process was not without hurdles for founders Alex Buck and Ben Bradley. But now that the doors are open to their gorgeous new space, the team is excited to increase its brewing and distilling capacities, widen its distribution footprint and provide an idyllic hangout spot in the iconic Sun Valley mountain town.
Buck sat down to chat with us about the recent grand opening of Warfield’s expansion, and what this project means for the future of the brewer-distiller.
1) Tell us about what went down in the expansion project.
The project entailed a number of complex steps. It took about three years to acquire the land needed to start the expansion. In addition, it required a lot of research and investment to determine what type of equipment to purchase and how it would fit in the small and efficient space we have now created.
The project took two years to complete. We added approximately 12,000 square feet of new space, [where] we have installed a new five-vessel 30-barrel brewhouse, two 120-barrel fermenters, two 60-barrel fermenters, four 15-barrel fermenters, one 120-barrel brite tank, one 60-barrel brite tank and two 15-barrel brite tanks. All of our brewhouse equipment was made in Detroit by Craftwerks Brewing Systems. In addition, we purchased and installed two 1,000-gallon copper stills from Forsyth Manufacturing in Scotland for our Organic American Whiskey.
2) Why did Warfield decide to expand?
The original impetus for starting this entire project has always been to make whiskey. The method on our old system was so labor intensive that we could only produce about 20 barrels of whiskey annually. We knew we needed to greatly improve that efficiency, and the new stills will allow us to create substantially more whiskey with less manual labor, allowing us to lay down enough barrels to meet demand years into the future.
In the third year, we reached the maximum capacity of our 10-barrel system. Simply put, we could not keep up with demand for our organic beer. In addition, our beer demand began to negatively impact the amount of whiskey wash that we could produce to meet projected future demand. Thus, we decided we needed to add additional production space to meet current and future demand.
3) How does your location in Sun Valley, and the community itself, impact your creative process and wide-ranging menu of beers and spirits?
I think living so closely with nature out here has reinforced our direction with respect to using only the best possible ingredients. Everyone here loves being outside, whether it’s skiing, biking or just walking the dog, we all love this beautiful place. Organic ingredients not only create a better product, but they also play a part in helping to preserve the environment and outdoors we love so much.
4) Do you have a recipe or pairing that you recommend we try at home right now?
My wife and I have been making our own bitters and tinkering with cocktails for years and the lockdown certainly provided ample time to continue experimenting. This became a favorite during our pandemic and reminds us of a close friend who lived until he was 99: the Warfield Organic Gin Gillette. Combine 2 ¼ ounces Warfield Organic Gin with ½ ounce fresh lime juice and ½ teaspoon sugar in a cocktail shaker, filled with ¾ ice. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds and strain into a child coupe glass.