Latest News

Thursday, October 8, 2015

@timwenger1: Putting the Seal on a Flying Pig

Call me crazy, or maybe just weird, but I have always been able to find some inner peace and revel in my own solitude when sitting at a forgotten corner table in a crowded noodle house during the lunch rush, slowly working through a good bowl of pho, ramen, or (on a day when I’m feeling particularly light) even a simple cup of soup enhanced with tofu and the perfect amount of sriracha and hoisin. It has always been similar to the feeling of taking that first long pull off a stiff drink after a hard day of work, waiting to meet a friend for happy hour at a crowded dive bar or sitting on the balcony at home, unwinding and refueling while the cars down on the street below fight for that last remaining parking spot on the block, often ending in more than one pulling away in frustrated shame when their parallel skills fall short of the task.

It is a feeling of unaccompanied satisfaction - just me, my thoughts, and my poison of choice observing the chaos of the city. But what happens when that bubble is popped? How do you react when a nearly forgotten face slides into the empty chair on the other side of the table?

Amid quickly recalled flashbacks from the past ten or fifteen years of my life and several ear-loads of stories about war, kids, and that drunken night back in the day at the Flogging Molly concert, I couldn’t help but laugh as I unexpectedly spent a lunch hour that quickly became two with an old high school friend. A friend that, once diplomas were in hand, took a very different route from my own. On the surface, this was just another conversation that left me thinking about how easy it is to feel like you are behind the curve in life when you are 31, have no kids, and still spend more time at Record Depot than Home Depot. But as we sat trolling over food from a far off land and laughing over equally distant memories, I thought about how at this age, and probably any after high school, it is too easy to put yourself in a social box.

As you move into a career path, or have a family, or whatever the focal point of your life is, it is so easy to begin pushing the people and things that don’t fit perfectly into that realm out and surround yourself with people and things that coincide with the path you have taken. I realized how much I missed this guy, and so many other old friends that without Facebook and the occasional random spotting I’d have no contact with. The times with them are special because those times are past. I have followed my guts down the path I am on, and he has done the same. Whenever I see him again, we will still laugh at the same old teenage stories while quietly thinking about how different we have become.

For the first time in a while, it wasn’t the food that made a restaurant experience something I couldn’t get out of my head. I still had this on my mind as I walked into Fluid Coffee Bar in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood the next morning to meet a local entrepreneur trying to imprint his name on the craft spirit scene. I grabbed a drip coffee, black, and sat down with JP Krause, co-owner of Krause Family Spirits, who produce SQUEAL spiced black rum. JP and his wife started the brand in 2013 as a way to express their lust for all things creative and fun. JP is also a chef. A guy who must by proxy understand the menaces of the BOH life as well as the soul of the FOH life. And as I quickly learned, also a guy who has had many social experiences like the one I had just gone through.

For JP, the inner social circle, as well as the ability to have connections both new and old, starts at the center. We are here to talk about his rum, but I keep going off subject and wondering out loud how I should go about involving people in my life. Is it possible to keep in touch with everyone you were once close to? It seems to be a question of how you’ve grown up. JP runs his own business and has learned that because of that, what he does ‘off the clock’ will absolutely affect his life ‘on the clock.’

“I went to an all-boys high school,” he says. “Everyone was super tight. There was no cliques growing up. You walked in and it was like a brotherhood of 300 brothers. There was no jocks and nerds, everyone just hung out. And being in Denver, you run into people all the time from high school. To me, it’s more like a maturity level. I’m 31; I’m not afraid to be young, but I’ve matured a lot. Certain people you can kind of connect with because they have matured also. There are other people who it’s like they are still living in college. Having a wife and kids, and a business, you have to have this certain sense that no matter what I do outside of work, it’s always going to come back on my business. You never know who you’re going to meet and who they’re going to talk to.”

Makes sense to me, I think as sip my coffee. I ask him who he talked to that led him from the kitchen to the still.

“When I was working at the Broadmoor I met this beautiful lady named Monika,” JP says. Monika (pronounced Mo-NEEK-a, as I learned from JP after I clearly said ‘Monica’ while speaking to her on the phone) is from Poland, and Krause had to chase her back there shortly after they met to put the ring on her finger. “We got engaged and I married her a few months later. We lived out there in Poland for a while.”

A small town called Winesoot to be exact is where Monika calls home. While there, JP vicariously immersed himself in the strong vodka culture of the region. The idea of molding his ability to master a recipe and this new love of craft spirits was born. “She grew up tasting really good, clean spirits,” JP says. “And I come from the chef world and I saw this movement towards craft beers and nice cocktails.” While running the bar at Denver’s Aloft Hotel, the idea came to him to create his own spirit. “I thought, ‘You know I bet I could make something taste really good.’”

The original plan was to make a vodka in the vein of the Polish spirits Monika was used to and that JP had experienced since meeting his wife. “We started playing around,” JP says. “We threw some peach in there, some spices in there. Then we thought, let’s make a nice spiced rum.” And voila, the concept for Krause Family Spirits’ SQUEAL spiced black rum was born. “Rum is kind of that ‘hang out in the summer, hang out in the winter at the clubhouse after snowboarding’ type thing. We’re all about having fun, and rum is fun, ya know?”

The result is a rum that is literally bursting with flavor - I was greeted with a strong dose of vanilla that actually stunned the alcoholic bite that drinkers become accustomed to when drinking Captain. I personally recommend holding the Coke and pouring your first taste neat because a seasoned aficionado will appreciate the candy-like flavor that dominates the experience from nose to tongue.

The concept for the branding of the rum came from matching tattoos that JP and Monika got after being married. The flying pig, embedded into their bodies just as it is embedded into the logo of the brand, represents, according to JP, “Making the impossible possible. I flew half way around the world to be with her. It’s kind of our love story.” Clearly JP and Monika’s product is representative of their love and, from what I can tell, a story as romantic as theirs happens about as often as a pig flies. Corny? Not in the least. Come on now. It’s imagery.

Art lies at the heart of their brand and as such Krause Family Spirits works with local art galleries and shops to promote their rum, pouring it at events and shows that target their market of adventure seekers that are, as JP put it, “on their way up.” For those with a sweet tooth, Twisted Cream ice cream here in Denver is using the rum to make a peaches and cream flavor with a little kick. “Having our product tied with another local company that makes ice cream? That’s what it’s all about. Being tied with local companies. It’s working for us and hopefully it makes sense to them.”

I’m sure it does. Their business is a product of their lives together, just like relationships are the product of shared experience. They can continue to grow, or they can evolve to take different paths, as long as down the line all parties can reminisce about it over a good meal and a stiff cocktail. That is what makes life worth living and relationships worth having. “We write ‘go pig’ on the bottle because it’s how we live our life,” JP says. “They say go big or go home. I didn’t just find a girl, fall in love with her, and travel halfway around the world to marry her because I want to take it easy. Being a chef, there are times when you get so many tickets and you’re so behind and so stressed out that it’s easy to get caught up with stress. It takes a certain personality to pursue your passions and we have that, people in Colorado have that. You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there and stand for what you believe.”

That’s it right there - there are plenty of people from high school, college, and beyond that I have not stayed in contact with and I’m left to think that there is good reason for that. We grew together for a while until our personality or our passions went a different way and the lid was tightened on the relationship. Once that seal is on there, it takes two parties to uncork it again. - 501 E. 19th Ave in Denver

Seats Left for ADI Brandy Distilling Workshop

Very few people can truly wear the title of master distiller and Hubert Gemain-Robin is definitely one of the few. The brandies he has created are indisputably among the best the distilled spirits in the world. His name is recognized by brandy lovers on every continent.

Germain-Robin’s family history goes back centuries in the Cognac, where his predecessors were making brandies under the name Jules Robin and Company in the 18th Century. Hubert came to California in the 1980s and discovered grape varieties that would have been illegal to work on in Cognac, and single-handedly changed the way we perceive brandy by experimenting with these grapes. Germain-Robin applied centuries-old traditions and techniques to create new varietal brandies.

This workshop, presented by the American Distilling Institute, teaches the practical application of Gemain-Robin’s approach to creating spirits that achieve the difficult balance between being soft and truly flavorful. Hubert brings out many samples from his experiments for nosing and sensory evaluation. The charentais alembic still at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse distillery will be running on each class day, where the students will see methods demonstrated to create flavors in the still while preserving the character of the grape varietals in a two-pass distillation. Methods of anticipating blends, not only between varying eaux de vie but also with different types of wood (varieties of oak, char and toast) to achieve a desired flavor profile.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2:00 pm -- Check in --Crystal Hotel, 303 SW 12th Ave, Portland, OR, 97205, 503-972-2670
5:00 pm
 -- Welcome reception at Zeus restaurant, Clark McCool of McMenamin’s, Andrew Faulkner and Hubert Germain-Robin

Monday, October 19

7:00 am -- Breakfast.
8:00 am -- bus to CPR Distillery
8:30 am -- Charging and firing the still, stripping run - Broullis of Pinot Noir- Bart Hance, McMenamin’s
9:00 am -- Description of the Alambic Pot still: designs, shapes, sizes, quality of copper, … Hubert Germain Robin
10:00 am -- 1st distillation; description, goals, ... - Hubert Germain-Robin
11:00 am -- Sensory Analysis, fractional samples of the bruoillis
12:00 pm-- lunch
1:00 pm -- Notions of terroir -- micro-climates, soils, elevation. Grapes, quality and varietals -- Hubert Germain-Robin
2:30 pm -- Making the tails cut -- Bart Hance
3:00 pm -- Fermentation, yeasts, temperature, lees, color, SO2, … Storing the wine until distillation -- Hubert Germain-Robin
4:00 pm -- Sensory Analysis -- Apple Brandy tasting and discussion
5:00 pm -- Return to hotel, open night

Tuesday, October 20

7:00 am -- Breakfast.
8:00 am -- Distillery Bus Tour
9:30 am -- Ransom Spirits, Sheridan 23101 Sw Houser Rd, Sheridan, OR — The Winery Distillery — Tad Seestedt.
12:00 pm — Box lunch on the bus
1:00 pm — Oregon Barrel Works, 2780 Ne St Joseph Rd, McMinnville, OR
3:00 pm -- McMenamin's Edgefield Distillery, 2126 SW Halsey St, Troutdale, OR — Winemaking for brandy distillation — Clark McCool
5:30 pm -- Dinner at McMenamin’s Edgefield
7:00 pm -- Return to Crystal Hotel

Wednesday, October 21

7:00 am -- Breakfast.
8:00 am -- bus to CPR Distillery
8:30 am -- Charging and firing of still at CPR Distillery Bon Chauffe of Pinot Noir— Bart Hance
10:00 am -- Nosing eaux de vie of different varietals -- Hubert Germain-Robin
12:00 pm -- Lunch
1:00 pm -- Nosing of different oak extracts -- Hubert Germain-Robin
2:30 pm -- Tales cut -- Bart Hance
3:00 pm -- Constructing a blend -- Hubert Germain-Robin
4:00 pm -- Cleaning the still -- Bart Hance
5:00 pm -- Return to hotel
6:00 pm -- Open night

Thursday, October 22

7:00 am -- Breakfast.
8:00 am -- bus to CPR Distillery
8:30 am -- Charging and firing the still -- Bon Chauffe of Chardonnay -- Bart Hance
9:00 am - Preparations of new and old barrels, Conservation of empty barrels -- Preparation of Faibles for the empty barrels -- Hubert Germain-Robin
10:00 am - Heads cut for the spirit run, fractional nosing, timing of the heads cut
11:00 am -- Brandy, Cognac and Armagnac tasting
12:00 am - Lunch
2:00 pm -- Barreling the new-made spirit.
3:00 pm -- Making cuts with a tasting of different fractions and the timing of the tails cuts, Vision toward the future: making crucial decisions during distillation and building a complex inventory to be ready in 5, 10 or 100 years, either for single barrels or for blends.
4:00 pm -- Cleaning the still - Bart Hance

5:00 pm -- Final night dinner and celebration, Imbrie Hall

Friday, October 23

7:00 am -- Breakfast.
9:00 am -- 2:00 pm -- Checkout.

For more information or to register, go to:

Hands-On Rum and Whiskey Distilling Workshop

Rum and Whiskey Production - Learn basic distillery operations for making distilled spirits and bringing them to market.

Wednesday, November 11 — Friday, November 13, 2015, Do Good Distillery, Modesto, CA

Instructors: Jim Harrelson of the Do Good Distillery, Nancy Fraley Nosing Services and Donald Snyder of Whiskey Resources.

This hands-on class covers the fundamentals of distillation. Participants will be able to smell and taste new make spirit as it is being distilled. Topics covered in this class include mash preparation, basics of fermentation and wash production, mechanics of distillation (stripping & spirit runs), "making the cuts," barrel maturation, proofing, and bottling.

Sensory evaluation instruction includes traditional methods and practical applications of blending whiskey, selecting and balancing the proper components to achieve a targeted flavor profile, and the impact of spirit and wood on flavor.

Additional presentations for the start-up distiller include licensing, formula and label approval, record keeping, package design, and marketing spirits.

For more information, or to register, go to:

#DrinkBetter: Shake & Squeal from Squeal Rum

The gang at Squeal Rum make no bones about not being afraid to put it out there. Bold and fun are the guiding principles for the creators of this spiced black rum, so it stands to reason that their signature cocktails reflect this same attitude. Sweet, wild, and with just a hint of "F convention", this recipe is perfect for sunny afternoons or rehashing a movie on date night. As the label says, GO PIG or go home!


2oz Squeal Spiced Black Rum
4oz Guinness Draught
3 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
Dizzle of Chocolate & Caramel Sauces in the Glass
Whipped Cream
Crispy Bacon

Blend the Squeal Spiced Black Rum, Guinness & Vanilla Ice Cream.
Pour inside of a glass that has been drizzled with sauce inside.
Top with fresh whipped cream & a few pieces of crispy bacon.

[MICROSHINER sponsored content, compliments of our loyal supporters]

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Early Release from Montgomery Distillery

In a lot of situations, an early release isn't exactly something to be proud of. But in the case of Montgomery Distillery's first public whiskey offering, early just happens to be right on time.

As we've said here many times before, Montgomery Distillery in downtown Missoula, Montana is the archetype for micro and craft distilleries. From its inception, owner and operator Ryan Montgomery has maintained a singular vision, to build a perfectly scaled micro distillery crafting incredible spirits while keeping nearly aspect of the process in-house. The objective: value, quality, and of course, whiskey.

Leveraging sales of their excellent clear spirits, Ryan has been patiently toiling on his true loves - outside of family, Montana, and motorcycles - single malt and rye whiskey. As everyone knows, making good whiskey is largely a matter of commitment, something that Montgomery has in spades. It may be an early release, but you can be certain that it wasn't premature.

Montgomery Distillery’s “Early Release Straight Rye Whiskey” is the first released by our small Montana distillery, and is comprised of a 100% rye grain mash bill, milled, fermented, distilled and aged at Montgomery Distillery in new charred oak 53 gallon bourbon barrels.  This particular label was only released through our tasting room in Missoula, Montana and was limited to a little less than 2000 bottles.  However, this whiskey will be released in wider form, and on a regular basis, starting in Spring 2016 under the label “Sudden Wisdom Straight Rye Whiskey.” 

Montgomery Distillery has been open for three years and offers a variety of clear spirits - such as Quicksilver Vodka, Whyte Laydie Gin, and Skadi Aquavit – while at the same time producing rye and single malt whiskey.  We also own a distillery farm in Central Montana that has begun (this year) supplying us with winter wheat (for our clear spirits) and rye grain (for our rye whiskey).  Please note: the Early Release Rye Whiskey was not made from our farm rye, as we just harvested the first crop about a month ago.

Be sure and swing in some time to have a taste!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#DailyPour - Squeal Rum

Squeal Rum - Spiced Black Rum

Squeal spiced black rum is a unique rum expression proudly made in Colorado for those who are bold like the Rockies. With hints of vanilla, peaches and oak, it is aged to be smooth, yet rich. Contract distilled by Denver-based Private Label Distillers in small batches to Krause Family Spirits' specifications, Squeal Rum reflects the voice of a generation, with a passion for street art and a clean, rich profile that is smooth enough to sip as if it were a cognac or a port. “GO PIG OR GO HOME!”

 [MICROSHINER sponsored content, compliments of our loyal supporters]

Friday, September 25, 2015

Our Apologies, On Behalf of Tincup Whiskey

As most of our followers know, our foremost goal here at MicroShiner, beyond the pursuit of quality, is to support and promote authenticity in production method. More than any other single attribute, how it was created is of greatest import to us. We presume craft spirits worthy of top shelf billing, so we want to focus attention on those producers whose businesses are designed to be sustainable at a craft scale. The ones who, by supporting them, will help us change the world.

We know there are producers out there corrupting the 'craft' term, and we do our best to avoid them. We understand that there are reasons for sourcing base spirits, and even some value in doing so, in certain circumstances. But to us craft is more than just branding, or even an unique recipe that is produced for a label by a contract distiller. It is a holistic approach to production that connects consumers to producers through a shared set of values, and it requires transparency and trust in order to be authentic.

While some find the appeal of craft to be the wider range of unique flavors and profiles that it has made available, the return of terroir, or the quest for that perfect expression of a particular spirit, many subscribe to a craft dogma because of more intrinsic values. Beyond considerations of taste and cost, they are basing their decision to buy craft on their desire to associate with or support something they presume the term craft implies. For many, these are loftier considerations, such as sustainable practices, independent ownership, or grain to glass production.

When companies looking to leverage the growing popularity of craft spirits engage in deceptive marketing practices, they undermine consumer confidence in the segment, and they thwart the flow of capital into authentic craft production. Funneling capital into genuine craft producers is paramount to their continued success, and it is the real motivation behind many consumers choosing craft when voting with their wallet. Buying a bottle of craft whiskey only to find that it is merely sourced from an industrial scale facility and nicely packaged leaves these consumers confused, disenchanted, and angry.

Angry enough that a group of them recently brought a class action suit against Proximo Spirits, Inc., maker of Tincup whiskey, alleging that the company engaged in deceptive marketing. Proximo, of course, denies all allegations of wrongdoing but is settling the case "in the interest of avoiding the expense, inconvenience, and inherent risk and disruption of litigation." Plaintiffs and their attorneys believe that the settlement is in their best interest because it provides an appropriate, and immediate, cash recovery. The interest of those most harmed by Proximo's activities, the genuine producers of authentic craft spirits who have lost the confidence of their potential market, was apparently not considered.

Although we were not party to the suit, last week we received an email informing us that we may be entitled to payment. We aren't, but if you purchased Tincup whiskey from July 1, 2013 to September 16, 2015, you may very well be. We recommend you visit to learn more.

What we are is guilty of having highlighted Tincup whiskey in our Spirit of the Mountain issue of MicroShiner magazine last winter. Our curated selection of apres-ski cocktails features Tincup in Dave's Drifter, a house favorite at the Rathskellar. And while we have no doubt that the drink is delicious, we are less confident about the authenticity of its craft pedigree.

To the average imbiber, this may be of little or no concern, but for us it is important to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not that we don't see a place for products like Tincup, and in some cases might even recommend them, but rather that we aim to make the distinction. What we consider constitutes a craft spirit is a conversation for another place, save to say that Tincup whiskey isn't among them.

Our takeaway from this experience, accepting that life is a learning process for those who choose a path of continuous improvement, is that we must hold ourselves accountable to a more stringent standard in the future and commit fully to our stated mission. That of connecting the makers and shakers who are fully vested in the craft movement with those individuals who seek to support it in its larger context.

Pickathon: A Musical Expression of Value

Draped lights dimly lit the paths weaving through the city of music-binging forest dwellers. Tents, hammocks, and hung linens decorated the green forest, squeezed into every habitable square yard between the sloped pines and ferns. It was an awe-inspiring sight for this first-time Pickathon attendee, and would serve as a welcomed cool-haven amid the uncharacteristic Portland heat that would linger most of the weekend.

captured by Brud Giles
This year marked the 17th anniversary of Pickathon, a 4-day music festival hosted on the Pendarvis Farm at the outskirts of Portland. True to the quirkiness and ideals of Portland, Pickathon exhibits a dedication to local food and drink as well as reduced footprint at a level unique within the music festival scene. Fare options included food from such local favorites as Bollywood, Pine State Biscuits, and Podnah’s Pit Barbeque and coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The drink menu offered a strong lineup from local breweries, cider houses, wineries and distilleries. It was hard to go wrong in an area that loves hops, whether it was Fort George’s Overdub IPA or Deschutes’ Pinedrops IPA. With cider’s growing popularity, there were great options from Reverend Nat’s and a refreshing pear offering by Anthem Cider. The cocktail menu consisted of dangerously delicious collaborations between local distilleries Dogwood and New Deal combined with mixers from Starvation Alley.

captured by Heather Binns
Furthermore, the commitment to sustainability at Pickathon is enough to make any Portlander proud. Between their bold elimination of disposable products, exhaustive list of alternative transportation options, and solar panels to offset the energy expenditure at the event, they bend over backward to ensure the environmental impact is minimal.

But nothing could make the event more Portland than the stamp of approval from Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, stars of popular TV show Portlandia. Early event goers will be looking for themselves on an upcoming episode, as filming took place on the Pendarvis farm Thursday evening, with guest appearance by the Flaming Lips.

The sips and bites, however, are of course just accompaniment to the real heart of the event: its music. Rather than household names and overplayed headliners, Pickathon offers a tasty buffet of novel, innovative artists of impressive variety. Luckily, second helpings are offered as each band plays two sets at the varying venues. The main course is largely rock and folk infused with a lineup ranging from the upbeat folk-bluegrass roots of Brothers Comatose to punk band Cloud Nothings. There are plenty of complementary side dishes in the form of jazz solos from tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, hip-hop flare from Shabaaz Palaces, and retro soul in the guise of 25 year-old crooner Leon Bridges. While the lineup has something for a wide variety of musical tastes, it certainly helps to have an appreciation for country given Pickathon’s, at times, county fair feel, thanks in part to the haystack seating at some venues and mass square dancing events.

captured by Autumn Andel
The weekend was packed full of memorable performances. The heat on the Pendarvis farm made the barn venues excellent filters, retaining only the most enduring fans. Saturday evening the barn was bursting with hoots and hollers for Langhorne Slim’s authentic gruff set. Ty Segall kept the energy high with shredding guitar inciting mosh pits and crowd surfing, followed by a monstrous set from Canadian avant post-punk band, Viet Cong.

captured by Nehemiah Silwoski
Brothers Comatose was a personal favorite that electrified the crowd with their fast paced string picking on the main stage following a wild late-night set in the barn. Southern rock band Hiss Golden Messengers played a tight set on the main stage Friday night and again in the woods on Sunday afternoon.
image by Tim LaBarge
The woods stage was popular among the artists who graced it, frequently receiving the comment of “the coolest venue ever played”. Not difficult to imagine, given its cozy location tucked away among the cool trees and green ferns and humble framework of branches surrounding the performers. Perfectly complimented by performances such as the dreamy, smooth serenades of Brazilian born singer-songwriter Rodrigo Amarante, the stage exudes a feeling of enchantment, as if sharing the experience with a hidden audience of elves and fairies. In contrast, JD McPherson had the woods absolutely shaking in dance with his retro-rock on Sunday afternoon. But no band was as well suited for the mystical venue as the UK band Wolf People with their ominous sounding melodies and lyrics to match the wilderness vibe.

captured by Sara Vandepas
While this microshiner walked away with a generous list of new artists to add to her summer playlist, to wholly realize the beauty of Pickathon one must look beyond its wonderfully understated lineup of genuine artists. What distinguishes Pickathon is the ability of its organizers to produce an event of this caliber without casting aside the values currently gaining momentum in a generation re-evaluating its priorities. The festival is a testament to the uncompromised quality achieved by supporting local establishments as well as the seemingly lofty but attainable standard of sustainability. To truly appreciate Pickathon is to acknowledge the subtle thread of value they expertly weave into an exhilarating musical event.

captured by Brud Giles
 This article courtesy of Hayley McCoy, an optometrist and samaritan enjoying the life of a microshiner in Bend, Oregon.