Last week, we told you about the year-old Santa Ana tasting room for Cismontane Brewing, how its giant warehouse behind a Pep Boys on a side of the city still free of the hipster encroachment is one of the best kept secrets in the OC beer scene and why you should definitely get a taster flight since there are always around 15 beers on draft.
Now, we're going to tell you that they are really really close to opening up Batch Plant Distillery, a small spirits maker in that same warehouse, and you should definitely contribute whatever you can to their IndieGoGo campaign that ends Sunday (perks include custom hand-blown decanters and barrel sponsorship!).
Since creating a more central point of operations – away from the toll-road-and-Real-Housewives hell of Rancho Santa Margarita – it's been a lot easier to love one of OC's early craft breweries, which will celebrate its 6th anniversary this year. The fact that in a few short months they will be making SanTana home to the only brewstillery (brewery + distillery) in the county is merely a bonus – and a natural extension of owners Ross Stewart and Evan Weinberg's always evolving creative process.
“We've done the beer thing and that was rad and I'm still excited about it but let's take the beer to the next level,” Weinberg says. “What does beer want to be when it grows up? It's whiskey. You have this whole new canvas to work with.”
In addition to aged whiskeys (perhaps with differing grain experiments a la their single-malt beer series), Batch Plant's main output will be a line of single-varietal brandies. For that, Cismontane plans on buying wines in their barrels from friends throughout California, distilling down the wine, then putting it back in the barrel it came from to age. To pass the time until aged spirits are ready, Batch Plant will immediately start selling white dog whiskey, gin, and un-aged brandies.
“The day we open up the floodgates and turn that thing on, we'll sell our first bottles a week later,” Weinberg says.
While he's not actively making moonshine right now, Weinberg's got nearly two decades of small-batch spirit-making under his belt, both at home and in Napa, where he's made brandies from wine with his friends.
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Besides, brewing and distilling are processes so closely related that being a brewer means you are already halfway to distilling anyway, and owning a brewery means you really only have to invest in a boiler and a still. Beer and whiskey are perhaps the most closely related; you make the latter by brewing the former without any hops and then running the resulting wash through a still. Batch Plant will use Cismontane's brewery in Rancho Santa Margarita to make the whiskey wash until the entire brewhouse gets moved to Santa Ana, which will hopefully be sometime in the next year (RSM will remain a tasting room and pilot batch facility).
“We've brewed a lot of beers so far – 30 to 40 styles over last six or seven years and I'm looking forward to doing something different,” Weinberg says. “I want to make rad spirits. I want to make great beer. It's not about getting rich. It's just one more outlet for us to experiment and do fun stuff.”