The Copperworks label says “From great brewing comes great spirits.” That’s partly because Copperworks was founded by brewers who spent decades making beer before they became distillers. But it’s also because all our products start as a high-quality craft beer, without hops. We don’t want to add bitterness to our vodka, gin, and whiskey, so we leave the hops out.
So how is this process different than what traditional Kentucky, Tennessee, Scottish, Japanese, and Irish distilleries do?
Traditional Method: Starts with a “Wash”
These traditional distilleries start their whiskey-making process with what’s called a “wash,” a liquid made of water, grain, and yeast. A wash is also essentially a beer without hops, but it bears no resemblance to a craft beer. A craft beer is brewed for flavor, while a wash is brewed to maximize the alcohol yield—so economics and yield are the drivers in a wash, not flavor.
Take a sip of a wash (something we don’t recommend), and you’ll get a sour, yeasty, and thick mouthful that’s completely dry. No malty sweetness left at all.
Our Method: Start with Craft Beer
To make the best beers possible—and thus the best spirits possible—we partner with some of Seattle’s finest craft breweries to brew a “sweet wort.” (The brewhouse for one of our partners, Elysian Brewing, shows in the photo). This is a syrupy mixture made of water and grain, with no yeast added yet. We create our own sweet wort recipes and we’re present for every brew we do.
Once we’ve created about 1,860 gallons of sweet wort at one of our partner breweries, we truck it to the distillery and add yeast. We use a brewer’s yeast, not distiller’s yeast, because we’re going for the best possible craft beer flavor, not maximum yield.
We ferment that liquid for a week or longer, then chill it to 35 degrees and cold-condition it for an additional two weeks. This helps mature the beer flavors and reduces the amount of yeast that goes into the still. Once the beer is at its peak flavor, we pump it to the stills and distill it, to capture the malt flavors and the alcohol.
Starting with a high-quality craft beer made in a process honed after decades in the beer business, we produce flavors not possible with more traditional methods.
Like many good things in life, it all starts with a beer.