BLACK BEAR DISTILLERY
So, what makes Black Bear Distillery special?
It is hard to know where to start. I struggled with this. Do I stick to just the facts; stay politically correct? Or do I touch on deeper subjects like the definition of “craft” and our philosophy? I finally decided to do a little bit of both. No offense meant to anyone. I have to admit that over the past few years this has grown from a simple base philosophy into a life-altering crusade. Every time I visit a “craft” “distillery” and they have no still I want to cry. Seriously. I sit in the car with tears in my eyes. I think about the last three years of suffering and turning wrenches and welding and getting burned and all-nighters and I shake my head. Am I just stupid? This was a dozen times in the last year. I am not judging anyone. I love everyone and know how hard this business is, so people do what they must to survive; but to make a “craft gin” by buying dollar a gallon neutral grain spirits from another state and flavoring them seems a little un-craft. Slapping your cool micro-artisan-craft label on your vodka which you bought in a stainless tanker and ran through a carbon filter pump seems a tad unfair to those of us who stay up all night trying to control steam temperatures and increase the copper contact in our pot still while battling banging hissing pipes dripping boiling condensation on our bald heads. I wish I could pump GNS from a tanker to my bottling line. Oh wait, I don’t have a bottling line, unless you count my kids. Some of those guys are “micro”, sure, but “craft”? Well, Black Bear is, for lack of a better word, the opposite of all that; ultra-artisan and standing in difficult, expensive, and dangerous opposition to this non-craft anti-artisan micro trend.
Did I alienate enough people? I don’t want to, but I recently overheard liquor store owners talking about how craft doesn’t exist and how all these brands give them upset stomachs and they are about to start recommending the big brands again since they can’t trust us. THEY CAN’T TRUST US. True story. Real conversation. Now we should all be scared. If you take a 190 proof GNS and water it down, it's smooth, so you forget that it is crap. You think that since moonshine and vodka and gin are clear and need to be filtered and smooth that you can just run them through carbon. It doesn’t work like that. The lack of flavor and the cheap initial ingredients and vast over-proofing for profit actually makes people sick. It gives them headaches and stomach aches and if we are not careful we are going to lose the advantage we gained over the last decade. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THEY CAN TRUST US.
So, that is our philosophy. We will stand strong, even it means being poor. Last week I was offered any amount I wanted of clear spirit for what amounts to 50 cents a bottle, from a barrel to a tanker truck. Fifty cents. That is hard to turn down when you would multiply your profits ten fold overnight and don’t actually have to do any work. But, we know the farmers, and we don’t mind the sweat, so let’s look at the details of what makes Black Bear Special.
In a world where the definition of “craft” and even “local” have been stretched beyond recognition and mass production neutral grain spirits from halfway across the country are being called “in house”, we are proud to represent a truly local and ultra-artisan operation that cuts no corners and honors our culture and heritage. Here are some of our more dramatic craft elements.
True Grain to Glass Operation
Yellow, White, and Blue Corn from The Ute Mountain Tribe in Towaoc, CO is just the beginning of our dedication to all non-GMO, all natural Colorado small farms products from producers that we know personally. This includes other grains and honey from the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers Coop…all mixed with Rocky Mountain snow run-off water…you really can’t go wrong.
The majority of distilled grain products worldwide require at least a little malted barley. Scientifically, this involves the conversion of grain starches into sugars that the yeast can access to create alcohol. As an artisan grain-to-glass operation we always wanted to malt our own and have done so on occasion, but when we met Colorado Malters out of Alamosa it gave us an even better product. Done in state from single varietal heirloom grains, we source our barley, wheat, and rye from this amazing family and are proud to call them friends.
Sustainable and Green
Solar Panel and Generator provide power to grinder and pumps, the used grains go back to local farmers to feed livestock, and we even make cleaning products out of the heads that are normally thrown away. We are not there yet, but our goal is to eventually leave the grid entirely and function as a completely sustainable and green legacy producer.
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Missions and Charities
Besides the native grains and other local sourcing, we try to give back in every way possible. In this case, a wonderful group called Work Training Center in Chico, CA trains adults with disabilities, some of whom run the wood shop and make our beautiful handmade wooden gift boxes.
We are also dedicated to using other mission groups like Yobel Market in the gift shop.
American Made Still, Bottles, Labels, Wooden Corks. All materials made as local as possible.
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I know that this is very hard for people on both sides to understand, but this distillery was created by God, and through it we honor Him. There are a half dozen charities and many individuals being helped through this work, including the great irony that all the corn purchases go to support the Native American Ute Mountain Tribe. We know it seems weird and we know it’s not popular to speak out in such a way, but we really don’t care. The truth is the truth, and God does what He wants. We thank Him.