Ben Millstein’s new still looks unassuming compared to his brewery’s massive fermentation tanks. The 10- foot tall contraption is used to condense and distill what he hopes will bring in more patrons to his brewery.
Ideally, he’ll have liquor for sale within the month. But getting formula approval took longer than he expected, and running a brewery already keeps his hands full. The state Alcohol Control Board approved the still in June of last year, and he’s been working on federal licensing for formulas and labels since then.
“I don’t really want to give people hope for a date certain when I don’t have more confidence in my ability to pull that off. So I don’t know- I mean, the lucky thing is that we don’t have to have it by next week or next month. The unlucky thing is that we really could use that extra traffic through the door,” Millstein said.
COVID has chilled business for the last two years, and recovery from the Omicron wave has not been as rapid as was hoped. But for Millstein, the still could mean more customers who don’t normally come to the brewery- particularly those who don’t care for beer.
He’s not the first Alaska brewer to throw a still into his business plan. He bought the still he has now from Denali Brewing Company, who have since upgraded to a larger one.
“A brewery already has a lot of the hardware and software, if you will, the expertise to run a distillery. There’s new things to learn, there’s new hardware that you need to get but it’s much simpler than, say, starting a distillery from scratch,” Millstein said.
So far, the Kodiak Island Brewery has produced some vodka- which, while ready to drink, still lacks label approval and needs to be bottled and sold. A first batch of whiskey has been completed, but it still needs to age before it’s ready.
Millstein is looking further ahead for the still- he’s already planning formulas for gin, hard seltzer, and ready-to-consume cocktails. Kodiak Island Still branded shot glasses are available for sale, and orders for t-shirts are in. All that’s missing is the liquor.