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Waterford Stillhouse

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Waterford, WI

 

Crusin Rating: To be Decided

 


We are back this week with another distillery! This one hits close to my hometown in Southeastern Wisconsin. I grew up twenty minutes away from Waterford and my grandparents, guests from our Potosi trip, currently reside there. I was beside myself to hear a rumor that their community was getting a distillery. Once I had heard of the Waterford Stillhouse, I immediately reached out to them to see when they were planning on opening.


Wouldn’t it be just my luck that COVID struck as they were just at the beginning of getting everything set up? Any production that was planned for the distillery was put on hold in favor of helping the community produce what had become a rare commodity, hand sanitizer. At the time I thought it was pretty neat that this distillery had put off its own goals to support its community, little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg.


Fast forward almost a year and as I’m scrolling through my newsfeed, I see that Waterford is hosting a shindig and it’s due largely in part to the efforts of one couple, Brandon and Tammie Begotka. This festival also served as a soft opening for the distillery and boy was it a strong opening.


The Prankster, Armando, and I had the chance to sit down and do a brief interview with Brandon who had, up until that point, been greeted and had greeted (by name no less) just about each one of fifty or so people that waited in line while he sat with us. Ingrained into the community might be an understatement. Throughout the interview Brandon kept coming back to the community. He stated it was the entire reason the distillery was started in the first place, as a way to give back to the community that he resides in.


Brandon told me the story of how he had walked into a distillery in Branson, Missouri.

Side note, if you’ve never been to Branson, it always gets a bad rap for being an old folks vacation but I went there as a teen and had an absolute blast, get there, it’s well worth the trip.

Anyways, Brandon described to me a distillery looking like a cabin, complete with wooden rocking chair that creaked as you walked in the door. Brandon described that distillery as a perfect “snapshot of Americana.”


Snapshot of Americana. Sounds like an excellent book title, which maybe I’ll need to get the rights to. If that doesn’t perfectly sum up what this blog is all about, then I don’t know what does. It evokes images of small-town America, midwestern accents, friendly locals, farms, little towns, folks- like any of us- getting by and making something for us all to drink, a reason to kick back, and a place to come together in our free time. I’ll be damned if I didn’t respect the hell out of the vision that Brandon has for this distillery and this is going to be another one of those gems that we have found in our searches and it hasn’t even opened yet.


Brandon and Tammie, after Branson, had set out on a pilgrimage that reflects our own, visiting distilleries around the state to take notice of what strategies were successful and what made a quality spirit, eventually finding tutelage with Northern Waters Distillery in Minocqua (yes, it’s already on our to-do list). The more I learned, the more I dug this place. Neighbors and community members helping them with construction, serving, volunteering and everything in between.


Though it may seem that way, this isn’t a total fangirl post. We are still going to be holding this place to the same bar that any other place is regardless of how close it is to home or how much we loved hearing the vision and viewpoint of the owner. Without further ado, the alcohol:



Vodka (40% ABV): I’m going to give this a little more than the standard review, since it is their flagship liquor and only one of two that are for sale at the distillery. The vodka uses grain neutral spirits (GNS), which I’ve also seen as Neutral Grain Spirits (NGS). Now, this might be a bad thing when it comes to Whiskey (GNS typically is distilled to above 90 proof and strips a lot of the flavor of the mash), for a vodka, that’s exactly what I want. We could go around in circles about distilling vodka to a lower proof and leaving impurities in for different tasting notes but when I have vodka I

1) don’t want it to taste like straight ethanol and

2) want it to be clean.

Vodka, of all the spirits, should have little to no taste and that’s what makes it such a staple for mixing drinks.


The part that I don’t love about GNS is the association with corporate distilling and implications that it comes in large batches from out of state and is the complete polar opposite of grain to glass and what this blog is all about.


In speaking with Brandon, I did come to understand the feasibility of running a small business and the overhead costs of going grain to glass as a small place just starting out. I can totally sympathize with that and I do. I can also add in that the plan is to be fully grain to glass in the future, local, and Wisconsin-based. For now, we have to dock some points for using GNS because our review standards are the same across the board. We are happy to revisit our review at a later date.


As for tasting notes this vodka was clear, smooth and unadulterated. It could easily stand toe-to-toe with any of that mass-produced Texas stuff or goose juice. For local vodkas this one is a close tie with our current gold standard, Driftless Glen Premium Vodka out of Baraboo. I could see this vodka topping it one day.


Another bummer is the fact that this will only ever be sold in store, there are no plans for distribution. I can definitely respect that decision and it’s no big deal for me to stop and get a bottle after a visit with family but I do find it a shame that most of you out there in our great state will never get the chance to try it. In that regard I can only encourage any of you that are in the area to stop by and get a bottle.


Bourbon (ABV NA): On the opposite note, this bourbon was a bourbon I was not a fan of. This bourbon was dark amber in color, tasted of salty toasted caramel and was pretty sweet overall but had a hint of sour mash but seemed unbalanced. If you looked there were brief notes of toasted grains deep within and a peppery finish. Overall, that imbalance between sweet and sour did not find me wanting more.


Vodka, Burbon, and Vodka Lemonade

The Prankster did imbibe a Vodka and Lemonade which, knowing how big of a fan I was of the vodka and mixing that with hand-squeezed lemonade (so fresh I watched them do the squeezing) was a simple yet solid starting cocktail that may not be fancy served in a plastic cup, but is about as summer-in-Wisconsin of a cocktail you can get. We were both fans.


During the soft opening, the space wasn’t available but Brandon was kind enough to let us check out the inside of the space and glance outside (the outdoor space has since been finished) which was hype-inducing to see it in these first stages. As it stands, I can really only judge the vibe by the owner himself, his wife, and the wonderful volunteers they had and the response of the festival goers which is all shining positive. I am going to hold off on a final vibe review for now until both spaces are complete to see if Waterford Stillhouse can earn the coveted “A”.



For now, they are the essence of a nano-distillery, and yes, they tout themselves as micro but I really think nano is appropriate as each batch of vodka is a mere 40 bottles and will be different than the next. There are covert plans to venture into more spirits that I cannot wait to try and this place is getting our stamp of approval as a spot you should check out if in the area!


Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’!


To learn more about Waterford Stillhouse please visit their website at: https://www.waterfordstillhouse.com/home or on Facebook at: @WaterfordStillhouse

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