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2 crazy ideas

Borracho Badger

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So after reading through the forums on the legalities and intricacies of starting a distillery, I've found many reasons why these two ideas won't work. Still, I'll throw them out there in case someone more knowledgeable than me can think of a loophole that might just work. Just playing with ideas here…

When I daydream about fun things to do with distilling, here are two scenarios I'd love to explore if I could:

1. A "distill-your-own" business loosely based on the "brew-your-own" shops popular in Portland, etc. Super-small scale where clients (think "homebrewing geeks" or "expectant fathers") could come in; create a one-of-a-kind mash bill, gin recipe, barrel aging plan, ect,; get to help with the actual distillation so they feel like it's "theirs"; and then walk out with a 3-5 gallon barrel to age as they see fit. Local restaurants could create custom liqueurs...you get the picture. Obviously, there's the ridiculous reverse-economy-of-scale issue. Could this be created as a “division” of an already existing distillery? Can it get some kind of exemption/status if it’s not selling the distillate but renting time on the equipment? I’m guessing not…

#2. I noticed an obscure concept in Bill Owens’ “Art of Distilling Whiskey”: that of the bouilleurs de cru (itinerant distillers). Could you create a mobile distillery to travel to local wineries/orchards/breweries and distill right on the spot ? In my more crack-addled moments I imagine some Monster Garage –esque super-modified fire truck. :)


- B. B.

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1. The problem with this plan is that in most states, all sales have to go through a distributor; then from the distributor to the retailer, then from the retailer to the client. It can be done, in fact, I came up with this idea as well, and was discussing it with someone yesterday. If you can sell directly to the consumer it makes a lot more sense.

2. Search is your friend. There's a thread or two on this exact topic elsewhere in the forum. In general, the answer is no.

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Thanks for your response.

1. I'll look into what the regs are specifically here in WI. If there's some potential, maybe I'll contact you to pick your brain further since you've been thinking about it too. I know of at least one distiller in town (Old Sugar) who sells bottles of his product right at the distillery. That seems to imply it's possible in theory.

2. Dang it. I hate being that guy. I'll go check those threads out.

- B.B.

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Just because one distillery is selling directly doesn't mean you can too. Check your state law (and local law, at the city or county level) to be sure. You may learn about the magic of "grandfathering" and special laws for special people; which provide special privileges without even mentioning the favored entity by name. Read the Louisiana alcohol law, section 85.1 for an example.

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I think the federal requirements for things like approved production methods, formulas and labels, would complicate a DSP version of a brew-on-premise idea. I know that the WI DOR isn't comfortable with brew-on-premise, even for beer. A friend was looking at getting a special permit type created - but I don't recall how it ended up. WI DATCP only allowed the first mobile wine bottling line this past year - and apprarent that was a trial for the people involved. i know of only one vint-on-premise shop in the region. It was in IL, and is out of business. I bought their corker.

In WI, (praise be to The Great Rehorst), a DSP (Manufacturer in WI permitting) may sell their own products from their site without a retail liquor permit. It was easier to stick in the exception that way, rather than to rewrite the whole 125.69 'relations with retailers' subsection. But you need a distributor to reach offsite. And you can't use one of the winery co-op distributors. And there's no small producer exception for manufacturers or wineries. And you can't license to be a producer and a wholesaler.

It's all there in Statutes 125 and Tax Code 8. Chapter 125 has seen a lot of revision in recent years, and was never very big. The distributors closed up most loopholes in The Year of Great Sadness. (when the wineries lost self distribution)

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