Doug Ramsay photo, dougramsayphoto.photoshelter.com
Skip Rock Distillers owner Ryan Hembree gives a tour of a Snohomish distillery to a group of travel publication journalists from Belgium and the Netherlands Friday, April 13. Both Skip Rock and Mac Donald Distillery operate out of the same facility on Avenue C in downtown Snohomish.
Sample craft spirits at Snohomish On the Rocks Friday, April 20
SNOHOMISH - A year before Prohibition ended, Snohomish was said to be an “ideal location” for breweries because of access to various modes of transportation and “the pure water which flows through the Pilchuck Valley,” which was “acknowledged the finest in the world,” according to a Tribune article from Dec. 15, 1932.
As distilleries continue to crop up in the region, it appears the city is still more than suitable for this endeavor. A craft distillery festival this weekend offers people a chance to explore this burgeoning industry.
Washington distillers will be the star when GROW Washington hosts Snohomish On the Rocks from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 20 at the Snohomish Business Park, 1824 Bickford Ave.
“They will get to meet the people that make the products. This is the best opportunity Washington has seen to meet all of the different craft distillers,” said Ryan Hembree, who owns Skip Rock Distillers with wife Julie Hembree and co-owners Dave Remlinger and Dave Hopkins.
Craft spirits will be pouring from at least 28 distilleries, Hembree said, and people can try the liquor neat, up or in a signature cocktail. Attendees get five free tastings with the $25 entry fee.
Out of the 28 distilleries that will be at On the Rocks, three are from Snohomish. Skip Rock Distillers, Mac Donald Distillery and Dark Moon Artisan Distillery will offer a variety of spirits, including whiskey, gin, vodka and flavored liqueurs like raspberry, blackberry and apple.
Snohomish has been a great place to own a distillery, Hembree said. The city has been a big supporter of the industry and the distillery festival, he said.
This weekend’s festival could be the first-ever craft distillers’ festival in the state, “and it’s turning out to be a big one,” Hembree said.
GROW Washington organized the event to celebrate the industry’s growth in the state. Attendees will learn about the local ingredients used to make the liquor, and how the city welcomes distilleries to town with an incentive program to build here.
Some of the spirits available at the festival might not be available anywhere else.
For instance, Skip Rock’s potato vodka is the only one in existence made from Yukon Gold potatoes, Hembree said.
It has a “richer profile” than the typical potato vodka, he said.
“It’s something unique, but it’s done well and we’re happy with it,” he said. “We wanted something rich and robust with a lot of flavor.”
Craft liquors are the “next trend” for popular beverages, representing an evolution of beverage trends following boutique wineries, microbrewed beer and specialty soda and coffee.
“There are a lot of really good, quality-made products,” Hembree said.
The distillers make their product in small batches from mostly local ingredients.
The Yukon Golds come from Mount Vernon, Hembree said. The vodka even fetched an international gold medal for Skip Rock, which has produced distilled alcohol for about 13 months, Hembree said.
The city is a hot bed for distilleries right now. In addition to the three already here, a couple more are rumored to be looking at building here.
This is partly because the city has competitively priced space available for distilleries, economic development manager Debbie Emge said.
“Snohomish is a destination and that allows the distilleries to attract tourists to their tasting rooms,” Emge said. “Snohomish is near the farms that provide the high quality crops that are used to produce spirits” including berries, potatoes, wheat and other ingredients.
GROW Washington is a nonprofit consulting company that helps small, product-based businesses with marketing, networking and other aspects of creating a sustainable business model.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published April 18, 2012