DES MOINES, Iowa | Have you ever wanted to try making your own whiskey, but didn't know where to start? (Besides, it's also illegal.)
Now you can make your very own customized aged whiskey — you even get to design your own logo.
Foundry Distilling Co. in Historic Valley Junction is officially open to the public. The Foundry Alchemy Lounge opened on Saturday, Aug. 25. The spacious, comfortable bar features a modern, industrial vibe with wood accents and cocktails made from Foundry products.
One-hour tours of the facility are open to the public since Aug. 29th and can be arranged through its website for groups and individuals. Tours are $15 and include a complimentary tasting and a $5 coupon for use in the distillery.
The Foundry is currently distilling whiskey, vodka, gin and rum. The Foundry currently has about 120 barrels of whiskey already aging.
The centerpiece of the distillery is a color-changing, LED-lit 30-foot-tall custom-built column still with 21 plates, making it one of the largest in the craft spirits industry. The still is accompanied by an 8,000-gallon fermentation tank, a 500-gallon copper pot still. and a 500-gallon open-top cypress wood still.
"This is one of the tallest, if not the tallest, in the craft spirits industry," said Scott Bush, founder and owner of The Foundry Distilling Co. "We distill everything ourselves and had our two stills designed and built right here in Iowa."
Bush is also the founder of Templeton Rye Whiskey, which was one of the first brands to release a rye spirit in 2006. He sold controlling interest in Templeton Rye in 2016 after deciding he wanted to get back into entrepreneurship.
Foundry Distilling Co. has developed two unique offerings: the Private Barrel Program and the Brewer/Distiller Alliance.
The Private Barrel Program allows individuals and groups to work with the Foundry team to make two barrels of their own custom whiskey.
"It is really fun to work with these groups and see their plans come to life. They get to learn a ton about whiskey, and we work hard to make sure they have a good time," said Bush.
The Foundry team, including master distillers Greg Biagi and Cory O'Neel, works with you all the way through the process — from mashing to fermentation to distilling and barreling.
Whiskey is typically made from the same mash as beer, called wort, so you can choose which beer wort you want to use, including wort from local breweries.
Barrels are personalized and aged in 30-gallon and 5-gallon, or pilot, sizes.
The 5-gallon pilot barrel contains about 30 bottles of whiskey and ages for about six months, while the 30-gallon barrel is enough for 160 bottles and takes about 2.5 years to age. During that time, you can come in and check on the aging process of your whiskey, which will be on display in the "aging museum." And there's a private tasting room where you can sip your own product, and you can even design your own logo for the whiskey.
The Foundry's own whiskeys are aged both in-house and at an off-site storage facility.
After the aging process, your custom whiskey is ready for bottling using your custom label. Bush said the exact number of bottles depends on the proof level and in-barrel evaporation called the "angel's share."
The Brewer/Distiller Alliance is a collaboration with several breweries to make whiskey from the recipes of their well-known beers.
"People are really excited that they will have a chance to buy some of the most unique whiskey in the world, right here in Iowa," said Andrew Tomes, director of sales at The Foundry.
The Foundry is currently working with Boulevard Brewery, Stone Brewing, Surly Brewing and Left Hand Brewing as well as several Iowa breweries.
"Whiskey connoisseurs and whiskey collectors are going to love this stuff because it's incredibly unique," Bush said. "It's a low supply and it's just a great product."
Alchemy Lounge features cocktails made from Foundry products made by a rotating assortment of talented bartenders, including summer marketing interns and Mike Crownover of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. Cocktails can be ordered individually or in carafes.
Bush said The Foundry's products will be available in cocktails next door at The Hall as well.
"It's simple, sophisticated and cool, and I think people will really enjoy it," Bush said. "We want to be one of the most innovative distilleries in the world."