Yahara Bay Distillers in Fitchburg prides itself on using local ingredients. From apples and cherries to corn and rye, most of the distillery’s ingredients can be traced to Wisconsin or the Midwest region, says owner Nels Forde.
“Without the farmers, we wouldn’t be able to make anything we make,” he tells the Mid-West Farm Report. Yahara Bay, a part of the Wisconsin Distillers Guild, produces all kinds of spirits: rum, whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin… the list goes on. The distillery does not grow its own crop ingredients.
Forde says with recent weather events — droughts and hail for example — the distillery will absorb any rise in cost instead of charging more for product.
The business began in 2007. Forde says the “recession proof” business had a unique pandemic experience. One of the ways the distillery innovated during COVID-19 was shifting some production to hand sanitizer. Distillers are able to make hand sanitizer because hand sanitizer is high-proof alcohol. A part of that effort was transitioning Yahara Bay’s event space to another production area. Forde says the event space is not likely to come back any time soon, but remain extra space for manufacturing.
Yahara Bay also took unused kegs — due to the pandemic — out of distributors’ hands by distilling beer into whiskey or beer schnapps.
The distillery is always tinkering around with new products, Forde says. Yahara Bay’s bar and tasting room is approaching its fourth weekend open. He invites everyone to come out and enjoy live entertainment and any new products coming out.