Can a brewery make a single malt whiskey?
In these heady days of craft brewing and craft distilling, the idea isn’t exactly far-fetched. In fact, Anchor, Ballast Point and Dogfish Head, among others, have had spirits divisions for years.
In Atlanta, Independent Distilling and Three Taverns Brewery recently teamed up to make a boozy bier schnapps distilled from a batch of Three Taverns Feest Noel Belgian-style Christmas ale.
But last week, Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing announced that it would soon release a smoky, barrel-aged, Scotch-style whiskey that was brewed and distilled in partnership with Atlanta’s ASW Distillery.
The history of the collaboration goes back to the days when Monday Night co-founder Joel Iverson lived next door to ASW co-founder Charlie Thompson. Iverson and Thompson became friends through homebrewing, and their two companies continued the friendship, co-sponsoring events and parties over the years.
The creative mind behind the whiskey is Monday Night brewmaster Adam Bishop, who worked with ASW’s head distiller, Justin Manglitz. But given that the brewery and distillery are located some 5 miles apart, the logistics of turning a mash into a whiskey were a bit tricky.
“Partnering up with ASW was a necessity, since I don’t have a still,” Bishop said and laughed. “We did the mash here, then drove it over to them in a truck, and they did the distillation.
“But I’ve been into making whiskey for a minute now. When I worked at Santa Fe Brewing, we did the same thing, making mash for a craft distillery out there. I sometimes helped with the distilling, and they did some things with mesquite smoke I really liked.”
Bishop is a Scotch whiskey aficionado. And Monday Night has a history of using smoked malt in its beers, including its popular Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale. Those two things came together in the whiskey recipe, which features the same cherrywood-smoked malt used in Drafty Kilt, though in a much larger quantity.
“Being the Scotch fan that I am, I really wanted to show off this smoked malt,” Bishop said. “It was fun to take something that was part of one of our top-selling brands and play on it in a whiskey. The other side is, we really wanted this to be a barrel-aged whiskey.”
Beyond the smoked malt mash, and the distillation in ASW’s twin copper pot stills, some of the most interesting and subtle aromas and flavors come from aging the whiskey for more than nine months in new American white oak quarter casks.
“I thought it was going to take longer in the barrels to get to where I wanted it,” Bishop said. “The evolution was really interesting. Coming out of the first still, it was super malty and smoky, and then it got more refined in the second still. Justin did a great job of capturing the essence of the smoked malt.
“Right now, as we’re bottling it, it’s perfect. There are these subtle vanilla notes with lovely hints of oak. I get subtle hints of smoke. It’s a little sweet with some wood sugar. And it kind of fades into the cherrywood smoke, with caramel and vanilla on the side. The finish is super clean. But the best part is the breath out. That’s where the smoke creeps back in and lingers until the next sip.”
Monday Night + ASW Whiskey Launch
Monday Night Brewing will release its Scotch-style whiskey in Atlanta area beverage stores beginning in early March, with an expected retail price of $59 per 750-milliliter bottle. There’s a limited release party on Feb. 27 at ASW Distillery, with advance tour tickets on sale now: freshtix.com/events/monday-night-asw-whiskey-launch.