Monday, March 7, 2016

Dented Brick Distillery

The South Salt Lake distillery prepares for their grand opening with white rum

Posted By on March 7, 2016, 7:30 AM

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We got distilleries and breweries popping up like weeds across the valley, offering fine spirits for us to drink as quickly as they can brew and distill it. The most recent addition tot he valley is Dented Brick Distilling, who are in the process of releasing their white rum onto the masses called Antelope Island Rum. Near the end of the month, the duo of Ethan Miller and Marc Christensen will be holding their grand opening at their location on Washington Street, near 3300 South. Today we chat with both men about forming the distillery and the awesome rum they're producing. (All pictures provided courtesy of DBD.

Ethan Miller & Marc Christensen
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DentedBrick.com

Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Ethan:
Hmmm... I'm a Pisces. I was born in Grand Junction, Colo. I moved here when I was a baby and was raised Mormon (I'm not Mormon anymore). I grew up in West Valley City, I'm a father and a husband.

Marc: Ethan is a Pisces, believe me. I grew up in Idaho and moved to Utah in 1984 to attend the University of Utah. I'm an entrepreneur and have a successful safety barricade manufacturing company, and several unsuccessful ventures as well. The distillery is the culmination of all of my experience and passion.

click to enlarge BARRY MARTAK
  • Barry Martak

When both of you came of age (or maybe before), what were your favorite spirits?

Ethan:
The first time I tasted alcohol was when I was 23 years old in Escondido, Calif. at a wine tasting seminar. I took a very analytical approach, and quickly realized that I had been missing out on an entire world of art. This experience marked the beginning of a new passion and ultimately lead me to research and try every form of alcohol I could. My favor is dictated by my mood, but I usually end up with whiskey of some kind or a White Russian.

Marc: I have always been a wine drinker, grew up drinking the stuff. Drank a lot of keg beer in college, cause we could, and we could have it on campus at our fraternity. That was a good time. COLLEGE! My parents' neighbors in Idaho, the Koenig brothers of Koenig Winery, put in a distillery in the early '90's to distill fruit brandy, Austrian-style Eau de Vie. Watching their build-out and success really spurred me on to move into the spirits business.

Marc, you first started helping out your family in Idaho. What was it like for you learning the ropes early on?

Marc:
My dad made wine in his basement for many years, and I learned about basic alcohol manufacturing and equipment from him. We had a wholesale farm equipment store, selling pumps and implement parts and supplies. We met and did business with some of the wineries as they began to spring up in the valley. Spent a lot of time in the wineries speaking with the winemakers and tasting different products.

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Career-wise, you founded OTW Safety. How was it starting your own business and making it successful?

Marc:
Never looked back. Just decided to do it, accepted the risk, never thought about failing. Never thought about money. The process was and has been a fantastic experience. Still incredibly risky. No risk, no reward.

What eventually made you decide to make Utah your home?

Marc:
 The University of Utah brought me here, Park City is why I stay.

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Ethan, how did you first get into distilling and learning the ins-and-outs?

Ethan:
Working at High West Distillery I started on the bottling line and worked my way up. As with most anything else, distilling takes a lot of long hours, good mentors and peers, open eyes and ears, [on-the-job training], and studying. I love it. I know I will be a perpetual student. Distilling is the balance of art, science, fun, and math that I have been searching for since I was a kid.

You worked with New Deal Distillery at one of their workshops. What was that experience like?

Ethan:
I worked there for nearly two years. I loved the variety of equipment, the vast array of products, and of course, the great people I got to work with. It was busy and exciting. Tom Burkleaux taught me a lot, he is a pioneer in the industry and he shared his distillery with me and my family. I love Portland, and I love the New Deal family.

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As you mentioned, you worked for High West in Park City. What was your time like working with them and helping their business grow?

Ethan:
High West is full of great people. Starting on the bottling line and working my way up was good for me. I am happy that I got to be a part of their team, I learned a lot and enjoyed almost every minute of it. The crew there helped me grow a lot and I feel I had a positive impact on them too. I found family and friends at High West and still maintain contact with a lot of them. My experiences at High West and New Deal were both irreplaceably sublime, and each carried it's own vital impact on me.

How did the idea to start up this new distillery come about?

Marc:
I was experimenting in my kitchen with distilling, botanical oils and other products. I seemed to have a knack for it, and shared my wares with my neighbors, who seemed to confirm my ability to do this, so I thought, what the heck, let's get into distilling for my next venture.

BARRY MARTAK
  • Barry Martak

What was it like gathering all the equipment and turning your South Salt lake location into a working distillery?

Ethan:
It's been great! I'm confident that we have built something unique. Our distillery is tooled for growth and ready to use innovative methods to bring about quality craft products without taking short cuts.

Marc: It has been great, although it is an incredibly long process and takes a great deal of patience. Putting together an LLC and getting investors took one year. Then money down on the equipment two years ago, then loan processing with SBA took eight months, then a year to build the facility. Another 150 days or so to get permits. Still working on a final label approval, and it is year five of the start-up.

How has it been working with the state to make everything legal to own and operate?

Ethan:
 Overall the state has been good to work with so far. The folks at the DABC have been helpful and kind while ensuring we take the proper steps to becoming a Utah distillery.

Marc: I agree with Ethan. Surprisingly, the state of Utah has processes and procedures in place to get permits and licenses for distilled spirits plants and were straightforward once we received our federal permits. The TTB (Tax Trade Bureau) only has 450 employees for the entire U.S. They are completely overwhelmed with the boom in distilling, and permitting takes forever.

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What made you decide to go with a white rum as your first batch?

Ethan:
Well, most distilleries start with vodka, and we decided against that since there is a lot more vodka out there than rum. Since we aren't sourcing or blending and aren't taking any short cuts, we needed to start with an unaged spirit we can create and sell quickly. Rum is on the rise, and may be the next spirit to gobble up more market share.

Marc: Rum has an incredible history and can be as complex and interesting as the finest whiskeys. I am exciting to begin our venture into whiskey, like a pirate heading into uncharted waters.

Without giving away too much, what was the process like in creating this batch and finding that perfect taste?

Ethan:
 The process has been fun and exciting—like any other start-up, we've encountered the usual delays and frustrations that often arise, but I believe we're through the thickest. The perfect taste? Well, I'll let you know if I find it. We will always strive to bring unique and premium craft expressions to the marketplace.

Marc: I've enjoyed all of the tastings.

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You're going to be having your grand opening soon; what do you have in store?

Ethan:
We will be having a farmer's market-style event and plan to have several local companies and vendors there to celebrate our opening. Our distillery exists because of the hard work folks in this valley have put forward, from our investors to the contractors that built our building and helped setup our equipment. We aim to be a pillar of our community and plan to pay continuous tribute to these fine folks through our hard work and good product.

Marc: Hot House West, our house band, plus the food trucks, tasting and touring, lots of goods from cool folks in the valley.

Right now it appears the rum will only available at your distillery. Are you aiming to get it in liquor stores or keeping it in-house?

Ethan: 
We hope to be in liquor stores, restaurants, bars and your liquor cabinet as soon as possible. We will be tenacious in our efforts to spread the good rum to the world.

Marc: Yep. Can't imagine the DABC won't like the product when they do their tasting, we have superior equipment and are confident our products will be superior as well.

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What can we expect from both of you and Dented Brick over the rest of the year?

Ethan:
I will be at the distillery as much as possible and hope to bring a couple more products to the table before the end of the year.

Marc: 
I am working to bring the DBD products to other markets outside of Utah, traveling to Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, California, and New York. 

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