The greater Seattle area is home to over 26 distilleries, more than any other county in the US. The City of Seattle alone has 17 distilleries, offering locals a wide range of high-octane craft offerings. We visited 2Bar Spirits, where founder Nathan Kaiser and head distiller Maddie Kelly focus on only one product – bourbon. And not just bourbon in the traditional sense – 2Bar is committed to grain-to-glass production, sourcing all their grains from Washington state farmers. 2Bar proudly holds the honor of being the first all-local bourbon in the Seattle area.
2Bar’s roots began over 100 years ago in Yoakum, Texas, where Nathan’s ancestors founded the 2Bar Ranch, which is still in the Kaiser family after five generations. In 2012, Nathan opened the doors of 2Bar Spirits in the SoDo district of Seattle after writing the business plan in 2010.
Nathan has been using PicoBrew equipment for the past few years to prototype mashes, so we dropped in on Nathan last week to check in. We also filmed a great interview where Nathan took us through the entire bourbon-making process
Many regional distilleries produce several products – pot-distilled brandies and whiskeys, fractionally-distilled vodka, infused gins, and even Aquavit. Nathan decided that 2Bar would focus entirely on his favorite beverage, bourbon. If you didn’t know, bourbon is a heavily regulated beverage in the U.S. and has it’s own federal definitions: it must be made in the US, the mash must be made with at least 51% corn, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, distilled to no higher than 160 proof and barreled at no more than 125 proof, then bottles at 80 proof or higher – it’s a testament to the quality that bourbon makers strive for.
Nathan mashes corn and four types of malted barley, a two-week fermentation off the grains, and double distillation to create depth and complexity in 2Bar’s bourbon. Using four fermenters (named after country music stars) and a daily mashing schedule, 2Bar uses over 20,000 lbs of grain per month and will fill over 240 30-gallon barrels this year alone.
2Bar bottles their bourbon at 100 proof – making it a ‘straight bourbon’, as well as an 80-proof white dog – un-aged, un-barreled moonshine – Nathan recommends that you make a Moscow (Moonshine) Mule with it.
Nathan and Maddie are also PicoStill early adopters; they use the system to distill the products of new grain combinations, continuing to pursue more complex flavors in their bourbon.
A large framed picture of Nathan’s grandfather holding his infant son, Nathan’s dad, hangs in the tasting room as a testament to their family heritage. Various other pictures of the Texas ranch and his family round out the taproom. 2Bar is the largest privately-owned craft distillery in Seattle, and Nathan’s family independence rings through when he says, “I hope we stay independent until the day I die.”
Be sure to drop into the taproom, give the wonderfully friendly Galt (the distillery’s golden retriever and VP of Corporate Morale) a pat on the head, and taste one of the most complex and well-crafted bourbons that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.