Mill Street Still & Brew a Triumph of Craftsmanship

Custom metal work on the exterior of Mill Street Still & Brew in Reno. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

If nerdliness is next to Godliness for brewers and distillers, Reno may now be the site of their most awe-inspiring temple.

The Mill Street Still & Brew is a triumph of brewhouse craftsmanship — and that’s just the building. Inside, an array of “precision beers” and cold-distilled vodka are produced with custom-crafted instrumentation, in steel tanks built to the specifications of a chemical engineer whose day job – oil and gas exploration – inspired their design.

“It’s such a beautiful place. I love showing it off,” said manager Andy Perkins, noting that he offers tours on the fourth Friday of each month.

Graham Gerrard mans the tap room at Mill Street Still & Brew. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Indeed, the equipment has a unique look. Mill street is outfitted with gleaming accoutrements fashioned by hand in a facility near the Geiger Grade. It was designed by Head Brewer and Distiller Will Whipple, who applied his knowledge of  oil industry apparatus to brewing and distilling, Perkins said. The tools of those trades share some features.

Mill Street’s spacious tap room features more custom touches, including a dozen hand-crafted metal tap handles, seven of which are currently up and running with a partial assortment of the brewery’s Micron brand Beers.

Perkins estimates it will be two years until Mill Street is operating at full capacity. Meanwhile, New West Distributing of Sparks has picked up several of the Micron beers, including Honey Blond Ale, No Town Brown, Dayman Cove Hefeweizen, and Secret Cove Cervesa, a Mexican-style lager –- in 16-ounce cans.

Custom designed manifold controls virtually every production task. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Mill Street is boasting a distillation process used only in five other U.S. distilleries, says Perkins.

The distillery is producing 10 Torr Vodka. The brand is distinguished by its room temperature distillation, which averts harshness arising from the traditional process. Traditional distilling creates chemical reactions when heat is applied, according to Mill Street’s wesbite.

Whipple will shortly turn his attention from vodka to gin, using local botanicals, Perkins told GBN.

“We’re working on our gin recipe,” Perkins said. “We’ll have that gin hopefully in the next couple of months.”

Traditionally, gin is distilled at 170 degrees, Perkins told GBN, cooking the botanicals.

“With a vacuum distillation you’re not cooking them,” he said.

10 Torr will use cucumber, lemon, and other ingredients with a raw, fresh flavor, which he say the vacuum distillation will preserve. Later, Mill Street intends to explore vacuum distilling whiskeys, which is currently done only in Japan, Perkins says.

A formal grand opening is scheduled for September 9, but since June, the tap room has been operating Wednesday through Sunday.

Basin and Range Makes 2016 Wines from Frozen Grapes

While a late summer heatwave pushed Reno past 100 degrees, the air was cool inside the city’s first urban winery. The tasting room was cluttered with evidence of its impending grand opening. Behind the massive sliding door that separates the bar from the facility’s rear quarters, one of its resident winemakers worked up a sweat, engaged in the craft’s most unglamorous tasks.

Chris Walsh and Ray Cardoza load Brianna grapes into the press. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Joe Bernardo and a three-man crew were attending to a ten ton harvest from 2016, removed from frozen storage after legal issues delayed the opening of the 4th Street establishment a for the better part of a year. Bernardo and team had carted in loads of Frontenac and Brianna, a smallish green-white hybrid developed for cold hardiness and disease resistance.

They’d processed 14 bins of reds the previous day, Bernardo explained as he attached plumbing lines to a row of tanks.

They were ready now to press 10 bins of the sweet white grapes, turning out a fortified dessert wine for Basin and Range Wines, the label he and winery partner Wade Johnston will offer at 4th street.

“Anywhere from three months to a year,” Bernardo mused, asked when the sweet white will be ready to sell.

Joe Bernardo checks sugar and temperature as the frozen 2016 Frontenac grapes thaw

Despite research suggesting the fruit could yield good wine for a certain period after freezing, Basin and Range suffered no shortage of angst as uncertainty hung over 4th Street venture earlier this year. Besides worry over the state of the grapes, there was the expense of the storage, and a looming grape glut in fall of 2017 if there was no legal path to on-site winemaking in time for the harvest. (The Nevada legislature cleared the way with a last-minute statute before the 2017 session adjourned, permitting up to four winemaking entities to share winemaking and retail space.)

The frozen grape project was interesting enough to attract help from El Dorado County. Winemaker Chris Walsh told Grape Basin News he traveled to Reno and lent a hand because he’d never worked with frozen fruit.

“It’s a chance to see something I haven’t seen before,” said Walsh, whose LJL Wines is located high in the Sierra Foothills. He didn’t find the process to be substantially different.

“Other than the condition of the grapes,” Walsh said. “It’s figuring out what the wine is gonna give you, looking at the numbers, analyzing that, and deciding what to do with it.”

Bernardo and Johnston will be able to boast 100 percent Nevada products, grown at their Basin and Range vineyard in Douglas county.