The dreaded bye week is here. I’m just kidding, bye weeks are great! The players get a chance to rest, and the fans get a chance to check out other teams without the lingering thought of, “What if the Badgers lose today?” While the players get a week off to recharge their bodies and minds, we as fans have no such luck. We have to stay in prime tailgating form even in the off weeks.
For that reason I thought it wise to check out Madison’s first, and only the second in the whole state of Wisconsin, craft distillery which was founded in 2007. They don’t only produce delicious spirits either! There is an art gallery at their cocktail room which features local artists and they also have an event space that can be rented out for weddings or, I’m assuming, adult dodgeball leagues.
Yahara Bay is now distributed in 20 states but they are focused on using locally sourced ingredients to produce the best product you can buy from Wisconsin. Let’s see what they’re all about!
Name: Yahara Bay Distillers
Location: 6250 Nesbitt Rd #200, Madison, WI 53719
Key Products: Yahara Bay Whiskey, Yahara Bay Vodka, Yahara Bay’s Preiselbeere Schnapps, Yahara Bay Apple Brandy
Here is my interview, conducted via email and lightly edited, with head distiller Lars Forde.
What got you started in the distilling industry?
I was introduced to distilling in 2007 by my parents Nick and Catherine Quint who founded Yahara Bay that year. At the time, we were the first distiller in Dane County and only the second in Wisconsin.
What did you actually go to school for?
I began my career thinking I would become a graphic designer. However, I found that distilling craft spirits was also a satisfying form of artistic expression.
When did you change your career path to distilling?
I had been working construction with Nick before I joined Yahara Bay.
What is your favorite product Yahara Bay makes?
Hands down our YB Whiskey is my favorite which is known for its iconic label with the vintage badger. I drink Yahara Bay Whiskey it for its easy, smooth drinkability.
What is your favorite product someone else in Wisconsin makes?
By virtue of our business, our distillery is also licensed as a brewery and a winery. I enjoy beer in addition to YB Whiskey and I specifically like Karben4 and Vintage Brewing. In fact, we produce a limited-release of a single malt made from Vintage Brewing’s Woodshed Oaked IPA. It is hoppy and very delicious.
Do you follow the Wisconsin Badgers?
I am all about tailgating and thought of Wisconsin Badger fans when crafting our new line of Old Fashioned Cocktails—truly a ready-made cocktail in a bottle.
If so, how do you think they’ve done so far this season?
All we see are enthusiastic Badger fans at our game-day samplings around town—so that is a good sign.
Is your booze distributed in Madison?
We are distributed state-wide and can be found in supper clubs, sports bars and grocery stores across Wisconsin.
Does Yahara Bay offer tours?
We offer a behind-the-scene tour at our distillery on Saturdays at 1PM, 2PM and 3PM or by appointment by calling 608-275-1050—the fee is $10 per person. Following the tour, we offer a sample of our spirits. Often our guests stay for a craft cocktail from our full tasting bar or for an offering from our new chef.
Which product should Badgers fans drink before/during a game while tailgating?
3RD GEAR is perfect for Badger game days. What is more Wisconsin than a ready-to-go Brandy Old Fashioned? Just pour on the rocks and add a splash of soda.
What is your favorite cocktail to make with a Yahara Bay product?
I am old school—give me YB Whiskey on the rocks and I am a happy camper.
What do you listen to while distilling?
When “Carl”—our 90-gallon copper pot still—is working, I like to listen to a wide variety of music from Grateful Dead to Slayer.
Why is making craft spirits important to you?
As a small-batch distillery, we pride ourselves in crafting clean spirits through a distillation process that removes toxic chemical compounds. Our tours are designed to educate a customer about this process.