Thursday, May 16, 2013

S.D. Strong Distilling is likely the country's only distillery in a cave

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 9:30 AM

S.D. Strong Distilling is heating up in Parkville.
  • Facebook: S.D. Strong Distilling
  • S.D. Strong Distilling is heating up in Parkville.
While other suburban fathers in Parkville tend to their lawns on the weekends, Steve Strong is heading 65 feet below ground. The former rocker, most recently of Steve Strong and the Jackknife Truckers, and father of three has been toiling in the caves below Park University for the past two years. Strong, 44, is the pitchman and distiller for S.D. Strong Distilling, the microdistillery that recently began selling its first spirit: vodka.

"Microdistilleries look like the beginning stages of the microbrewery thing about 20 years ago," Strong says. "And I thought it would be cool to be in on something like this."

Strong's interest in concocting his own spirits began with a former bandmate, who was making moonshine in his garage. But unlike bands, garage operations are never for the public. So Strong attended a conference of the American Distilling Institute, began researching the licensing process and scouted for potential sites in his hometown. The restrictive fire codes for a potential distillery site led him to speak with the city's fire marshal, who recommended the caves because of the intensive sprinkler system.

"That kind of coverage meant that I could have a lot more stuff in progress," Strong says. "And the caves are so bootlegger. I knew our vibe was going to be vintage, and this fit right in."

He ordered a still and mash tun from an artisan still maker in Maine and received his final distilling license in August 2012. S.D. Strong Distilling became the fourth microdistillery in the entire state of Missouri, joining Copper Run in Walnut Shade, Pinckney Bend Distillery in New Haven, and Square One Brewery & Distillery in St. Louis. Strong is just the latest player in a mini regional boom that has seen Dark Horse Distillery, Good Spirits Distilling (the makers of Clear 10 vodka) and Sharkbite Cocktails all launch on the Kansas side in the past five years.

A strongman is naturally the image for S.D. Strong.
  • Facebook: S.D. Strong Distilling
  • A strongman is naturally the image for S.D. Strong.
S.D. Strong Distilling held its official launch party at Gomer's in Parkville on March 29. It's now on shelves at Red X and will be in stock at Gomer's Midtown (3838 Broadway) beginning this Friday. The vodka is also used in cocktails at Nick & Jake's, Trezo Mare, the Rusty Horse Tavern (the Parkville Coffeetini is made with Parkville Coffee espresso and vodka) and the Kill Devil Club.

"It's a really clean, really smooth vodka," Strong says. "It's great for sipping, but if you like a vodka and soda, that's fine, too."

The microdistillery doesn't yet offer tours, but Strong may consider it in the future. For now, he's focused on barrel-aging his whiskey, made with rye and malted barley. The whiskey will be aged in 15-gallon barrels, small batches that will be numbered based on the barrel. Strong is also working on perfecting his gin recipe.

"I hope people are excited about what we're doing," Strong says. "We don't only want Parkville to embrace us, we want Kansas City to embrace us."

Strong and his vodka will be at Gomer's Midtown (3838 Broadway) Friday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. for a Meet the Distiller Event.

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