MILLERS FALLS — Element Brewery is starting a nano-distillery and will be celebrating its new products in a grand opening on Friday.
It will be the first commercial distillery in Franklin County since Prohibition, according to Element’s owners.
Co-founders Ben Anhalt and Dan Kramer said starting a distillery was something they had in the back of their minds since opening in 2009. When they moved into their new space at 16 Bridge St. a little more than a year ago, the additional room allowed for the possibility.
“Most distillers talk about handmade small batch products, but we are the smallest distillery in the state with each batch yielding just a handful of bottles,” Anhalt said.
They applied for the federal license when they moved in 2015, and it took about a year and a half to get. They have one still, which holds about 13 gallons of “wash” — meaning ingredients that are heated to create alcohol.
Anhalt said that fermentation lasts about two weeks, then distilling, which lasts three days. At that point, vodka and gin, which require no aging, are ready. Products like rum and whiskey, however, would then be aged in an oak barrel, rum for two months and whiskey for three.
Anhalt said some products take much longer. The bourbon they are distilling now, he said, will be ready in about two years.
Anhalt said the business is growing out of its current setup. According to the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission website, there are 29 other businesses with “farmer distillery” licenses in the state. Commission director Ralph Sacramone said there is only one type of distillery license in the state, but that fees change with increased output.
The state defines that as, “a license authorizing producing, manufacturing or distilling of distilled spirits by the person who grows fruits, flowers, herbs, vegetables, cereal grains or hops for the purpose of producing alcoholic beverages.”
Both Anhalt and Kramer said state Rep. Stephen Kulik was instrumental in helping them get a state license. Kramer said Kulik helped them get approved in about a month instead of the six to nine months it can often take.
On Friday, Kulik will perform the ribbon cutting on Element’s new outdoor beer garden as part of the grand opening of the nano-distillery. As a tribute to the legislator’s help, the brewery will be serving a “Kulik,” a drink made of Element’s gin as well as grapefruit juice and rosemary.
The distillery’s first product came out in March and is a 100 proof moonshine called Black Lightning, colored with dark malted barley. Beyond the moonshine and the hopped gin, Element also offers whiskey, vodka and rum. The gin and vodka are both made from Hatfield potatoes and the hops in the gin are also local.
The different alcohols are currently only available at the Element location. Mixed drinks are available on site as well as 100 milliliter bottles and one liter Erlenmeyer flasks.
The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the brewery.