CHICO — I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Golden Beaver Distillery partner and lead distiller Kris Koenig this week.
Koenig gave me a tour of the brewing room at his distillery, located at 13464 Browns Valley Drive. I didn’t know the distillery existed until now!
I think it’s Chico’s best-kept secret. I got to see three steps in the process of alcohol is made. All of the spirits made there, such as whiskey, bourbon, vodka, gin and soju, are made with local Chico rice and other local Chico ingredients. I actually tasted a bunch of the spirits, and they are delicious! The products are sold in local liquor stores and at Costco.
The distillery has been open for two years and Koenig will be opening up a brand-new still house soon on Park Avenue.
Some of the spirits are Honey Run honey flavored Whiskey, Pacific Flyway Bourbon Whiskey, High Lakes Vodka, Chico Creek Rye and Butte Creek Bourbon.
Golden Beaver Distillery crafts great, handcrafted spirits embedded in established American recipes utilizing locally grown rice, corn, wheat, rye and barley. For each bottle sold, the Golden Beaver Distillery donates a portion of the proceeds to restore beaver habitat across the Sierra Nevada and the Western United States, according to the Golden Beaver website.
Water is not wasted at the distillery, which is great for the environment. The soju is the second most consumed drink. Koenig calls the soju “bipolar” because it is a combination of Japan and Korea.
The rice whiskey has to age for a long time, like a year or two. I saw the barrels outside the distillery.
Golden beavers once consumed the rivers, streams, and wetlands of Northern California until the 1840’s, when over trapping led to their extinction. The beavers demise affected the annual Pacific salmon runs and brought down the creation of wetlands used by migratory waterfowl of the Pacific Flyway, according to Koenig.
Between 1840 and 1907, the wetlands held no beavers and it was an ecological disaster. The rice farmers arrived in the 1900s and took over the role in the wetlands. A new habitat was created. The department of fish and wildlife helped restore them.
The distillery employees offer tastings and tours at the main distillery Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The phone number for the distillery is 321-7827.
The gin costs $39 per bottle and costs $29 at Costco. The vodka is $35 per bottle. Moonshine is $29. Soju is $24.
The new Still House will be available for private parties. Koenig also offers apple pie moonshine and pumpkin, mango, pineapple and cinnamon. These are very popular.
Some of the Golden Beaver products have won awards recently. Sunset International Spirit Competition awarded the low alcohol, gluten-free spirit “Best Asian Spirits” and a gold medal for Soju. The John Barleycorn Society of spirit writers and marketers awarded the clear spirit a gold medal, according to Koenig.
“Beaver in Japanese is Bībā, so of course, it was natural for us to call our handmade, double pot distilled, California-style soju, Bībā,” said Koenig. “We’ve been making rice base spirits from our inception, like our award-winning moonshine, vodka, gin and whiskey, so it was natural for us to put a California spin on the second most consumed spirit in the world, soju, using one of the finest medium rice grains available, Calrose.”
The Honey Run Honey Flavor Whiskey Honey won a gold medal, High Lakes Vodka John Barleycorn Spirits won gold, Feather River Gin won silver, Beaver Likker Moonshine ASCoT won Platinum (for spirit and bottle Design), and New York International Spirits Comp awarded the Moonshine Distillery of the Year in 2021.
The honey whiskey is made from local honey.
Koenig has four full-time employees and one part-time employee. One of his distillers is the only female distiller in the north state.
The new Park Avenue Still House will be located at 2420 Park Avenue, next door to The Commons Social Empourium. Koenig aims to open the still house on Black Friday. Southern Zen Provisions Kevin Klemm will be serving Monday through Friday 4-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Golden Beaver products such as shirts, hats and glasses will also be sold in a gift shop at the Still House.
More information can be found at https://goldenbeaverdistillery.com/.
Jennie Blevins writes a business column every week. To submit ideas or suggestions or ask questions, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.