Davenport Iowa Whiskey – Painstaking Open Fermentation

OpenFerment1Davenport Iowa Whiskey – Painstaking Open Fermentation


Let’s talk fermentation. One of the first steps in the production of any spirituous liquor comes by way of fermentation.  It’s a natural process, the ancients called it a gift of the gods.  And, yeast is the key.


Without going into the inner workings of your sixth grade science class, yeast is a single-celled naturally occurring micro-organism; actually a member of the fungi family. These little organisms feed on sugar and other nutrients excreting alcohol and carbon dioxide.


Anyone who has ever made homebrew beer or wine will tell you about the copious bubbling that takes place as those little yeasts do their work. Further, anyone who has toured Great River Brewery, which is located next door, has seen the care that goes into protecting the brewing beer from outside air.  They do that to keep wild airborne yeasts out of their brew.  The practice gives them the ability to mimic styles and flavors of beer from around the world.  For example, a German beer may use a different strain of yeast than a great Belgium, Czech or English beer.


Sadly, many of today’s new distillers use a similar process. Using this closed fermentation process, they mimic the great recipes of other distillers.  Do they produce good or even great product?  Probably, after all taste is such a personal thing.  We decided to pursue a one of a kind approach, to do things differently.  And this brings us to Artisan Grain Distillery’s open fermentation approach.


OpenFerment3Once a batch of the finely ground grain is placed in our open fermenters, we add a specially formulated yeast to get the fermentation process started. Only a small amount is required because once these  “hungry yeasts” discover our mash they reproduce and multiply dramatically (exponentially for those with a math background).  But here is where the magic takes place.  Not only are our special yeasts growing, but a small amount of wild yeast find their way to the mash as well.


Think about this for a moment. There are billions of yeast strains.  They’re part of the very air we breathe.  And, science tells us the yeast occurring naturally in Davenport Iowa are different from the yeast in Scotland, Ireland and even Kentucky.  It is quite possible, prehistoric yeast strains found along this portion of the Mississippi River have been circulating since Marquette and Joliet portaged around the Rock Island Rapids, since Abe Lincoln made his pre-Civil War pilgrimages to inspect the river bridge and certainly since Mr. Woods fired up Davenport’s first still just a few hundred yards from the present day location of Artisan Grain Distillery.


Open vat fermentation requires greater personal interaction between distiller and the fermenting mash. Many of the legends of whiskey making are known for their ability to gauge the quality and duration of the actual fermentation process just by the reach aroma given off by their open vats.  The great whiskey makers use this process.  For instance, one visitor to the Maker’s Mark distillery made this comment on TripAdviser.com:

We love touring winery’s and distilleries because it is interesting, and we just love the smells wafting through the air. MM uses open vats for the mash and the entire property smells of sour mash.”

Little did this neophyte realize…


We invite you to come taste, and maybe smell the difference. Davenport-style whiskey done using the meticulous touch is produced in the historic old Bucktown section of Davenport, Iowa is available again.  And it’s found only at Artisan Grain Distillery.  We invite you let your mind wonder and treat yourself to the unmistakably unique flavor of whiskey done the right way.