Booze news: Idaho's new corn-and-potato 'moonshine' hits liquor stores

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comDecember 27, 2013 

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Idaho-made Teton Moonshine comes in three varieties and costs $19.95 per 750-milliliter bottle.

It's hard to imagine a hooch more Idaho-sounding than corn-and-tater moonshine — just don't expect it to be distilled illegally in a backwoods shack.

Grand Teton Distillery, near Driggs in the Teton Valley, is the creator of three Gem State moonshines new to state liquor stores.

Rolling in at 80 proof, Teton Moonshine is labeled as "blended American whiskey." It's distilled from an 80/20 split of corn and potato, says Grand Teton co-owner James Morrison. Two additional "flavored whiskey" versions arrive at 70 proof: Spiced Apple Pie Moonshine and Huckleberry Moonshine. A 750-milliliter bottle costs $19.95 - $1 more than Grand Teton's award-winning potato vodka. (The company also recently began selling vodka infused with Oregon cherries. Yum, right?)

Years ago, the word "moonshine" described illicit booze transported under the light of the moon. Today's commercialized definition refers to unaged white whiskey, which heads to the jar or bottle without the added color, flavor and mellowing of barrel aging.

Some retail moonshines come with fruit in the container. Grand Teton's does not, but it's packaged in a little jug that looks good in a home liquor cabinet.

The Spiced Apple Pie and Huckleberry varieties are created using a concentrated flavoring, Morrison says. During informal holiday taste testing I held with friends, the golden-colored Spiced Apple Pie was the easy winner between the two. The nose is filled with cinnamon-laced apple sweetness. The smooth flavor conjures up Mom's freshly baked pie, right down to a subtle buttery crust. Maybe add it to a few ounces of cream for a pie a la mode cocktail?

The dark-colored Huckleberry drew wider-ranging reviews. It has a huckleberry fragrance, but a couple of tasters noted a syrupy, medicinal quality to its flavor.

The higher-octane, nonflavored Teton Moonshine is, well, what it is - crystal clear corn (and potato) whiskey. Splash it in a tin cup and go for it, Grandpa: Here's your Idaho mountain dew. It isn't overtly rough, but sipping it "neat," you are fully aware that you are swallowing 80-proof alcohol. Most drinkers probably would prefer to mix it like vodka.

Better yet, keep your eyes peeled for an age-your-own-whiskey kit. Grand Teton hopes to sell reuseable 2-liter oak barrels sometime in 2014. Pour in a couple of bottles of Teton Moonshine, and voila: "You get a good whiskey aged with a nice brown color in six months," Morrison explains.

Now that could be fun.

Online: tetonvodka.com.

SAWTOOTH BREWERY BOTTLES HIT BOISE

Bottles of Ketchum-crafted beer just appeared in Boise.

Sawtooth Brewery's Freeheeler Rye IPA and Sheepherder Saison are available as hand-bottled bombers at Bier:Thirty Bottle & Bistro, 3073 Bown Road, for $5.99. Distribution to other retailers is in the works.

Freeheeler is brewed with 20 percent rye malt, which Sawtooth Brewery says "separates this beer from the multitude of IPAs available."

The rye component is relatively subdued, but it helps round off the well-balanced IPA's nicely brief hop finish. Freeheeler is 6.4 percent alcohol by volume and comes in at 71 on the International Bitterness Units scale.

Sheepherder Saison (ABV 6, IBU 34) is a lighter, refreshing option. "Saison" is French for "season"; traditionally, farmers in Wallonia, a French-speaking area in southern Belgium, brewed this beer in the off-months for workers to drink during growing and harvest seasons.

Sawtooth describes its version as "dry" and "spicy." For local beer comparison purposes, Sheepherder Saison is somewhat similar to Payette Brewing Co.'s Leaning Barn Farmhouse Ale.

The 22-ounce bottles of Freeheeler and Sheepherder are available year-round.

Online: sawtoothbrewery.com.

SOCKEYE RAISES $2,400 WITH PINK CANS

In an effort to raise breast cancer awareness, six-packs of Sockeye Brewing's Dagger Falls IPA were sold in pink cans during October.

Sockeye, Stein Distributing, Bier:Thirty, Whole Foods Boise, Boise Co-op, Brewforia, Brewer's Haven and Albertsons all made donations for every case of the specially packaged beer that was sold.

The promotion raised $2,400, which was donated to St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute and Saint Alphonsus Cancer Care Center for treatment and care of local cancer victims.

Submit spirits and beer news to mdeeds@idahostatesman.com.

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