When you start going down the rabbit hole you tend to find new paths at each turn. Such is the case when you start a conversation about “Yeast Jugs”. In today’s craft spirits world, most distillers order their yeast from one of the many yeast providers in the marketplace. But, there are still old school distillers and some new school craft distillers that believe in managing their own yeast in a “Yeast Jug” or “Dona Jug.” Managing your own yeast is as much an art as it is a science. Many distillers will openly discuss their mashbill but when it comes to their yeast strain, mum’s is the word.
Alan Reed Bishop is a self-proclaimed Farmer-Distiller. He operates a small family farm in Southern Indiana known as Bishops Homegrown, an evolving ‘proto’ business called Face of the Earth which focuses on the development of agricultural varietals for distilling, he’s the former distiller at Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. and he’s the current head distiller at Spirits of French Lick.
Alan’s Tale of a Handmade Copper Yeast Jug
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“When it comes to the distilling industry, be it legal or illicit, much like any other industry it’s not always about what you know but instead who you know,” says Alan. “I’m the first to admit I am no sheet metal worker/artist but I do have a penchant for copper quite obviously, both in my line of work but also for historical and reenactment purposes (oh yeah, he’s into historical reenactments as well.) Luckily for me I’ve got a lot of good friends out there who really know their way around crafting truly one of a kind and beautiful copper pieces.”
Building a Distillery One-Piece-at-a-Time
“I have promised not to give out the name of the artist as his preference is to work only for close friends and family and he maintains a day job. I’ve had him build me several pieces and we jokingly prod that I am building a “One piece at a time” distillery from his work.”
“The photos and all the work that follows belong to him and I am grateful for all of his skills. The piece goes by many names including Yeast Jug, Yeast Fount or Dona Jug. In the good ole’ days before the term “Master Distiller” became a marketing term the “Yeast Makers” or Distillers of the practical distillation type always had one of these on hand as an easy way to move yeast from a starting culture to a fermenter or to even carry home with them their unique yeast variety in order to protect it and maintain it. Few distillers now would know what this is or even how to use it.”
“This beautiful hand-crafted copper yeast jug is not for show. This copper yeast jug is going to work in my distillery!”
Click on any image to enlarge and enjoy the copper yeast jug journey from paper and pencil to completion.
Alan Reed Bishop is the Head Distiller at Spirits of French Lick. Anywhere agriculture, music, history, and distillation create a crossroads is the place that Alan calls home. Born and raised in Pekin, Indiana on a small third-generation tobacco farm, the blood of many Hoosier and Kentucky farmer-distillers drives him and calls to him from deep within. Alan has refined his distillation art from skills handed down to him from generations of family members and from practical experience. He writes about his life’s journey at The Alchemist Cabinet.