The owners of Do Good Distillery in Modesto poured samples of their whiskey Thursday to celebrate a new state law aimed at boosting small-scale producers.
Assembly Bill 1295 permits on-site sales of up to three bottles per customer at distilleries that produce less than 100,000 gallons a year. Backers said this will give them a direct-to-consumer advantage in a market dominated by big liquor companies.
“This is a huge deal, to do the tours and bring people in, and they can walk away with up to three bottles,” co-owner Jim Harrelson said.
The distillery, off Mariposa Road in the Beard Industrial District, hosted public officials, business leaders and other people during the late-afternoon event.
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Do Good, founded in 2013, employs six people full-time and two part-time. It makes 10 types of whiskey and smaller amounts of gin and rum.
The company is part of an emerging craft liquor industry in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The Valley’s wine industry is massive, and it also has a craft beer sector that is gaining traction. E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto has several spirits along with its many wine selections.
This is a huge deal, to do the tours and bring people in, and they can walk away with up to three bottles.
Jim Harrelson, co-owner of Do Good Distillery
Thursday’s visitors included Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, whose district takes in part of Modesto. He said craft distillers had been hampered by 1930s laws that kept liquor manufacturers, distributors and retailers separate – a system intended to keep organized crime out of the industry.
“I think we found a nice balance, to grow some small businesses and give people an entry into the market,” Gray said.
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Mark Levine, D-San Rafael, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October.
The gathering took place in the tasting room out front and in the production area that takes up most of the 20,000-square-foot building. Corn, barley and other grains are milled and then heated to turn the starches into sugars. The mix ferments to produce alcohol, which then is concentrated in a still. The whiskey ages in oak barrels for two to 10 years, depending on the type.
Do Good whiskeys sell for $40 to $50 per 750-milliliter bottle. They are available at several grocery stores, including O’Brien’s and nine Save Marts, and at bars and restaurants.
Also on hand Thursday was David Souza of Sweet Potato Spirits of Atwater, which makes liquor from one of Merced County’s major crops.
“(The law) is going to be a big thing for us,” he said. “We’re building a whole new facility because of it.”
That project will be on a yet-to-be-decided site within a mile of the current operation on Hull Road.
John Holland: 209-578-2385