Still On Mill is the Real Deal
Nevada’s newest brewery-distillery blends perfect cocktail of science and talent.
STORY BY MEGG MUELLER
PHOTOS BY ERIC CACHINERO
Homebrew operations generally start from a love of beer, and a desire to concoct new flavors from whatever the kitchen might hold. Take that to the next step, and you might find yourself brewing 350 gallons of beer each summer in your garage, and handing it out for free to thousands of people from your camp at Burning Man. Fast forward a few years, and now you’re making and selling almost a dozen beers and one vodka out of a 5,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility of your own design.
Far from a brewer’s fairytale, this is the story of 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co. It’s the story of how Encore DEC, a Nevada-based engineering and refinery plant construction firm, took the technology of brewing and distilling and blended it with the company’s chemical engineer—a homebrew enthusiast.
FUELING A LOVE OF BEER
The homebrewer in this tale is Will Whipple. Will has worked for Encore DEC for about six years, and is still a full-time engineer there. He and Encore owner Randy Soule would often talk about brewing beer. That talk turned serious in 2015.
“The conversation developed into ideas and then evolved into real thoughts about designing and building our own brewery and distillery that would produce products that were much more enjoyable than diesel fuel and gasoline,” Randy says.
Melissa Test, 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co.’s head brewer, and Will have been brewing beer together for about 10 years, and they often talked about having their own brewery.
“We got started brewing big batches of beer for Burning Man,” Melissa explains. “We just spent entire summers brewing batch after batch of beer in our garage.”
Will adds, “We’d been trying to figure out how to get started for a really long time. I had been talking to Randy constantly about brewing and he basically offered to help us get this thing off the ground.”
Without ever having tried the duo’s brews, Randy and the entire Encore team built 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co. from the ground up, basically. The 1940 building was gutted, reinforced, and outfitted with tanks, fermenters, process vessels, and more, all of Will’s design. The taproom—from tables to chairs, decorations, and even the front door—were all designed and built in Reno by Encore’s staff.
TASTING IS BELIEVING
Melissa’s recipes capitalize on the notion of crushability; all of 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co.’s brews are made for drinking. These are beers with familiar qualities, such as hoppy IPAs, smooth Marzens, and satisfying brown ales, but all of them are touched by Melissa’s unique sensibilities. A University of Nevada, Reno, graduate—as is Will, and all of Encore’s engineers—Melissa is a biology and photography major, and her passion for fine and funky beers informs her flavor choices.
“We make beer we want to drink,” she says. “There is some trial and error, for sure, but there are just millions of recipes I want to try.”
Her recipes are aided by the science Will brought to the operation. The couple uses a centrifuge process to dial in just how filtered their brews are, and 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co. is the only distillery in Nevada to use the process of vacuum distillation. Also known as cold distillation, the advantage for brewing and distilling at low pressure and ambient room temperature, keeps flavors true and smooth which is especially notable in the company’s first spirit, vodka. A torr is a unit of pressure measurement and is used in the company’s remarkable distillation process.
Not heating the mash, Will explains, results in a more pure spirit that retains the subtle flavors of the botanicals and removes the chemical harshness often found in spirits. For those used to a rubbing alcohol-like component when tasting vodka, 10 Torr vodka is a clean, smooth, and delightfully flavored surprise. Once again, the idea is drinkability. This is vodka for people who love vodka, but it’s also vodka for those who claim to dislike it. Tasting is believing.
BELLY UP TO AN AMAZING BAR
The taproom is the place to become a believer. With up to 12 different brews and vodka cocktails—not to mention shuffleboard and free hot popcorn—the vibe at 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co. is relaxed and friendly. The aforementioned door and design elements all come from the craftsmen and women at Encore. Welded signs, a massive pipe that serves as the tap, and other industrial structural elements make this not only a gorgeous bar, but a fascinating one as well.
Warmer temps bring the patio to life, complete with outdoor games such as corn hole. Food trucks generally visit on Friday and Saturday evenings—even in winter—and there are restaurants in the neighborhood, which lies just southeast of downtown and near Greater Nevada Field where the Reno 1868 FC and Reno Aces play.
As 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co. relaxes into its first year of business, plans are on the table to follow the popular vodka with gin and whiskey. Room for all the barrels required to put up those spirits has been found in a second location, and while local distribution is already in the works, Melissa and Will are looking at expanding the footprint outside of the Silver State.
With the addition of 10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co., Nevada is now home to 38 breweries. Reno is home to two brewery/distillery combinations (The Depot is the other), and while that may seem like a bit of saturation, Nevada is still far behind other states in terms of number of libation makers. But as Melissa points out, the community of craft brewers is focused on quality, not quantity.
“It’s a really great community of brewers,” she says. “We don’t see it as a competition. Instead we’re all trying to take care of each other.”
When your business is a labor of love, the outcome can often be one of struggle and dashed dreams. But in this tale at least, cheers are in order for this tasty success story.
GRAB A DRINK
10 Torr Distilling & Brewing Co.
490 Mill St.
Reno, NV 89502