It all started with an oil field rotational job and a honey-do list that was too short…
Ryan and Amanda Bare, both Mechanical Engineering graduates from Iowa State University and Iowa natives, married and moved to Texas after college. After 15 years of refining oil, they moved back to Iowa where Ryan first learned how to turn corn into alcohol at an ethanol plant. The oil field called to him, however, and he went back… working a 14 day rotational shift in oil production. But what’s an engineer to do with half the year off?
It started small, with some hardware store parts put together in the garage. This is where Amanda should have stepped in with a longer list of honey-dos, but Ryan was passionate about his project. As a farm kid, and after 22 years of designing, operating and maintaining production plants for other people, it was time to build his own. In 2017, we bought a building on the north end of Spencer and the dream started coming to life. Hard work and life well lived… That’s the legacy of our Century Farms.
Our distillery is a labor of love from wall to wall. Our custom built and scratch-designed facility is the work of three generations of the Bare family plus countless others. Every drop of product we bottle is made in our own still we custom-designed and manufactured, providing an exceptional – and wholly unique – flavor profile.
Farmers bring corn from their farms to our facility in Spencer, Iowa, where it is stored in grain bins until we run the batch. An auger brings the corn inside where it is ground using our hammer mill.
Mashing is the process of mixing grain, yeast and enzymes to create the precursor to our product. Enzymes are added to break the starch in the corn to sugar, which makes for a more efficient distilling process. Our exact mashing recipe (often called a mash bill) is a closely guarded secret, the result of years of trial and error.
Fermentation lasts for three days, during which time the yeast works to turn sugar into alcohol. Our special heating system keeps the yeast at just the right temperature to thrive. Yeast kept too hot or too cold creates foul-tasting byproducts, but our exceptionally accurate temperature controls avoid this problem.
Finally comes distillation. We use a mix of steam and electricity to heat the mixture to a gas and float to the top of each of our still’s sixteen heads – a unique feature of our own design which allows for incredibly precise tuning. The still separates the different parts of the mash by boiling point, making for a perfect product. The heads – lighter alcohols – come out first and are discarded. Next come the hearts: the good stuff, which goes directly into bottles or barrels. Finally we get the tails, which are heavier alcohols.
Last, we hand-fill, cap, label, and inspect every single bottle of Century Farms product ourselves in the back building to ensure quality. The bottles are boxed and sent our for distribution or brought up to our tasting room for you to enjoy!
For more details on the distilling process at every stage, visit our distillery and take a tour – you almost need to see it to believe it!
Why are there floaters in my whiskey?
On occasion we see floaters in our whiskey. They usually look like white, whispy clumps that sink to the bottom of the bottle. While we admit they look a little strange, they’re really just a harmless byproduct of the fermentation and distillation process. Our process creates a lot of different molecules which contribute to flavor. Lipids (fats) are just one of these. When whiskey sits for a while – especially if it’s cold – these lipids turn into those white floaters.
We could get rid of those clumps via chill filtering – a purely cosmetic process. Chill filtering, sadly, tends to strip out more than just the lipids – it also gets some of the other flavor molecules which all contribute to the taste of the product. Most larger distilleries do this because they care more about the look of the product than the taste. While we do care about the look of our product, our number one priority is that it tastes great in your glass; those floaters are part of that commitment.