Headframe Spirits of Butte, Montana, announced today it plans to open a third distillery in Butte with enough capacity to rival the large distilleries in Kentucky and Indiana.
Headframe already operates two small distilleries in Butte. Headframe's owners, John and Courtney McKee, opened Headframe Spirits in 2012 and were named Montana’s Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2013. Even though they've only been in business for two years, they swear they distilled their Neversweat Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which is only just barely possible.
Last summer, Headframe entered into a year long project with Butte Silver Bow Community Development, the Community Development Block Program, and SMA Architects to evaluate three potential sites in Butte suitable for "producing a full size barrel of whiskey every seven minutes."
Assuming a 40-hour work week and a 48-week work year, that's about 16,500 barrels a year. The smallest major distilleries produce about 20,000 barrels a year, so their math is a little off, but for micro-distilleries, who are doing well if they fill a barrel a day, that's huge.
Headframe says that although it will be a value-added agricultural manufacturing facility, the goal of site selection included the need to create ties between agriculture, history, manufacturing, and tourism.
With preliminary engineering and architectural work complete and a suitable site selected, Headframe intends to enter into negotiations with property owners Butte Silver Bow County and Atlantic Richfield Company with the goal to take over 20 acres of a former industrial site, The Kelley Mine Yard, to redevelop it into the largest distillery west of the Mississippi.
This project will incorporate Headframe's proprietary continuous flow distillation technology to produce beverage alcohol both for their own brands and for bulk sale. Not a lot of explanation of this 'proprietary technology' has been provided, but it apparently has to do with adapting for beverage production something owner John McKee and Manufacturing Director Mark Chadek worked on at Nova Biosource Fuels, which developed a commercial-scale biodiesel distillation facility with a rated capacity of 10 to 60 million gallons per year.
Headframe says they will maintain the history of the site, with production and restaurant space located in the historic hoist house. Barrel storage, packaging, shipping and receiving will be located in the 54,000 square foot Kelley garage building.
They also envision the site built out to act as an eastern anchor to Historic Uptown Butte, America, with a strong emphasis on tourism, outdoor event space, and economic development. Onsite overnight bungalows and a restaurant were incorporated into the master plan in order to promote a more fully integrated experience onsite and in the Uptown neighborhood.
Headframe anticipates that this project will create approximately 50 new long-term jobs and they intend to keep the ownership in Butte.