The Chehalis tribes have opened the country’s first distillery on reservation land
They have started hiring more workers and are ready to go. “We are thrilled to have spirits production begin and this space come to life,” Burnett said.
Opening a brewery during pandemic restrictions, when bars and restaurants were closed, made it difficult to introduce a new craft beer to a crowded market. But now that things have started to open up a bit, Talking Cedar’s Pacific Northwest IPA and Raspberry Blond IPA can be found packaged and on tap in bars and outlets all over Washington and the northern Idaho. A Kolsch, a Pilsner and an Eagle 1 IPA are also being distributed at the moment, but Talking Cedar plans to modify its product line to meet the demand for innovation in the market.
A tasty future
Talking Cedar also works with Stillwater Artisanal, which distributes beer in 35 states and five countries. “It’s a big deal for us,” said Ryan Myhre, head brewer at Talking Cedar. “It will allow us to use a large part of this capacity. We have a lot more here than Talking Cedar could probably use in 10 years, so it’s really imperative to bring in a partner who has a very large distribution footprint and Stillwater is that person.
According to Myhre, through Talking Cedar’s partnership with Stillwater alone, the operation is expected to produce 6,000 barrels of beer and, by 2024, up to 15,000 barrels per year. “It’s a daunting task,” Myhre said.
In the future, Talking Cedar may start growing its own hops.
“When we talk to some of our older tribal members, they may recall that as children in our valley there was hop production,” Burnett said. The elders remember their parents going to the hop fields and picking hops to earn money. “So we know this area can grow hops, and we’d like to try to do that and really create unique flavors that are distinct from our reserve,” he said.