Peter and Christa Grundy:  Anvil Distillery

Author: Julie Benoit | Photos: Ryan Johnson & Mat Bobby

Peter and Christa Grundy, the owners of Anvil Distillery in Longmont, gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery and tasting room. They were kind enough to open their doors a little early to talk to us a bit about their process and to allow us to explore the space with cameras and questions. Anvil Distillery is in an off-the-beaten path warehouse, and totally worth taking the time to find and spend some time there. The front of the space is a well-lit, quaint and cozy tasting room flanked by a couple of intimate sitting rooms. The space allows for the patron to feel as if they are enjoying a drink in somebody’s house rather than a bar. The back of the warehouse is filled with barrels upon barrels upon barrels, beakers and scientific glass tubes that reminded me of my high school chemistry lab. The offer tours so that guests can see for themselves the process of making spirits. It is definitely worth making a trip to Anvil to enjoy a tasty drink and see for yourself the space.

JB: When did you guys start Anvil Distillery?

PG: We got our distillery license in 2014, but the process started many years before whilst we were on vacation and came across a small distillery in Nova Scotia called IronWorks Distillery. Our vodka was released in April 2015, the gin was released September 2015 and the tasting room opened Nov 2016.

JB: What were you guys doing for work before you started Anvil?

PG: I was a Studio Art Director for a video game company I helped start over 18 years ago. After leaving that job I worked several contract positions until finally starting the Distillery. Christa has been a home school mom for the last few years and prior to that she was involved in a small fitness start up in Niwot. She has also been following a passion for photography.

JB: What is your typical day like? How do you guys balance family life and Anvil because it all seems so intimate and connected?

PG: Wow I’m not sure if we do have balance. Christa tries very hard to keep our family time sacred, but it’s hard. There’s so much to do every week for the the Distillery and family and the kids schedule but we do end up helping Anvil as a family. The kids come with us often when we have Anvil related activity or work, as does Christa’s father. But we won’t lie there are a lot of sacrifices that have and are being made by everyone to keep the place running.

JB: I am not a spirit drinker at all. Is liking gin or vodka an acquired taste? Can I learn to like them? What drink would you suggest someone like me trying?

PG: Hard spirits are an acquired taste for sure but if you take a step towards craft spirits you will notice a difference than the regular offerings. There’s so much more diversity and flavor. Think of the beer and ale industry 20 to 30 years ago in Colorado and look at it now. Craft spirits are at that same place now. As we grow and expand so does the consumers interest in more options and support for local offerings.

If you are not a sipper of hard spirits then I’d recommend some of our more mixed drinks that have fruit and tonics. Ada’s Elixir is always a good place to start since is almost a fruit salad. We tend to favor our vodka straight over blue or feta cheese olives, I am also partial to a few gin and tonics.

JB: How many products do you guys have/have you guys had now?

PG: We currently have 2 products bottled on the shelves, Grumpy’s Vodka and Ironface Gin and we have rum and whiskey on the way. We also have many infused vodkas that are available as mixology offerings at the bar for almost any martini combination you could desire.

JB: What is your favorite thing about your products? What was your first product? Has it changed at all since it was born?

PG: Vodka was our first product. It took almost nine months to develop from when we got our license. It has not changed since as its really important to keep consistency and quality once the product goes out in to the market. The most significant aspect of our products is the flavor. We constantly get compliments on the how sweet and rich our vodka is compared to regular brands. It’s fun to introduce folks to Grumpy’s Vodka with a small straight tasting and watch as they brace themselves for that hard spirit shock that most vodkas have and then see their reaction as it goes down much smoother and flavorful than expected.

JB: What kind of decision making goes into the final product?

PG: As far as the bottled products we do a lot of experimentation and a lot of taste testing. We have a quality that has been very consistent and this holds true for our martini’s and cocktails as well. We seem to have very similar tastes but Christa does seem to come up with more unique flavors and concoctions. We also have a bar tender who is very creative with martini ideas and we currently have such a large selection of infusions our regular customers are coming up with their own combinations too.

JB: Who designs your labels?

PG: I did all of the original branding and still do all of the print based art work that Anvil needs, however the illustrations of the characters are done by an old friend who used to work with me many years ago. Christa also has a keen eye for the visuals develop so she is an important part of the process.

JB: After making your own spirits for the past couple of years do you drink any other gin or vodka? Are you super critical of other gins and vodkas?

PG: Yes we do drink other brands of vodka and gin. It’s an important part of keeping current and competitive. And yes we are super critical but we are also very supportive when we try something we like. There are other distilleries all over Colorado that are creating some great products and we encourage our customers to partake of these other options when we find ones we like.

JB: While walking around the distillery I was having flashbacks from middle school seeing all of the glass beakers, tubes and the science equipment. I remember thinking in chemistry class I will never need this knowledge ever again in my life. Is the process very much based on science and chemistry?

PG: The initial experiments felt very much like that but with a kitchen twist. There is a lot of science that does reside underneath but much of what we do in developing new product is more like a high tech kitchen where we taste ingredients and product at every step of the way.

JB: Can you talk a little bit about the process? How long does each mash take? What is your favorite part of this process?

PG: We do our mash in 100 gal batches and it takes about 5 mashes combined to get a full bottling run of vodka that we would consider 1 bottling batch after all 5 are distilled many times. The best part of the process is the taste testing, obviously.

JB: Can you tell me a bit about your ingredients? Where do you guys get them? You were saying something about a farm growing corn for you guys in the future? That seems really exciting!!! Is it important to you to get things local?

PG: We currently get our non GMO corn from New Mexico and our malted grains from Alamosa, Colorado. The corn we use is white corn as it’s really sweet but it’s hard to find white corn locally. We are talking to the Whiskey Sister Supply’s here in CO and they are looking in to growing non GMO white corn next year. So we shall see…

JB: Is there a decent community for hand crafted spirits? If so what is this community like?

PG: Hand crafted spirits is a small community and it’s broken in to 2 groups, the local distillers and then the consumers. The distillers community is a little tough to get in too as you need to have DSP license to be a member of the Colorados Distillers Guild. And we are all so busy making products that there’s not much time left over for a lot of interaction with fellow distillers. But the consumer community supporting hand crafted spirits is growing every day and they are very loyal and supportive of what we do and other distilleries around town. I’m told it’s very much like the craft brewers community was 20 to 30 years ago.

JB: Is most of your business through the tasting room? I know you guys sell your stuff at a bunch of different stores…are all of these stores in town?

PG: We are in about 100 different locations throughout the front range. And our business is split between those locations, which can be found on our website, and sales in the tasting room.

JB: Has there been a big impact in the world of drinking — like on the big companies by small folks like you guys? Similar to the impact that craft beer has had? I can only assume there has been an impact and if has to feel kind of good to be a part of it.

PG: It’s really had to get in to the craft spirits business it takes a lot of time and investment but over the years since the laws changed to allow for smaller craft distilleries things have been getting better. I’d say the biggest impact we are seeing is an interest craft products. But it’s still really hard to get in to liquor stores and convince folks to try a new product. That’s why we have a tasting room, it allows folks to come and try before they buy. So far everyone who try’s is convinced of the quality difference and taste.

I’m not sure on the bigger impact within the industry or distribution itself. I’m told it’s heading the way of craft beers but for us it’s still baby’s steps convincing one customer at a time to try and buy our product.

JB: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned through your experience of running Anvil?
PG: Marketing, marketing marketing. I think that’s true of any business. It’s so hard to get folks to even see you let alone try your product.

JB: You were telling me about a bottling night that sounded really fun? Also tell me about the tours!!!

PG: When we are ready to bottle we put a notice on Facebook and ask for volunteers. It’s a fun night…we order in pizza, have a few cocktails and you get to take home a bottle.

Our tours are free and if the bar is open we can take new customers on a tour. Since we are in one warehouse is less of a tour per say but more an education on the whole process. If you take a tour you get to see how we truly take our product from grain to glass.

JB: Where are you guys from? How did you guys end up in Longmont? How long have you guys been here?

PG: Christa and I met in Boulder and when we decided to open a distillery in Longmont just seemed like the right fit. Longmont is so open to new businesses moving in and the town is growing and changing every day. It’s an exciting town to be in right now!

JB: Do you have a vision for Longmont ? Will you share some of it? Anvil on Main Street??

PG: We had some long term dreams for where we would like to be. In a free standing building somewhere close to down town, where we can be more of a destination. That’s still our intent but zoning and buildout costs are a significant barrier as of yet. We have a rum and whiskey that’s on its way in the spring!

JB: What is next up for you guys?

PG: Grow Anvil in to one of the premium stops in for craft spirits in Longmont