I don’t think of myself as being “that person.” You know, the one who buys a bottle of something because of the label and nothing more.
In this case, the label did draw me in, but the contents also swayed me. And the fact that mom liked it, too, well, all the more reason to have a bottle of whiskey in the house.
This is no ordinary whiskey. It’s made by Golden Beaver Distillery in Chico. The Honey Run Whiskey earned a gold medal for honey-flavored whiskey at the 2021 Honey Spirits Competition.
The back label says, “In 2018 the Camp Fire, the largest and most devastating wildfire in California history, took 86 lives and Butte County icon—the Honey Run Covered Bridge. We honor those lost and the historic bridge with this local, handcrafted spirit. The American craft whiskey starts a straight bourbon with a 21 percent rye mash bill. We then add all-natural raw Northern California Wildflower honey from the Chico Honey Company to a hint of sweetness. Enjoy straight on ice or in your favorite cocktail.”
The front label is of the bridge when it was intact.
All of the labels at Golden Beaver are a work of art, so that’s why I couldn’t just pick a bottle based on what it looked like. The names have a local bent as well, like Chico Creek Rye and Butte Creek Burbon.
The website explains the name of the distillery. “Golden Beavers once filled the rivers, streams, and wetlands of Northern California until the 1840s when overtrapping led to their extinction. The beavers demise affected the annual Pacific salmon runs and reduced the creation of wetlands used by migratory waterfowl of the Pacific Flyway. With each bottle sold, the Golden Beaver Distillery will donate a portion of the proceeds to restore beaver habitat across the Sierra Nevada and the Western United States.”
Today, people can hop on one of the tractor seats at the bar for a tasting or order a specialty cocktail. While free tours are possible if an employee has time, the backdrop at the bar is of the operation. Just sitting there is impressive; as was listening to all the information bartender Miguel had to dispense.
Immediately on the other side of the glass is the mechanism called the Tennessee Thumper, the moonshine still. Mason jars are hooked up to the contraption. Infused moonshines keep being concocted.
Fortunately, on this particular Friday afternoon the three of us were able to get a tour by Andrew.
All of the grains—rice, corn, wheat, rye and barley—come from California. Local rice grower Lundberg supplies a sushi rice that is used in the moonshine. Some of the honey is from Orland. Chico’s Eckert Malting provides the malted rice.
Stainless steel and copper machines fill the warehouse. An automated bottling machine was recently added, which allows for 500 bottles to be processed in an hour.
Owner Kris Koenig started distilling spirits at the facility near the airport in August 2020, while the grand opening of the site was in December last year. In short order the distillery has been racking up awards. It was named the California Moonshine Distillery of the Year at the 2021 New York International Spirits Competition, and the Beaver Likker Moonshine earned platinum at the 2021 Ascot Awards.
- Tastings are $12 a person, with the fee waived with the purchase of a bottle.
- Email: info@GoldenBeaverDistillery.com
- Phone: 530.321.7827
- Address: 13464 Browns Valley Drive, Chico