In honor of Herbert, sadly now deceased, our first run in the still was Criterion Apple Brandy. On the eve of Robert's departure, we were able to get the still up and running so that he could make sure the still was operating correctly, and oversee this first batch. Pictured is the apple mash, on the brink of being distilled, of our first brandy run.

First Run in the Still...Background

On an excursion to pick up grape pommace from a vineyard near Salem, we saw a rough wooden sign advertising apples for sale. The owner of the small orchard, tooling around on a souped up golf card, turned out to be a 90 year old German bricklayer, Herbert. We described our alcohol-related purpose, and asked him what he would recommend as the best apple for brandy. Hebert got a gleam in his eye and pronounced at once, "Criterion!"

Installing the Still

Robert, who had hosted the distillery workshop in Chicago, flew to Portland to help assemble our still. A second round with the plumber and his helpers, the electrician and his helpers, our landlord, as well as Sebastian and I, ensued, that required much patience, leg work, and creativity. All within the ticking deadline of when Robert had to fly back to Chicago. We needed the still up and running so he could teach us how to operate it. One major snafoo was that the threading of the heating elements, shipped just in time from Texas, didn't match the fitting inside the still, and they could not be installed. Sebastian and Robert made mad dashes to Hall Tools, and after consultation, ended up at Paul Brong Machine Works, who were able to rethread the heating elements to the appropriate British standard.

The Still Arrives

A very momentous day, Friday, November 20. A huge truck full of distillery items, glass carboys, boxes of 375 mm, 750 mm bottles, limousin French oak barrels, and most importantly, the still. The unloading went smoothly- with help from our neighbors, and the use of their forklift and driver- only encountering, and quickly overcoming, a minor bump when we discovered that the pallet containing the still was attached to the bottom of the container with an unusual screw head.

More getting ready.....

Our plumber and his assistant, our electrician and his helpers, our landlord, (also the architect of the Green Warehouse and well versed in construction and carpentry), Sebastian, with his detailed knowledge of the floor plan and the requirements of each piece of equipment, and me, a willing go-for, labored for several days to make sure that our new space could accomodate all the various utility requirements of our business.

Getting our Space Ready

We had an empty, newly painted space to populate according to detailed drawings of where each piece of equipment would go, which we had to submit to the various permitting and licensing agencies. (Of which there are many!!!: the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau, (TTB) the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the Department of Agriculture, the City of Portland, FDA, etc.)

We bought stainless steel sinks, an industrial dishwasher with an amazing 2 minute wash cycle, a stainless steel table on wheels, a hot water heater, shelving, 430 liter plastic fermentation tanks, an air compressor, a industrial mixer with a super long handle, cutting boards, a fruit grinder.

Essential Ingredient: The Still

Sebastian attended a distillers' workshop in Chicago March 2009, organized by Kothe Distilling Technologies, a German-based manufacturer of artisan stills. When we decided to start our business, we wanted this type of pot still, which blends copper and stainless steel in both a beautiful and functional fashion.

An advantage of working with Kothe is that the still could be customized for the type of alcohol we were planning to produce, and we could get endless technical help from both Robert Birnecker, owner of Koval, Chicago's first artisan distillery, and Dr. Klaus Hageman, an expert in fermentology and distillation sciences in Germany. Our still was specifically designed for fruit brandies, but is also adaptable for grappa, grain spirits, and liqueurs.

After placing our order, it took two months for the still to be manufactured in Eislingen, shipped from Germany to New York via the container vessel APL Sardonyx, and then make its way by train across the states to Portland.

Stone Barn Brandyworks

Sebastian and I (Erika Degens) formed our business "Stone Barn Brandyworks" in August 2009. We had spent many an afternoon biking around southeast Portland, and inner northeast Portland, looking for a space which would work for what we had in mind: one with high ceilings, about 700 square feet, with a floor drain, a roll up door for bringing in and out large pieces of equipment, an area that would be easy to clean and keep clean, with a monthly rental fee which we could afford. We were very fortunate in finding and leasing an ideal start-up space in the Green Warehouse, a small business incubator project relatively close to our home in Southeast Portland.
Photo courtesy of Brad Yazzolino.

Stone Barn to participate in upcoming Distillery Row Craft Distillery Appreciation Classes!

Portland’s Distillery Row is presenting a hands-on, tasting-oriented series of classes over a two day period in the winter of 2012. Participants will have an opportunity to get an inside look at distilleries, meet the distillers, and learn about the process of making artisanal spirits.
  • Sunday February 12, 2012, from 10-4

  • Sunday February 19, 2012, from 10-4
The cost for the classes is just $250 for both days, with a catered lunch provided on the 12th.

The two day course will span two consecutive Sundays with participants traveling between the distilleries to learn about such topics as:
  • Orientation to distillery equipment and distillation processes

  • Barreling and aging spirits

  • Fermentation & basic mash techniques

  • Making the cut and proofing of spirits

  • mixology
The classes will focus on the sensory aspects of craft distilling and are intended to appeal to both those with technical interests, as well as those who simply appreciate spirits and want to understand the spirit-making process better. Participants will be exposed to the nuances of making such spirits as gin, vodka, whiskies, rum, and brandies & liqueurs.

Following the final session, we'll repair to the Rum Club for a Happy Hour, featuring Distillery Row cocktails, as well as mixing and mingling with the distillers.

Limited to 20 participants.

Register now!


How would the ancient Greeks have made their ouzo? Certainly not with lots of sugar. This spirit reinvents an ouzo from a pinot gris grappa that is redistilled with green Moroccan anise and other spices to create a dry and complex after dinner aperitif.


This year's grappa is made from a blend of pinot noir pomace from several vineyards in Oregon. We're aging the grappa in Limousin oak barrels. In 2010 we plan to produce vineyard-specific grappa.

Grappa is wonderful after dinner, or goes excellently with coffee. We serve an "Oregon Coffee" at brunches using our grappa in place of Irish whiskey.