The Arkansas distillery scene is expanding like yeast. Last week, Rock Candy wrote a bit about Delta Dirt Distillery coming to Helena-West Helena. Another distillery, like Delta Dirt named to reflect its home, is Crystal Ridge, which Danny and Mary Bradley hope to open in Hot Springs in February 2019.
Danny Bradley knows something about how alcohol works because he’s a Ph.D. animal nutritionist whose job required him to learn about yeast. The idea to open a distillery “just started growing from there,” he said. “I’m not really a big drinker. I’m really not a connoisseur; I’m a scientist.”
He’s also a lover of Hot Springs history, so he plans for Crystal Ridge, to be located at 455 Broadway in the 15,000-square-foot building that housed The Old Country Store, to feature information on the Spa City’s past as a bootlegger’s paradise. Crystal Ridge will also feature information on how alcohol is made — making it sort of a museum/distillery.
Bradley will distinguish Crystal Ridge with one of its products: white lightning. Because what constitutes moonshine, unlike bourbon and other spirits, is mostly undefined under federal regulations, Bradley can come up with his own concoction. “Right now I’m hoping to use Arkansas-sourced grain. So I’m looking at corn, of course, but what I want to do is a wheat-based moonshine,” with 50 percent wheat and a mixture of rice and corn.
Bradley has not made spirits — that would be illegal, as Nixon said to the potted plant. He has, however, shadowed other distillers at distilleries and breweries, including Ole Smokey Moonshine and Sugarlands in Gatlinburg, Tenn., which he says has a tourist trade much like Hot Springs. And he understands chemical reactions. “I know there are going to be tricks of the trade that I’ve got to learn,” he said, but basically, to make booze you follow a recipe.
Crystal Ridge will include a restaurant and events area; Bradley wants to appeal to the families who come to Hot Springs for vacations.
Bradley will repaint The Old Country Store brick in gray and copper tones and has his equipment on order. He’s also working on a menu.