By Maureen Post Special to Published Dec 16, 2008 at 2:28 PM

In Wisconsin -- thanks to Miller, Sprecher, Capital, Furthermore and others -- we are known for brewing and gulping down beer but on more than one occasion, you'll find plenty of Wisconsinites drinking brandy.

So, in a state where macro and micro breweries flourish, Yahara Bay is nudging our producing a touch closer to our drinking.  Yahara Bay, a Madison-based small scale distillery, recently joined the short but successful list of Wisconsin distilleries.

What makes Yahara Bay unique, other than its Wisconsin origin? Exactly that origin; but in several different ways. Not only is owner Nick Quindt running the only distillery in the Madison area but he's using all natural ingredients from farms within 100 miles.

"I try to use Wisconsin products as much as is possible. Probably my favorite item is in the Honey Crisp Apple Brandy because I use Honey Crisp apples that I get from the Kickapoo Orchard in Gays Mills," says Quindt.

Yahara Bay vodka and gin are both all natural, with no artificial ingredients and no chemical add-ins.

"We take a lot of time making it. One of the things about small batch distillers is that we do it in small batches so we can really tweak it, touch it, smell it," Quindt says. "What you put into it is really what you get out of it."

Before studying the distilling process, Quindt had absolutely no experience in the liqour industry. He came out of retirement at 61 after witnessing a cousin's success at distilling gin and vodka in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"I stopped in to visit my cousin a few years ago who owns a winery and distillery and I thought it would be a cool thing to be doing in Madison," says Quindt. "So, about a year ago, I got started up and we went on the shelves last February."

Yearning for a new adventure, Quindt saw the opportunity to operate the sole distillery in Madison and jumped at the chance.

Quindt studied with Carl Berglund at Michigan State, attended conferences on the distilling process and put a still together by hand before undertaking the process on his own.

"Right now I'm the only employee and when I need some help, I just call in family; definitely a family owned business," Quindt says.

Since Yahara Bay hit shelves last February, word spread and Quindt is making a name for himself from Milwaukee and Racine to Eau Claire and La Crosse.

Quindt began producing solely vodka and gin. But with the success of those, Quindt now produces Honey Crisp Apple Brandy, limoncello and white rum.

"I have several other products in barrels right now aging," Quindt explains.

Mimicking high-end French brandies, Quindt uses apples in place of grapes during the distilling process.

"I tried to make this in the same style; double distilled out of the same apple. It has a little apple taste at the end but it's by no means an apple flavored brandy," Quindt says. "If you didn't know it was an apple brandy, you probably wouldn't even taste it."

A product of Capital Husting Liquor, Yahara Bay can be found at liquor stores and select restaurants and bars throughout Milwaukee.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.