Iowa Farm Bureau Article: An entrepreneurial spirit

By Tom Block
8/10/2020
Originally published at: Iowa Farm Bureau

(Photo above: Sara Winkleman watches as her husband, Brian, checks the aroma of a new batch at S&B Farms Distillery in Bancroft. The couple started their distillery in 2018 after plenty of research. PHOTO / GARY FANDEL)

Sara and Brian Winkleman are turning corn grown on their Kossuth County farm into award-winning spirits at S&B Farms Distillery in Bancroft.

The beginnings of the venture can be traced back about four years ago when a friend who wanted to use Iowa-grown sweet corn to make a batch of moonshine hooked them up with a distillery in Georgia. Watching the process kicked Sara’s entrepreneurial instincts into overdrive.

“I went down there, and when I saw the process, it was very fascinating and intriguing,” she says. “I decided I wanted to learn how to do this. From that day forward, it was full on.”

After much research, they op­­ened S&B Farms Distillery in 2018.

Brian, who was born and rais­ed on a farm near Ledyard, says growing corn for whiskey isn’t much different than typical uses like livestock or ethanol. While their initial experience involved sweet corn, S&B Farms uses field corn to make its products because it is better suited to the distilling process.

The corn is milled at the farm and brought to the distillery, where Brian tends to the process of distilling the grain into alcohol using Sara’s carefully crafted recipes.

“When we’re done distilling, we haul the mash back out and feed it to our cattle,” says Brian, who raises corn, soybeans, peas, sweet corn, cattle and hogs with longtime farming partner, Ryan Steenhard. The Winklemans’ 15-year-old daughter Grace and 10-year-old son Garrison also help out with chores on the farm.

Rich, black Iowa soil

The area’s rich, black soil is one of the secrets to the award-winning taste of S&B Farms’ products, Sara explains.

“We are very, very blessed here in the Midwest. One thing that I learned through this process is that corn grown in different areas of the United States all has a different flavor,” she says. “The black soil here makes a huge difference. The corn that is being distilled (at S&B Farms) is nice, sweet, very good tasting. There’s no bitterness to it.”

All of S&B Farms’ products carry names with deep connections to their family, such as Private First Class named after Sara’s grandpa, Ray Baade, a World War II veteran and one of her biggest supporters; and Hog Wild, a nod to the Winklemans’ background as hog farmers. There’s also Field Fire, a spicy pineapple jalapeno moonshine, and a trio of spirits named after the family’s dog — Sir Winston Bourbon, Sir Winston Peach and Sir Winston White Whiskey.

Sara pours her time and ef­forts into perfecting the recipes for each product, experimenting with different flavors until she hits on the right formula.
Perfecting recipes

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” she admits. While she was working on the peach bourbon, she had a group of her friends taste test several versions until it elicited the reaction she wanted.

“It’s got to be, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ So until we hit that ‘amazing,’ I don’t stop.”

The process is then turned over to Brian, who learned how to run the still by watching an experienced moonshiner the Winklemans hired to help get the enterprise up and running. The distilling process is as much art as science, Sara notes, with smell and taste playing a big part in the final result.

“Everything is done to our palettes. If somebody else used the same recipe, it would taste different,” she explains. Their efforts have been recognized with several awards, including a silver medal for Sir Winston Peach at the 2020 Denver International Spirits Competition.

IFBF RRIA Award

The Winklemans, who won the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa award in June, plan to maintain that hands-on ap­­proach even as they embark on an expansion that will more than double the size of their production and warehouse area. They hope to have the expansion completed before winter so they can add more stills to meet growing demand for their products.

They worried sales would suffer when COVID-19 forced bars and restaurants across Iowa to close their doors in March. The distillery briefly shifted its production focus after being contacted by local emergency management officials regarding shortages of hand sanitizer, pumping out 1,100 gallons of the sanitizer for distribution across 15 counties in Iowa and Minnesota.

However, they noticed sales of their spirits were also taking off as homebound customers adjusted their buying habits for at-home consumption. Many, it seemed, were looking for products with a local connection. In addition to their store on Bancroft’s main street, S&B Farms products can be found in stores statewide, including large retailers such as Hy-Vee, Fareway and Casey’s.

“Shortly after we got into the hand sanitizer, we saw increased sales of our products,” Sara says. “The way it was increasing, we had to turn back and start making products because it was going crazy. We are running at maximum capacity right now.”

Attracting tourists

Their storefront and tasting room, housed in a former dentist’s office, has become a tourist attraction. They estimate nearly 2,000 customers came through the doors in the first three weeks of July. In addition to S&B Farms products, the store carries homemade barbecue sauces, jams, salsa and T-shirts, among other items.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be where we are now. It’s been a whirlwind,” says Sara. “People are driving hours to see us. People like that they can drive here in Iowa and meet the people who are making their product.”

S&B Farms Distillery Receives Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award

By Caitlyn Lamm
Source: iowafarmbureau.com
6/3/2020

The Winklemans had never thought about turning corn into whiskey but suddenly were intrigued, and a trip to Georgia to learn more about the distilling process was all it took for Sara to become infatuated with the idea. Soon after, in 2018, the couple found themselves renovating an old Bancroft, Iowa dentist office where S&B Farms Distillery was born.

S&B Farms Distillery offers a lineup of award-winning bourbons and whiskeys made from corn grown on the Winkleman farm. While they offer classic spirit flavors, some of their handcrafted products also have an extra kick like “Field Fire,” a spicy pineapple jalapeno moonshine and “Hog Wild,” with hints of cinnamon. Near and dear to Sara’s heart though is their bottle of “Private First Class,” named after her grandfather, a WWII veteran. “We’ve always been best friends,” she says. “So, when I decided I wanted to go on this adventure, he stood there and cheered me on.”

When it comes to whiskeys from all over the United States, the Winklemans say Iowa corn has a taste advantage. As farmers they know the type of corn, where the corn is planted and the soil plays a huge factor. In fact, their recipe replicated somewhere else in the country would yield a different taste, and distillers who have tried Iowa corn whiskey, Sara says, were very impressed.

“When we were down in Georgia, we would try some of their alcohol that was made from corn down there and compare it to ours, and I think it’s just the good black soil we have in Iowa that just gives the corn a better flavor,” says Brian.

Dean Berte, Kossuth County Farm Bureau president, also knows the value of Iowa’s corn and how it impacts rural communities. “I think any business that uses grain up in this area is good. I think it’s big for the community of Bancroft to have some expanding businesses in town,” he says.

Executive Director of the Kossuth-Palo Alto County Economic Development Corporation Maureen Elbert agrees and says S&B Farms Distillery has had a positive impact on the community and Sara’s entrepreneurial spirit is a major part of the reason why. “Sara is the exact type of person that people go to and even in her industry, people are calling her. She’s helping mentor them just like she was mentored. She has that true spirit of entrepreneurism that continues to grow, and she’s always thinking of new ideas and how can she bring new things to her store.”

The Winklemans never imagined that one of those “new ideas” would come at a crucial time. With COVID-19 spurring a shortage in disinfectant supplies, S&B Farms Distillery quickly switched gears to make hand sanitizer. “We took a big deep breath and regrouped. The transition wasn’t too bad; it was finding everything that we needed because it was completely different ingredients than what we were running with the whiskey,” says Sara.

After acquiring the proper Food and Drug Administration approvals, the Winklemans created and provided their hand sanitizer to emergency management in 15 different counties and also shared their product with the community through a free-will donation with proceeds going to front line workers. Through it all, Sara knows Bancroft is a community that takes care of each other. “Anything and everything that I needed to help get this going, they were there to support. The community has been amazing,” she says.

RRI is an Iowa Farm Bureau initiative that supports new and existing businesses through education, mentoring and financial resources. Since its inception, RRI has helped create more than $125M in economic impact for rural communities. For more information about RRI and upcoming business seminars, visit http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI.

Source: https://www.iowafarmbureau.com/article/SB-Farms-Distillery-named-Iowa-Farm-Bureaus-Renew-Rural-Iowa-Entrepreneur-Award-winner-for-innovation-and-filling-a-crucial-need

Award-Winning Peach

S&B Farms latest spirit, Sir Winston Peach is officially award-winning with a silver medal from the Denver International Spirits Competition.

The  Denver International Spirits Competition is conducted double-blind by a seasoned panel of beverage professionals. The judging panel consists of sommeliers, retail buyers, journalists, mixologists, and beverage directors. All judges undergo a daily calibration class designed to maintain consistent evaluation and scoring of all spirits. Denver’s is one of only four international spirit competitions worldwide (the other three are San Francisco, London, and New York).

Introducing: Sir Winston Peach

Sir Winston PeachOur latest product has officially been announced. Joining our lineup of products is Sir Winston Peach.

Sir Winston Peach is so fresh, bright, and deliciously juicy that you’ll be thinking about summer all year long. This sweet, delightful fusion of ripe peach flavors and a hint of vanilla is not only fragrant but savory and smooth.

Suggested mixers: Lemon-Lime Soda, Orange Juice, Peach Lime Sparkling Water, Pineapple Juice, Ice Tea

Name Change: S&B Farms Distillery

We want to thank all of our supporters, fans, friends, and family for an incredible, unforgettable 2019. As 2020 starts, we’re excited to see what the new year brings, and we need to introduce our new name and logo.

Due to a larger company claiming the use of/ownership of the word “farmstead,” we are officially now S&B Farms Distillery. Please bear with us as we go through the process of rebranding, but know that our products will stay the exact same – with a new addition soon to be released!

Sir Winston Barrel Proof & Private First Class Receives Medals

Wine Country Network, publishers of Wine Country International magazine and producers of six professional beverage competitions have announced the winners of the 5th Annual North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition.

Our Sir Winston – Barrel Proof and Private First Class both received Bronze Medals.

The N.A.B.W.C. was created to promote excellence in Bourbon, Whiskey, and Moonshine. This double-blind competition is based on a 100-point scale.

Wine Country Network, C.E.O., Christopher J. Davies, stated “this year’s competition, which was originally scheduled to take place in New Orleans on July 16 to 17 but was affected by Hurricane Barry. This was the fourth recorded storm to make landfall at hurricane strength on the state of Louisiana in the month of July. So the competition was moved to Colorado and took place on August 3 and 4, 2019 at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield.

Hog Wild Wins Bronze Medal at USA Spirits Rating Competition in San Francisco

NOW AWARD WINNINGHog Wild received a Bronze Medal at the 2019 USA Spirits Rating competition, which took place in San Francisco in July. In order to receive this award, Hog Wild needed to score highly in 3 different categories – quality, value, and packaging – in a blind tasting competition overseen by a panel of judges.

Quality refers to the overall taste, flavor, and aroma of the spirit. Value refers to the relative pricing of the spirit vs. other peers. And packaging refers to the overall brand presentation of the spirit, with an emphasis on how well the spirit appeals to a specific customer segment. In order to receive a medal in the competition, a spirit needed to score at least 70 points as part of a total weighted score.

“This innovative scoring system has been instrumental in identifying world-class spirits that consumers actually want to drink. We’ve broadened the definition of drinkability, in order to reflect how spirit drinkers actually choose which spirits they buy at a retail store or order from a restaurant menu,” said Sid Patel, founder of the event.

The USA Spirits Ratings competition was launched in late 2017 by Beverage Trade Network, which organizes alcohol beverage industry events all over the world. Judges for the competition were drawn from leading retail chains, wholesalers, distributors, specialist retailers, and casual/fine dining establishments.

S&B Farms Distillery’s Bourbon Wins Bronze Medal

S&B Farms Distillery’s Sir Winston Bourbon earned a Bronze medal in the 2019 Great American International Spirits Competition.

Entries from around the world were judged at this premiere competition held in Rochester, New York.  More than 300 entries were evaluated by a panel of experts including Masters Distillers, Certified Spirits Educators, Brand Ambassadors, retailers, importers and spirits industry writers and consultants.

“Not everyone who enters the competition earns a medal, so knowing our bourbon has only been out of the barrel a few months now and already winning awards, gives us great assurance we’re doing it right,” said owner Sara Winkleman.

Sir Winston 93 Proof Bourbon is made with our own Iowa-grown corn and has a balance of gentle vanilla, fresh oak, and classic caramel notes.

The Great American International Spirits Competition is organized and conducted by the Raise A Glass Foundation, created to support charities around the world. Their international wine, beer and spirit competitions donate thousands of bottles of award-winning wine, beer and spirits to designated charities to use in their fundraising efforts.

Private First Class Medals in Competition

S&B Farms Distillery is pleased to announce that our spiced spirit Private First Class has recently won a Silver Medal at the 2019 Denver International Spirits Competition. This annual competition is judged double blind by a prestigious panel of sommeliers and seasoned food & beverage professionals. The Denver International Spirits Competition is one of only a handful of International Spirits Competitions Worldwide.

In 2019, more than 350 distilled spirits were judged over a two-day period. Entrants consisted of newly opened micro-distilleries to globally recognized spirit brands.

Owner Receives Entrepreneur Achievement Award

Sara Winkleman, Founder and Owner of S & B Farms Distillery, has been named the 2019 Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award winner by America’s SBDC Iowa. This award recognizes an Iowa woman entrepreneur who has significantly changed or improved her life and the lives of others.

Sara was nominated by Michael Wampler, Regional Director of the Northwest Iowa SBDC.

Sara will be recognized February 26th during SBDC Day at the State Capitol.

The Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award is awarded annually to women who have significantly improved or changed their own personal situation, thus having an impact on others around them. The award was established in 1999 by America’s SBDC Iowa to help highlight the accomplishments of women entrepreneurs in Iowa. The purpose of the Deb Dalziel award is not only to honor Dalziel, a long-time advocate of women entrepreneurs, but also to ensure that the groundwork is in place to assure women equal advantages in the business world.

As director of America’s SBDC Iowa at Southeastern Community College from 1987 to 1999, Deb Dalziel served as a mentor for women developing business projects. According to Ron Manning, former state director of the Iowa SBDC, Deb was a resourceful consultant and advisor who served as an excellent example for her clients of how women can achieve success in the business world. Dalziel died of cancer at the age of 44.