Editor’s note: This story originally aired on July 11, 2014.
Many people have ideas for small businesses, but not many of them quit their day jobs to try something unique, especially when it’s something they know little about. But that’s exactly what the Pollock family of Casper did in starting Backwards Distilling Company.
“My son’s an absinth drinker and absinth is hard to come by and he and she were talking… why don’t we just make some make some… and then we all looked at each other and we all stopped and went hmmm.”
That family conversation as described by Bill, Kathy, and Amber Pollock led to the three of them and son Chad to build and start the Backwards Distilling Company where they plan on developing their own brand of Vodka, Rum, Moonshine, and more. Chad Pollock is the chief mixer and is in charge of making the spirits.
“This is a vodka we are working on and so it’s 100 percent wheat. We are using a red wheat in our vodka.”
Chad is standing near a massive copper and steel distillery in a structure that the family built in Mills. He is proud of what they are about to accomplish. The family has invested its own money into the operation and the four of them are the only employees. Amber and Kathy were teachers, Bill was a part owner of another business, and Chad was in school. Mother Kathy says dropping everything to do this together might sound crazy, but there was some thinking behind it. Part of it was to help her two children.
“We were kind of looking for something we could do as a family. I started thinking that you know the future is a little shaky and so we wanted to do something where maybe they would have more control of their future. So we were kind of looking and trying to come up with an idea that we’d all be happy with.”
After the earlier conversation between Kathy and Chad and the knowledge of the success others had with craft beer, they decided to make their own alcohol.
“Now whether it’s a good idea, I don’t know, but so far it’s been fun.”
As the Chief Distiller Chad Pollock has traveled the country to get a feel for the business and to learn the trade and he thinks the family is on the cusp of something great.
“When we started this there was only about 200 distilleries in the United States and that was up from like double from the year before. And now there’s almost 400 in just a little time and so it’s just exploding.”
He believes it will be like the craft beer industry although he anticipates it will be challenging getting Wyoming people as excited about spirits as they are beer. That’s where sister Amber comes in. She has plans an extensive marketing campaign which includes opening up their distillery to the public.
“Tastings, we’ll have tours, we’ll have an area downstairs where people can come and order drinks and try our stuff out.”
The family has been at this for almost two years. Father Bill says they are anxious to finally hit on the right recipe and finally make some money. But they are being deliberate. They all know that other non-beer ventures in the state have been met with mixed reviews. He doesn’t want that happening to them. That’s why they will use independent testers and other distillers to check their quality.
“We have done some testing and we have unfortunately dumped some things down the drain that could have been dollar bills, but I think it’s probably the smartest thing we will have done, because when we get the product out, it will be worth having out there.”
Chief Distiller Chad knows that the rest of the family is counting on him to deliver.
“You know there is a lot of pressure. I feel pretty confident, I’ve learned a lot and what I’ve made so far I think is promising. I’ve got some work to still do, but a lot of it is just growing pains with this new equipment.”
The entire family says this will be a success if they can at least provide an excellent product to Casper and be able to give back to the community. But Amber also says it will be a success if they are not all broke and her parents are not living with her in a basement. The family wants to get their first batch to liquor stores this fall.