Wheat State Distilling opens; can’t sell liquor until goverment is back in business

WICHITA — The government shutdown is now affecting drinking in Wichita, at least when it comes to the new Wheat State Distilling.

“We’re supposed to be firing up the boilers tomorrow morning,” says David Bahre, who is opening the business with his wife, Kim.

Though production should start Friday – Wheat State will produce a variety of gin, vodka, whiskey and rum, though not all at once – the Bahres can’t sell their products until the government approves their label.

“So we can’t sell a drop until the government reopens,” David Bahre says. “If you can believe it. We’re that close.”

The bureau that approves the labels also has a 30-day backlog, he says.

“I don’t know when the government will reopen, but whenever they do, it will set us back however many days they were shut down” plus the backlog, Bahre says.

The Bahres, who are from Wichita, live in Wamego.

Wheat State is in 3,200 square feet at the southwest corner of 37th and Hydraulic.

David Bahre has a degree in milling science, which is the process of turning grains into products, from Kansas State University. He says he’s been a business owner since he was 19. He has bought and sold a number of restaurants and has other business interests as well.

Bahre thought finding a distributor might be a challenge.

“We thought that was going to be one of the hardest parts,” he says.

When Have You Heard? reported the business was opening, though, the calls started coming.

“Some of them even called my mother looking for us,” Bahre says. “All of the largest ones in the state are interested in us.”

He says he hasn’t made a deal with one yet, but he’s already “had a hell of a run.”

Now that the business is starting, Bahre says he welcomes visitors for tours. He’s not ready for the official kickoff just yet, though.

“There’s just no point in having a grand opening until … we have something to sell.”

Wheat State Distilling to open this summer

WICHITA — It’s been a long, laborious process, but Wamego residents David and Kim Bahre on Wednesday received final approval to open Wheat State Distilling in Wichita this summer.

“The city of Wichita did not know what to do with us,” David Bahre says of licensing. “It’s not that they didn’t want us.”

Wheat State will open in 3,200 square feet at the southwest corner of 37th and Hydraulic within — if all goes well — 45 days.

“I am the first ever licensed distiller in Wichita,” Bahre says. “I am proud of that.”

He says Kansas has some of the most stringent alcohol regulations nationwide.

“It’s been an uphill battle so far,” Bahre says. He says he also had a gas line issue that he worried would force him to abandon the site he chose and possibly the city as well, but he says it’s been resolved.

The Bahres, who are natives of Wichita, plan to produce vodka, flavor-infused vodka, gin, wheat whiskey, bourbon and two kinds of rum. The rum products, which will be made from a mixture of molasses from Florida and evaporated sugar cane juice from Maui, won’t be under the Wheat State name since they won’t be made from wheat.

Bahre says he’s been a business owner since he was 19. He has bought and sold a number of restaurants and has other business interests as well.

“Our real passion is what we’re doing right now in Wichita,” he says.

Bahre has a degree in milling science, which is the process of turning grains into products, from Kansas State University.

“It’s a lot of food chemistry and food science,” he says. He’s also finishing a master’s degree in agribusiness.

“I would like an identity-preserved program with … a premium grade product,” Bahre says of tracking the wheat that goes into his products.

“Kind of my dream is to buy the farm that goes with the distillery, but we’ve got to take one thing at a time,” he says. “Farms are expensive.”

Bahre says he’d like a small working farm that would be open to the public.

The distillery will be open to the public for tours, which will include Kansas history and information on distilling in general.

“This is a movement similar to … brewpubs in the 1980s,” Bahre says.

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