Frey Ranch Distillery is growing again, and during the Planning Commission's last meeting on September 14 the distillery's expansion plans were approved with the issuance of a new Special Use Permit.
Owner Colby Frey stated on the new SUP application, “Frey Ranch Distillery is a distillery that produces whiskey from grain grown on the Frey Ranch south of Fallon. There has been a previously approved SUP. ln this SUP, we would like to update our site plan, add a 20' x 50' fermentation room to the distillery, and add a future 80' x 120' barrel storage house. After the construction of the proposed building expansion, and barrel house, our daily operations will stay the same. We have been producing whiskey for about 8 years in our current distillery. Our stills are currently running at about 60% capacity. Our limitation is currently fermenters. The distillery expansion will not increase our current hours of operation, just add fermenters to allow us to better utilize our current stills. Currently, we have 4 fermenters, and this addition will add 2 more. Within 3 years, we will build an additional barrel storage building. We age whiskey for 5+ years. We need barrel storage buildings to age inventory during this period. This building will be the same as the two current 80' x 100' barrel storage buildings and be located in line 100' to the North of current buildings. Ground outside buildings is graded away from other buildings in the event of a fire.”
Originally the ranch was issued a SUP in 2005. The grapevines were planted, the winery building and tasting room were established, and a limited amount of brandy was distilled. The current distillery was established in 2013 under another SUP. A distillery building was constructed, and a tasting room was also authorized. Whiskey production was started, though sales were delayed 4-5 years due to the required aging process. In the meantime, the ranch produced vodka, gin, and absinthe as immediate sale products. All grains for Frey distillery products are grown on their ranch, making the operation an “estate” distillery. In Nevada, “estate” is defined as a distillery that grows at least 85 percent of the raw materials used in its products on its own land.
The main building includes a tasting/sales room and a distillery room with a copper pot still and two column stills. Another room houses the vats used in the process, some being open top and others that are enclosed with extensive piping. Grain handling, processing, and additional storage rooms are also done in the building. The distillery site has since undergone extensive expansion with other buildings being added over time.
According to the Planning Department's staff report, “The signature barrel house E storage building was constructed shortly after the distillery. Over time the other barrel houses F and G were added. Two other buildings were added more recently - the existing grain storage building, and the existing dry goods storage. At some point, the original winery building was converted to the existing bottling room where products are shipped from. In addition, the milking parlor was converted to the current business offices (located off the north side of the site plan). This permit will cover the existing layout since the first distillery SUP, as well as upcoming expansions. The applicant is proposing that the distillery addition will be constructed ASAP but is requesting special phasing to allow additional time to construct the new barrel house and to install the additional signage.”
The staff report also emphasized the department's concern that a distillery and the associated storage buildings pose a special fire hazard. “Whiskey is highly flammable, so the production rooms and storage buildings need special attention. Of particular concern is the resulting rivers of fire from burning whiskey caused by barrel houses collapsing and burning.”
The approval of the new SUP included certain conditions with a specific expiration deadline for implementation. The distillery building expansion, the new barrel house, and the additional proposed signage must all be completed within 3 years, or the owner must re-apply for a new SUP. The owner must also coordinate with the Fire Marshall to ensure a burn-down of the first barrel house (next to the distillery) will not result in flaming liquids flowing to other buildings, and any modifications recommended by the Fire Marshall must be implemented.
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