Garrett Denney

Writer, Marketer, Skiing Extraordinaire

Infinity & Beyond: Infinity Beverages Expands

The following is a story I wrote for Volume One about the expansion of a local wine and spirits maker. Enjoy!


Small batch wine and spirits have a big new home as one local company cuts the ribbon on a new production facility and tasting room.

Infinity Beverages recently moved its growing operation to a new home on Mall Drive in Eau Claire, a space that previously housed the Coffee Grounds.

“We had some pretty humble beginnings,” says founder, winemaker, and distiller Matthew Rick, “so to have the growth we’ve had is just fantastic.”

Growth is an understatement. Founded in 2010 as a nighttime passion project, Infinity soon took on a life of its own as early customers gave rave reviews. Word began to spread and Matthew soon had the opportunity to take the leap and work on the fledgling business fulltime.

By 2012 the company was outgrowing its bootstrapped beginnings and needed a facility to house its growing footprint. In addition to industrial-grade space for winemaking and distilling, Matthew kept an eye out for space that could handle an onsite tasting room as well.

“We couldn’t have found a better location to grow than Banbury Place,” says Matthew. “Jack Kaiser is the perfect guy to oversee that facility and was a huge supporter of us early on.”

It was there, equipped with a new location and growing acclaim, that Infinity took its operation to the next level. What was previously a modest offering of three wines soon grew into a robust portfolio of five wines, two ports, vodka, and two whiskeys.

It was also in Banbury that the company developed its now signature affinity for unusual twists on everyday beverages. While traditionalists can still enjoy a glass of classic red or white, Infinity’s craftsmanship really shines in its lines of experimental wines, vodkas, and whiskeys.

Beersky Whiskey is Infinity’s collaboration with Sand Creek Brewing that builds two distinct, full flavor whiskeys out of Sand Creek’s Doppelbock- and Stout-style beers.

“Our Chocolate Oatmeal Stout Beersky Whiskey sells better because it has chocolate in the name,” says Matthew, “but I’m partial to the Doppelbock.”

The Doppelbock Beersky Whiskey is golden brown in color and carries hints of vanilla, a byproduct of Matthew’s choice to use toasted barrels during production instead of the traditional charred.

“I don’t like rules. I don’t do rules here. We don’t have to used charred so we don’t, and the final product is better for it,” he says with a smile.

Eschewing tradition and embracing experimentation is clearly paying off. I consider myself a whiskey guy, but I still hesitated when offered a sample of the Doppelbock. I didn’t doubt Matthew’s craftsmanship as much as my palette. Would I enjoy a small batch, locally made whiskey? The answer was a resounding yes. Sometime during production the toasted barrels and Sand Creek beer translate to a balanced, smooth whiskey that is a joy to sip. Clearly this mad scientist knows what exactly what he’s doing.

And while production methods may vary from year to year, quality control is one thing Matthew keeps a very close watch over. That is to say, he tastes every batch before it earns the Infinity label. Rough job, right?

“I get that a lot, actually,” he says. “People think my days are 80% tasting wine and spirits…in reality it’s mostly cleaning! Sanitation is key. If you like to clean you’d love making wine and spirits.”

These days you’ll often find Matthew laboring over his still in the wee hours of the morning, shepherding product from the boiler to the bottle. This fall Infinity will re-release a Barrel Aged Red Wine that first hit stores as a limited run last year and immediately sold out. The end of the year will see the limited release of a new Marion Berry brandy.

While the coming years are sure to bring even more fine wine and top-shelf spirits from Matthew and his team, he is confident Infinity has found its long-term home.

“We’re not going anywhere. Eau Claire is where we want to be.”


This story originally written for and appeared in Volume One.

The Cat’s Meow: Humane Society Expansion

A local humane association is the cat’s meow as they put the finishing touches on a big construction project.

The Dunn County Humane Society recently completed a yearlong expansion of its facilities. Aimed at reducing over crowding of the society’s cat population, the increased footprint more than doubles existing facilities for housing and caring for felines the shelter takes in.

When the society’s current facility was built in 1997 it was designed to house between 30-60 cats and up to 12 dogs at a time.

Before the addition, staff says the shelter routinely filled available space to capacity. The shortage was particularly impactful to the society’s cat population, but it soon became clear that both the cat and dog facilities were due for an upgrade.

The group takes great pride in being a “no kill” shelter – that is, an animal shelter that does not euthanize any animals it takes in – and made plans for an expanded facility to handle the growing animal population.

In 2012 the society renovated and expanded the dog area, growing its footprint raising capacity from 12 dogs to 24. The project also brought the shelter up to code with Wisconsin Act 90, a law designed to ensure a safe and healthy standard of living for adoptable dogs.

Then in 2015 fundraising and work began to address the shelter’s cat facilities. Staff sought $130,000 to drastically improve and expand existing cat space. In partnership with the Stout Student Construction Association and with oversight from Market and Johnson’s Tim Esselman, the project broke ground last September.

The student team worked through the winter to nearly double the existing footprint of the humane society. At the same time, shelter staff worked to raise funds necessary for the project. A majority of the money would eventually come through private donations, with corporate partners supplying the remainder.

Shelter staff says they have seen a gradual increase in pet ownership over the past couple of years. Additionally, pet adoption tends to follow a seasonal cycle, with more dogs adopted in the summertime when people can get outdoors and more cats adopted in the winter.

Outside of construction, the shelter also recently announced a new program to encourage veterans and senior citizens to adopt companion animals. With the support from the Wal-Mart Community Fund and the Menomonie Lion’s Club, the society is now able to reduce the cost to adopt a cat or dog for qualified individuals.

For more information about the expansion or to volunteer, contact the Dunn County Humane Society at 715-232-9790.

 

This article was originally published in Volume One.

Start Playing Around: Clearwater Con II

Break out your D20 and grab some friends,  because a local tabletop game convention returns for its sophomore outing this July.

Two years ago, No Brand Con, a longstanding local anime convention, picked up its life tokens and took its talents to Wisconsin Dells. In its wake, demand built for a new gaming convention to take its place. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of No Brand’s exodus arose Clearwater Con, a board gaming convention and expo.

The aptly titled “Clearwater Con II – Wrath of the Con” (I see what you did there) runs July 16-17 at Eau Claire’s Plaza Hotel & Suites. A weekend pass is a mere $30 and grants the holder access to two days of gaming, vendors, live panels, and a board game library.

Don’t let college favorites like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride fool you, there’s a whole lot more to board games today than just hording wheat and building obnoxiously long railways to the chagrin of your friends. Dip a toe into strategy gaming with Pandemic, or dive into all of Westeros in the board game adaptation of Game of Thrones (before you ask: yes, Joffrey is still the absolute worst).

If you’re a tabletop gaming veteran, you may still be wondering how Clearwater Con II it will compare to last year’s convention. I’ll let the website do the talking: “…it will be triple the awesome with a side of curly fries.” Fair enough, Clearwater Con. Fair enough.

 

Published in Volume One’s June 2016 issue and online.

Star Wars 404

“Star Wars: A New Hope” Contained in 404 Page

404 pages have long been the playground of creatives. From fun pixel art to smarmy messages, the humble 404 is a fun – and often hidden – showcase for something fun.

It should come as no surprise then when the internet unearths a graphic artist that built a 404 page containing Star Wars: A New Hope IN ITS ENTIRETY.

Check it out at swanh.net.

 

While you’re at it, don’t miss this week’s edition of the exceptional Star Wars Show, straight from the halls of Lucasfilm.

 

The Sound of Star Wars Ep. VII

Few movies are more easily identified by their sound alone than Star Wars. From shrieking TIE Fighters to the menacing buzz of a lightsaber, the Star Wars universe has been home to some of the greatest sound design of all time.

Sound design is a often under appreciated art. When done well, it is a glue that can hold the whole film together. Ideally, it’s a discipline you never think of while in the theater, and that’s exactly what makes it so easy to pass over.

Treat yourself to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens highlight reel below from Zachery Ramos-Taylor; You’ll be glad you did.

 

Read the original article on Gizmodo.

Perkuno’s Law

I’m no scientist, but I am fortunate to call myself the owner of two dogs. After years in the trenches, I’m pleased to announce my first (and only) breakthrough scientific discovery: Perkuno’s Law.

Nobel Prize committee, you know how to reach me.

 

Perkuno's Law

Jazz Fest 3

Can’t Stop the Music: 50 Years of Eau Claire Jazz Festival

Garrett’s note: I wrote this piece for Volume One, published April 6, 2016. Interested in having me write for you? Head over to my contact page to get in touch.

Teaching at what was then known as the Wisconsin State College-Eau Claire, professor Joe Casey hosted the first Eau Claire Jazz Festival. Five decades and hundreds of performances later, it is still going strong.

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Women in Jazz

Women in Jazz: Making it in to a Male-Dominated Field

Garrett’s note: I wrote this piece for Queen of the Castle Magazine, published April 1, 2016. Interested in having me write for you? Head over to my contact page to get in touch.

While pop icons like Adele and Taylor Swift seem untouchable, many female musicians face a host of challenges when breaking into and building careers in the male-dominated music industry.

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Design Methodology

Today’s product tip: A fantastic design methodology graph courtesy Matt Cooke.

 

Design Methodology by Matt Cooke

Click to see fullsize image. Courtesy Matt Cooke.

Lonely Mountain 2

Bree: A History

Author’s note: “Bree: A History” is a short Lord of the Rings fan-fiction set in the mountainside town of Bree. All LotR intellectual property (obviously) belongs to the Tolkien estate. Enjoy!

It was raining in Bree, a cold and pounding type that whipped up water from the nearby bay and pounded the worn wood docks in port with frothy white breakers. What torches lit the narrow cobbled streets had long since gone out, leaving the town in near total darkness.

 

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