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.