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Helena distillery working to find a path forward from COVID-19

Posted at 8:15 AM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 10:15:19-04

HELENA — Just about every business has had to reshape to COVID-19 in one way or another and shaking things up seems to be the name of the game right now for Gulch Distillers in Helena.

“My business partner Tyrrell Hibbard and I have gone through many iterations of this business in the last four months. Every two weeks it feels like we have to reinvent the wheel,” said Gulch Distillers Co-owner Steffen Rasile.

The distillery closed its doors to the public in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and began making hand sanitizer. “For about two months that’s all we made,” explained Rasile. “Once that need subsided, we were able to get back to a regular production.”

Gulch Distillers has been a passion project for Rasile and Hibbard since they purchased the distillery in 2015. They only use Montana-grown grains and seek out other Montana ingredients whenever possible for their products.

Thanks to a directive from Gov. Steve Bullock regarding the adjacent consumption of alcohol, the distillery was recently able to implement outdoor seating in an alley next to their building. The outdoor seating provides a great deal more space to socially distance than their current taproom.

Gulch Distillers have also been able to let customers make orders online for curbside pick-up, which Rasile said was a lifesaver for the business.

“Through the Governor’s directive that allowed us to sell curb-side, which had been against the law, is something that has really saved our business,” said Rasile.

The distillery has also received grant assistance from the State of Montana to adapt to COVID-19 and keep the spirits flowing. Even with that support, money is tight and Rasile will tell you the last few months has not been a comfortable situation by any stretch.

“One of our biggest clients are the liquor stores and bars in Helena. While their attendance is down it’s also been a hit for us,” Rasile explained. “We have great support from the liquor stores in Helena and the restaurants in town, they definitely keep our stuff on the shelf, but if people aren’t there drinking it there’s no need for them to reorder.”

Though things have been on the rocks, Rasile and Hibbard say they’re not giving up.

“We are here because of the community, and we need them more than ever. Tyrrell and I both grew up here in Helena and this is where we call home for our families, and that’s why we have this business here... If we got to the point where we had to close it would be very difficult and we don’t want to think about that,” said Rasile.

As long as they can make it work, Gulch Distillers will continue to look to the future and craft Montana spirits with Big Sky County ingredients.

People can order bottles of the award-winning spirits offered by Gulch Distillers online at their website for pickup. The distillery is open for cocktails Wednesday - Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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