Sip on bourbon, moonshine at Indiana’s first craft distillery, Bear Wallow Distillery in Gnawbone

CBS4 This Morning

GNAWBONE, Ind. — We still have a few more weeks of Fall to enjoy, so what better place to spend them than in Brown County?

Over the next few weeks, we are going to check out some of the best of what Indiana’s favorite Fall destination has to offer. 

We’re kicking things off with a stop in the tiny town of Gnawbone– located about 10 minutes east of downtown Nashville. 

Photo credit: Yelp Indy via Lauren W

A little over 6 years ago, Susan Spagnuolo opened Bear Wallow Distillery–Indiana’s first craft distillery—here at 4484 Old State Road 46. And they’ve been cheersing to good whiskey and success ever since.

Spagnuolo says she always enjoyed going to the wineries and breweries Brown County had to offer but at that time, there was no distillery. Although she didn’t have a history of working in the distilling industry, she didn’t let that stop her. 

“We were not masking whiskey in our basement. I didn’t have a recipe from my great grandfather,” she recalled. “I literally just got the idea that it would be a great addition to Brown County and then worked from there.”

She dove into research and education and her son (who is their head distiller) spent a summer interning for a distillery in Illinois, where he learned the process.

Photo credit: Bear Wallow Distillery

And it definitely didn’t hurt to be so close to Kentucky, home of the Bourbon Trail and a wealth of knowledge at its local distilleries.

“We went down to Kentucky and hired some consultants and they helped us with our mash bills, they helped us with our equipment and we just kind of approached it from that direction,” Spagnuolo noted.

Their hard work paid off and now Bear Wallow Distillery is a must-visit for anyone who loves whiskey.

They use all Indiana grain and offer a variety of options. There are aged whiskeys like their Liar’s Bench Straight Rye Whiskey and their best-selling Gnawbone Bourbon.

They also offer unaged whiskeys like their Hidden Holler Corn Whiskey Moonshine and their popular Hoosier Hooch.

“We have 16 different flavors of the Hoosier Hooch Moonshine so we kind of rotate some of them in and out seasonally,” Spagnuolo said. “Salted caramel is our best seller this time of year because it’s really good in warm drinks [like] cider, hot chocolate or coffee.”

Photo credit: Bear Wallow Distillery

Other seasonal favorites this time of year include sugar cream pie, apple pie and candy cane.

A single sample is on the house or you can try a flight for $5.

“We spend a few minutes explaining all the different whiskies that we offer because not everyone is always aware of the different types and then they choose the 6 that they want to sample,” she explained.

They also offer an array of cocktails– everything from Old Fashioneds to bourbon Hot Toddys, caramel apple cocktails and one of their signatures called the “Bourbon Ginger Bear.”

Photo credit: Bear Wallow Distillery

“We’re going to have some more warmer drinks on the menu [this holiday season]. We’re going to have apples and pomegranates and cranberries, cinnamons,” she noted.

If the weather cooperates, you can social distance while sipping your cocktail— or mocktail— in their outdoor seating area.

Photo credit: Yelp Indy via Wanda M

Distillery tours are on pause due to COVID-19. However, large glass windows in the tasting room allow see right into the distilling area where all the magic happens.

“If we’re cooking, if we’re fermenting, if we’re distilling. It’s all on view for anyone who comes into the distillery,” she said.

During your visit, you can also get a head start on your holiday shopping with plenty of gifting options including Indiana-made products like Lafayette-based Triple XXX root beer, bitters and elixirs from Wilkes and Wilson, plus Bear Wallow Distillery T-shirts, hats and— of course— sanitizer.

Four Things You Need to Know About Bear Wallow Distillery: 

  • Bear Wallow Distillery was founded by Susan Spagnuolo nearly 6 years ago. Located in Gnawbone, Indiana, Bear Wallow was Indiana’s first craft distillery. They use 100% Indiana grain and offer an array of aged and unaged whiskeys including their best-selling Gnawbone Bourbon.
  • Bear Wallow Distillery is open every day of the week: 11AM-5PM Monday-Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11AM-6PM and Sundays from Noon-5PM. You can sample a flight of whiskeys for $5 in their tasting room or try one of their seasonal cocktails. Visitors can also shop for gifts and other Indiana-made products in their retail area.
  • If you can’t make it to Brown County, you can still find their whiskeys at various retailers throughout the state, with about two dozen locations in the Indianapolis area alone. With all locations listed right on their website. 
  • At the beginning of the pandemic, Bear Wallow Distillery answered the call to help make sanitizer. “We’ve been open 7 days a week through all of this,” Spagnuolo said. “The government really did kind of come to distilleries and say, ‘Hey, we will help you do this. We need it, your communities need it,’ so they made it a very streamlined process for distilleries.” They have since transitioned back to their usual business of distilling whiskey, but you can still purchase their sanitizer.

For more information about Bear Wallow Distillery, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook and Instagram.

Looking for more locally-made libations in Brown County? Check out some of these other popular local businesses:

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