Wyoming represents the untamed spirit of the West. And it could plausibly be argued that no place comes closer to bottling that spirit than the family-owned Backwards Distilling Company in Mills, Wyoming, just outside Casper.
Backwards is a craft distillery that produces spirits ranging from gin, vodka, and rum to absinthe and moonshine. But what really drives Backwards is the spirit of community.
“When we were debating about where to establish the distillery, it really came down to a desire to have roots in the place where we were opening the business,” co-owner Amber Pollock says.
That meant forgoing larger, more populous markets with an established interest in craft products – Colorado, for instance – in favor of Casper. Which turned out to be not much of a risk.
“Opening here came with the advantage of having a really open playing field,” Amber says. “And people wanted to rally round us, because we’re home grown.”
Casper got something out of the deal, too.
“The community was excited to have us because we brought something new. There were no other distilleries in this area. Not even much of a craft brew scene,” Amber says. “Our business is something people like to find when they travel. It’s a point of interest we didn’t have before in this community.”
Amber runs the tasting room at Backwards, a job akin to managing a restaurant. She’s also in charge of community relations. And she serves as the president of the Wyoming Distillers Guild — which she helped found.
Amber definitely wears a lot of hats. Including an actual one on her head. But she’s not in this alone.
Chad Pollock, her brother, is in charge of production. He’s the guy who makes the alcohol. Bill Pollock, Amber and Chad’s father, handles compliance and accounting. Kathy, their mother, does logistics. All four co-own the business.
And the whole family works hard to support the community that supports them.
“We try to keep the ecosystem as local as possible,” Amber says, “relying on as many local vendors as possible for the ingredients we use in our production process and in the tasting room.”
Corn is sourced from a few minutes down the road. Beet sugar from a couple hours away in Worland, Wyoming. Locally grown produce features prominently on the tasting room menu. And the retail shop sells locally made soap.
“Locally grown” is more than a feel-good label, though. It’s the key to creating spirits with an authentic Wyoming spirit.
“The grains that we grow, the water that we use, the dryness, the weather,” Chad says. “It all translates into a spirit that captures the soul of where it was made.”