“Craft distilling is really new in this country and we were building one of the larger craft distilleries,” explains Christian Krogstad, founder of House Spirits Distillery, now the Westward Whiskey distillery, in Portland, Oregon. Krogstad selected Chris Parks of family-owned AAA Metal Fabrication to build his stills in 2015. “There are a number of people with experience building big distilleries and budgets for that in terms of having architects and hazmat people, but Chris went well beyond being just an equipment supplier. He helped us interpret all the codes and explain the code to the code officials.”
Parks applies the skill of a Tetris master to fit all the necessary equipment into a small space. “He worked to build everything with proper tolerances and made use not just of every bit of floor space, but every bit of vertical space, space that otherwise would have gone unused,” Krogstad says. The receiver, process pump, and piping are cleverly tucked under a nine-foot high platform that wraps around the still, supporting the condenser and the spirit safe.
Parks has spent the last 15 years working with brewers and distillers to fabricate highly customized stainless steel fermentation tanks, stills, and more. It’s a logical transition from his core skills. “Mechanical operators are versed in running systems that can do things like heat a hospital,” Parks explains. “Selling a complete system requires a thorough knowledge of thermal design—knowing how the steam piping sizing is associated with steam delivery, knowing the cooling surfaces. You need to be able to pull all that together.”
In some ways, helping others achieve their dream of making spirits is close to Parks’ own heart. “My personal study of distilling goes way, way back,” he says with a hint of mischief in his voice. “I was making alcohol fuels in high school. It was a result of my desire to do drag racing.”