Newsletter – September 19, 2018

Invocation by Al Cady

Visitors: Antonio Lopez, Dan Hines, Kristina Robinson and Ron Lader.
People without Rotary Pins paid $1.
Our hosts at JJ Pfister Distillery are Kevin and Gail Keck—fun fact, their daughter received an Arden Arcade Scholarship and is now in Pediatric Oncology.


  • On Friday, October 5th, we will have a Fleet Week Boating adventure on Captain Steve’s boat in the San Francisco Bay. More details to come. Tim Cahill is co-chairing with Captain Steve. The bus will leave at 8am. Both the Parade of Boats and the Blue Angels will be there. Steve will prepare his “from scratch” Clam Chowder along with tri-tip, etc. There will be mimosas and Bloody Mary’s on the bus! Cost is $80 per person, guests are welcome but the number is capped at 40.
  • The 13th of October is a Rotary Work Day at William Pond Park. We will be restoring benches (thanks to the wood donated by Al Cady.) A BBQ lunch will follow. Meet at William Pond Park (at the end of Arden Way & the river) at 9am. Steve is getting the fireboat and Sheriff’s ATV to help move items. Arrive at 8:30 to build benches and lunch will be at 12:00.
  • Al still needs a stronger commitment from someone to help with set up and clean up for the meetings.
  • Danny passed out flyers and sponsorship opportunities for the 7th Annual fundraiser which this year is called “Taco Bout A Fiesta!” See flyer and sponsorship opportunities attached.

The first impression of JJ Pfsiter’s was how nice the tasting room is and how cool the artifacts are hanging on the wall. I began speaking with Kevin, the Great-Grandson of John Jacob Pfister. John Jacob was born in Switzerland and came to San Francisco in 1869. He opened JJ Pfister Knitting Company in 1876. He was a very prominent industrialist of his time. He had brought machines from Switzerland which produced 12,000 knit wool bathing suits a month. They were his signature item. He also made baseball uniforms, and outfitted the Klondike Miners.

John Jacob’s mission was to provide quality, value and the best customer service. Ideals adopted by his namesake, JJ Pfister’s Distillery. At the time of the 1906 earthquake, many of the swimsuit styles he made were out of San Francisco on display. Thus, the original swimsuits on display in the tasting room. After the earthquake and fire—which did most of the damage to the factory, JJ Pfister Knitting Company moved to Berkeley.

A friend of the family asked the Keck’s to make vodka from his potatoes. He grows organic potatoes in Oregon, but only 1/3 are acceptable size and shape for Whole Foods to purchase, so the 2/3 left are now being used to make JJ Pfister Vodka. It takes 15 lbs of potatoes to make one liter of vodka. The JJ Pfister vodka is purely organic. When they discovered they needed nitrogen for the process, the farmer flooded his fields while leaving a quarter of the grain behind and it attracted thousands of birds using the Pacific Flyway. Their excrement provided the necessary nitrogen. 1% of the proceeds from JJ Pfsiters is donated to the Miller Refuge in the Klamath Basin.

Our tour of the distillery (the heart of any fermented operation) was very interesting. The fermentation process is an ancient reaction. We learned the process of mashing, cooking, cooling, adding yeast to ferment and storage. It was somewhat surprising to learn that the new oak barrels are only used one time. Afterwards they are sold to breweries because the bourbon in the wood helps flavor beer. Vodka can be made in 8 days start to finish if necessary, bourbon and whiskey need to be aged in the barrels. The remaining “stuff” after distilling is fed to cows at an Elk Grove farm to continue the organic cycle. When the potatoes come in they can be ground 1000 lbs at a time. The farmer plants them in cycles so the potatoes are always freshly picked when the process begins. The peels go in the grinder after the potatoes are washed several times.

Everything that touches the product is organic including the bottles, labels and medallions. The potatoes they use are russet potatoes. We learned that whiskey here is spelled with the “e”, where in Scotland and Ireland it is spelled without the “e” – whisky. Irish whisky is smoother than Scottish because it doesn’t have the heavy peat Scottish distiller’s use. The copper used in making the stills is significant because it takes the sulfur out of the product—if they don’t have copper in the stills they throw copper nails into the product while it is being distilled.

JJ Pfister opened in April. Their products are available at Nugget Markets, Total Wine, and several fine restaurants in the Sacramento area. Currently they are producing Vodka, Gin, Rum and Drakas (a honey based liquor.)

Thank you Kevin, Gail and the JJ Pfister family for a very fun meeting!

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