Hawxby, a self-proclaimed “Oklahoma farm boy who married a Missouri girl” had been in Missouri since the late 90s, but during a sojourn out in Portland, OR., he realized he had a knack for distilling.
“A little light bulb went off in my head,” he said about his earlier days out west, where he was exposed to the industry. With a background in bartending, and a love of spirits, Hawxby sensed that, “with a little bit more knowledge, and the appropriate equipment, I could be dangerous.”
Van and Lisa decided to take their distilling dreams back to Missouri, and so was born DogMaster Distillery!
The couple started off with clear products, such as their recognized white whiskey, and craft vodka. As time went on, Hawxby’s thirst for distilling knowledge increased, leading him to workshops around the country. “I find that people in the industry are very friendly and accommodating,” Hawxby said. At workshops in the Midwest, Hawxby said he was not afraid to ask, “stupid questions.”
As his knowledge grew, so did DogMaster. Eventually DogMaster pulled an award-winning gin from their work in the distillery, landing it in the top 10 gin brands to try in 2020 by USA Spirits Ratings. “I was really pleased with the accolade,” Van said.
Currently, DogMaster is developing some new products, most notably, a rye whiskey that is currently in production. One of the more interesting facts about DogMaster is that the company is run by three couples who decided to combine forces around the idea of making good spirits.
While Van and Lisa started the venture, Lisa’s best friend from kindergarten, Stephanie Batliner, and her husband Dan Batliner, jumped in as owners and operations managers. Joe and Amanda Pangborn, two whiskey enthusiasts from Columbia, are the third couple who form the DogMaster family, contributing to the company in a variety of ways in addition to being owners.
Van said that DogMaster gets most of the grains it uses in its products, such as corn oats and wheat, from local growers in central Missouri. The malted barley, he said, is a Canadian product that is purchased from a malting house in Chicago. “It’s important for us to support local agriculture, so we buy as much raw materials as possible locally from local growers,” Van said. “It’s definitely a midwestern product.”
DogMaster products are sold pretty much anywhere liquor is sold in the Columbia area, and currently, the distillery is working on expanding to the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.
The folks at DogMaster like to showcase their products in cocktail form, Van said, so the best way to sample the distillery’s award-winning lineup is at its full-service tasting room in Columbia.
While COVID-19 has slowed things down a bit, things seem to be picking up.
“People are starting to feel a little more comfortable. We’re seeing that in the tasting room. Give it another three or four months and we’ll see where we’re at,” Van said.
So, next time you find yourself in Columbia, don't hesitate to stop by the tasting room to grab a drink. And Van's message for the bourbon snobs out there who say that if it's not from Kentucky it's no good?
"Let me prove you wrong."