Trail Distilling is a treasure tucked in the outskirts of Oregon City. The distillery is a small, veteran and woman owned business. You can give their spirits a try in their tasting room, attend a cocktail class hosted by the owners, grab a bite at The Coop – their onsite food truck (opening soon), and learn about the distillery process by attending the Distilling Classes.
The best way to learn about Trail Distilling, though, is to volunteer at one of their bottling events. If you ever wanted to experience the operations of a small, family owned distillery, then volunteering to bottle and label spirits at Trail Distilling is a fantastic way to step “into their shoes” and see the behind the scenes activity. You will learn something new, meet amazing people, and have the opportunity to talk with the owners.
Since Trail Distilling is a craft distillery, many of the tasks are done by hand rather than through automation. Bottling and labeling their spirits is one of those tasks. Jerry and Sara Brennan, their family and staff typically do the bottling. However, they have found a wonderful way of involving their die-hard fans by giving their customers the hands-on experience as well. In a way, their customers easily become extended family.
On the day we volunteered there were 11 volunteers helping with the bottling and labeling. They typically bring in about 13 people, since there is only so much room at the bottling table. This time Sara said they had to turn away volunteers because so many offered to help.
Sara and Jerry have a tried and true process set up for bottling, labeling, quality checking and boxing the spirits. Since volunteers are handling product that will eventually be consumed by the purchaser, clean hands are a must. They have restrooms and a sink in the production area.
One volunteer is assigned to fill the bottles. It goes quickly, but the person filling the bottles needs to make sure the bottles do not get over filled. The bottles themselves are also checked for any imperfections.
Once the bottles are filled, the next volunteer inserts the cork.
The bottles are then passed down the line to the labeling group.
There are four labels that are placed on the bottle. The front label is the trademark, beautiful, award winning designed label. The back label has a brief story and states the location where the spirits are distilled and bottled.
Then the two top labels are applied. These two labels need volunteers who have amazing attention to detail. It is easy to get them turned around and crooked! (It took me four tries before I got it right!) One label goes over the cork to seal it in place.
The bridge label then goes around the cork label to seal down the ends.
The bottles are then moved over to the volunteer who will apply the shrink wrap seal.
Shrink wrap is applied to the top of the bottle as a finishing touch. The seal is shrunk through the use of a heat gun.
All bottles are then quality checked one last time. This was done by one of the Trail Distilling staff on the day we volunteered. The sealed bottles are then boxed and ready for shipping to the OLCC warehouse or are placed for sale in the tasting room.
Incredibly, on bottling and labeling day, approximately 400 bottles are prepped in the two hours the volunteers are there.
Location & Time
Trail Distilling is located at 21553 S HWY 213 Oregon City, OR 97045. Their distilling and production areas are in the same building as the tasting room.
The volunteering hours are generally 2PM – 4PM and held on a Saturday so it will not interfere with most people’s work schedules.
Every month or so, an announcement is sent out by email to those who have attended a past event or have signed up to receive email notifications from Trail Distilling. You can’t miss the subject, as it boldly states: Come help us bottle & label our spirits!
It is easy to sign up. There is a link in the email that will let you confirm your participation.
All one needs to do is reply with the number of people that will be volunteering and the names of the volunteers. Volunteers do need to be 21 and over. They do tend to get more people offering to volunteer than they have room for in the production area, so reply early!
The day we volunteered it was a blast, a hoot, and serious work but worth every minute. All the staff and volunteers were friendly and welcoming. The owners were appreciative and made sure everyone was comfortable with their assigned task and how to perform it. They had country music playing in the background, and the production area was heated so no one got cold. The work also warms you up. My husband got a fabulous workout pushing in corks and lifting bottles! It was obvious that many of the volunteers had done the work before and had become close friends with the owners. Sara is friendly and funny and knows how to make you feel good about the work you are doing. She always has a great smile ready to go!
If you are looking for a day adventure, and are keen to learn a new skill and meet amazing people, we highly recommend volunteering to help bottle and label Trail Distilling’s spirits. As a “Thank You” for helping you are offered a cocktail, made with their award winning spirits, at the end of the day. Even if you do not live close to the distillery, it is worth a drive to volunteer. New friends! New skills! And a drink!
To find out more about Trail Distilling you can find them here.
Phone: (503) 479-0003
Address: 21553 S Highway 213, Oregon City, OR 97045-9171
Tasting Rooms Hours: Friday 2:00-7:00, Saturday 2:00-7:00, Sunday 2:00-6:00 and by Appointment
Location: Trail Distilling has a large sign at the front of their property. There is ample, free parking in the parking lot surrounding the distillery and tasting room.
Note – You must be 21 to access their website.
A special thank you to Sara Brennan and Trail Distilling for providing photos and giving input on this post!