The one-man operation that is Sand Creek Distillery
Lucas Hohl filled the void of retirement with a passion for distilling
Sand Creek Distillery | Hugo | Product: Beer, Wine & Spirits
After retiring from flying cargo planes for the military, Lucas Hohl moved back to his hometown of Hugo on Colorado’s Eastern Plains.
He and his wife bought her family’s business, Osborne’s Supermarket, but Hohl felt a void when he stopped flying in 2011. “I got bored,” says Hohl, 40. “Since the military was no longer an option, I needed something.”
Hohl first tried to scratch his “itch” with home brewing, but a bad batch of beer led him into distilling. The results were “god-awful,” he laughs, but he was immediately hooked on distilling. “It ignited the passion of, ‘How do I do this?’” he notes.
He devoured books and took online classes on “the art and science” of distilling, then decided to start a craft distillery in 2013. He sold his first bottle in late 2017 after bottling it the year before.
A plan to operate out of an old shipping container shifted when Hohl bought a commercial space in downtown Hugo and parked the container inside. It’s now on the label of every bottle.
Hohl moved distilling out of the container (but kept bottling and barrel storage inside of it) when he upgraded to a 125-gallon still in early 2019. “I basically doubled the size of it,” Hohl says. “It basically allows me to do everything in one continuous motion.”
Sand Creek is a one-man operation, and the only craft distillery on the Colorado plains. Hohl says he still considers himself at the beginning of his journey. “Every time I make a batch, I learn something new,” he says. “This year will be a year of experimentation.”
After almost three years with a single-product catalog (Sand Creek Standard Single Malt Whisky), he’s releasing American Redux, a whisky distilled from malt mash and aged for two years in a second-use barrel, in March 2020. A rum is also in barrels, and it should be bottled later this year.
Hugo provides good access to I-70 and inexpensive real estate – he bought the building for $32,000 in 2013, but has since invested six times that fixing it up – but the local market is tiny (pop. 700). “I do have the fortune of being the first distillery you come across when you enter the state from Kansas,” Hohl says.
He notes that craft distilling is still in its infancy in Colorado and the U.S. “I hope everybody knows they’re along for the ride with us.”