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New Drinks Made From Whey
Armed with a food science degree, an MBA, 10 years of experience, and an entrepreneurial mindset, Oregon-based Emily Darchuk took the problem of what to do with unused whey and created Wheyward Spirit.
Wheyward Spirit starts as sweet whey, the type left over from cheese making. Every pound of cheese leaves nine pounds of whey. While the whey has many uses, about half of it goes unused. Darchuk found a way to reduce the waste and add new revenue for dairy farmers.
Darchuk uses a hand-crafted fermentation and custom distillation process to produce an 80-proof clear liquor. It’s a naturally flavorful premium specialty spirit unlike anything else. The farm-to-flask spirit is a drink smooth enough to be savored straight and versatile enough to make a variety of cocktails.
Since starting in 2020, Wheyward Spirit has used nearly a million pounds of whey. Darchuk says, “We partner with dairy co-ops and cheese manufacturers throughout California to source high-quality whey.”
Wheyward Spirit has an inspiring list of awards despite being so new to the scene. “We have won top spirit and environmental awards,” says Darchuk. Among their achievements is a proud partnership with Ben & Jerry’s to produce “Dublin Mudslide” ice cream. Wheyward Spirit is the first alcoholic beverage to be approved by the California Milk Board.
Even with all this fame, for now, the company relies on its website for direct-to-home sales as it builds nationwide retail distribution.
Across the country in Ithaca, N.Y., is another new beverage called Norwhey Nordic Seltzer. The seltzer’s base is sour whey, more commonly called acid whey. Sour whey is the by-product of strained or centrifuged yogurts like Greek yogurt. New York is a major producer of many types of yogurts. Sour whey has much less protein than sweet whey and, although it’s often used to fertilize fields, it has little other commercial value. Because of its makeup, sour whey can’t be put into our waterways, making disposal costly.
Dr. Sam Alcaine is the entrepreneur behind Norwhey Nordic Seltzer. Alcaine is a Cornell University food science professor who took up the challenge to help solve the environmental problem of a harmful acidic liquid. He’s part of a team of scientists around the country working on economical lactose and protein extraction methods and developing food products from sour whey.
Alcaine’s seltzer solution helps reduce costs for dairy farmers while making a tasty and refreshing alcoholic drink containing electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Alcaine uses the natural enzyme lactase to break down the whey lactose into simpler sugars, which are then fermented by traditional methods. The “Nordic” theme comes from a historic Icelandic and Norwegian method of fermenting Scandinavian yogurt to make an alcoholic beverage.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Norwhey Brewing, Finger Lakes, N.Y. (www.norwhey.com); or Wheyward Spirit, Eugene, Ore. (www.wheywardspirit.com).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #6