Cowcohol: Canby creamery makes whey-based vodka

People of all ages may enjoy a nice glass of milk, but a unique dairy drink from a Canby creamery is for adults only.
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:22 AM PDT
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CANBY, Ore. (KPTV) - People of all ages may enjoy a nice glass of milk, but a unique dairy drink from a Canby creamery is for adults only.

At the TMK Creamery, it all begins early in the morning when the star employees get “pumped” for the workday. The creamery has been in Canby for about five years now. Todd Koch runs the show along with his brother Marc, sister Shauna, and 18 special friends.

“We’re first-generation dairy farmers. This started as my 4H project, and through a serious of bad decisions we got to this point,” Koch said.

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It’s a small, almost boutique-like operation, where they make a series of ice creams and cheeses.

“Several different types of cheddars, Gouda, cheddar curds,” said Koch.

But now they have a product that you won’t find in your local dairy section, thanks to a process where they turn milk into vodka.

“We call it Cowcohol,” Koch said.

Cowcohol: Canby creamery makes whey-based vodka
Cowcohol: Canby creamery makes whey-based vodka(KPTV)

It all comes from the cheese making process, which creates two byproducts you’ve probably heard of: curds and whey.

Large creameries will take whey and dry it for use in stuff like protein powders and bars, but that can only be done on a much bigger scale than what they do at TMK Creamery. Then a few years ago:

“I call it the greatest university on the planet, but Oregon State was doing some research with fermenting and distilling whey,” Koch said.

So, Koch started taking their whey to a local distillery to have it made into a small-batch vodka. That project was successful enough that he eventually built his own distillery onsite.

Basically, the whey is mixed with yeast and then ferments in containers. After a few days, the mixture is put into a specially built still.

“You’re fermenting the sugars in the whey, and once you ferment them, then you’re distilling out your alcohol,” Koch explained.

So, does the vodka taste like milk? Could you dip your cookies in it?

“No,” laughed Koch.

So maybe you shouldn’t leave it out for Santa - or maybe you should.

One website has already put Cowcohol on its nice list; Mashed named it one of the top 30 vodkas in the world.

“We were pretty excited about that,” Koch said.

Now after a few years of being sold exclusively in Canby, this weekend Cowcohol will go nationwide, with the tiny creamery making the big step of selling their vodka online.

“I said in college, if I could get my cows to make booze I’d be on top of the world,” said Koch.

It’s a “dairy tale” come true.

So, before you mix your next Moscow mule, raise a glass to a Canby cow and the 18 lovely ladies that have you covered all the way from teat to toast.