Webinar: Distilling With Heirloom Corn



March 31st at 3 PM Eastern. With Gary Hinegardner (Wood Hat Spirits), Tara Steffens & Keith Meyer (Pinckney Bend Distillery), Lisa Wicker (Widow Jane Distillery). Free to ACSA Members, $59 to non-members

When?: March 31st, 3 PM Eastern

What?: A panel of whiskey-making icons update us on their latest experiments with heirloom corn varietals and detail how craft distillers can achieve a wide range of flavor profiles and push the boundaries of the entire whiskey category.


Gary Hinegardner, owner and distiller of Wood Hat Spirits, New Florence, MO, grew up on a timber and livestock farm in SW Missouri where the family cut white oak for barrels, among other things. Gary has a BS in Biology and a Master’s in Agronomy. He has been a Peace Corps volunteer, an agricultural extension agent, manager of a farm supply cooperative and president of Missouri Mulch (a division of Independent Stave Company). In the last 9 years he has built and operated a vertically integrated craft distillery where he is involved at every level from breeding, selecting, and growing heirloom corns to distributing product. The distillery produces nationally and internationally awarded bourbons, corn whiskeys, and liqueurs.

Tara Steffens, Chief Operating Officer/Cocktail Wizard, Pickney Bend Distillery
Tara is an ’03 graduate from University of Missouri-Columbia Journalism school. She has extensive experience in marketing and visual communication, as well as event planning, public relations and accounting. She has worked for several international businesses where she handled international accounts and developed national ad campaigns. In addition, she has over 18 years bartending and bar management experience She’s also probably had more gin than anyone we know. In 2014, she won the Washington Chamber’s Outstanding Young Professional Award, in 2015 she won Washington Chamber’s “Best Website” and in 2016 she won the New Haven Area Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year award. She hasn’t been slacking off since then, she’s currently the first female President of the Missouri’s Craft Distiller’s Guild as well as holding several board positions for many non-for-profits in the area.
Keith Meyer, Chief Compliance Officer/Distiller, Pinckney Bend Distillery
Upon finishing his degree at the University of Central Missouri in ’08, Keith worked in radio and manufacturing before discovering his passion for spirits. Keith brings years of large-batch cocktail experience as well has a refined palette. He is involved in the developing of new flavors and day-to-day distilling. He is our Head Gin Distiller. He also has an eye for art and detail and has become an instrumental voice of reason on many occasions. Keith was tasked with ‘finding people’ years ago and was the lead in assembling the team we have to today.

Lisa Wicker is President & Head Distiller of Widow Jane Distillery in Brooklyn, New York. Wicker  started her career in a vineyard as a farm hand after working for several years in the arts.  Trained first as an apprentice winemaker, she worked her way through all aspects of production,  from harvest, winemaking, bottling, lab work and blending.  

Wicker moved to Kentucky in 2010 to build a winery for ten year old established vineyards. She  respected and replicated the old wine tradition of Kentucky, one of the largest wine producing  states prior to prohibition. Wicker began working towards the legality of obtaining a still to  produce brandy. She met Steve Beam of Limestone Branch Distillery, six miles from the winery,  and began working there in the evenings, blending product and learning to distill. Working on a  collaboration for peach brandy for a client of Limestone Branch facilitated the move to distilling  full time. 

Three years at Limestone Branch, she developed a client product that won “World’s Best  Liqueur” at the 2015 World Liqueur Awards in London, had their first “brown spirit” release,  perfected cooking heirloom corn mash, oversaw compliance, lab, bottling and product  development.  

Wicker moved to Starlight Distillery, distilling for Ted Huber, known for their brandies, they added  a grain distillery late 2015. Distilling heirloom corn bourbon, malt whiskey, rye whiskey, rum and  vodka, she was also Director of product development. She left Starlight after a year and a half,  recommended by a well known Master Distiller in Kentucky, to oversee a distillery construction  project as General Manager and Head Distiller, building the first craft distillery in Bardstown,  Kentucky. 

With the explosive growth of craft distilling, Wicker formed Saints & Monsters Distilling, her  consulting firm. Clients included Samson & Surrey. She was hired by them full time as Director  of Distilling and Product Development for their portfolio, then moved to Widow Jane Distillery to  oversee distillery construction and expansion, production and the largest heirloom corn project  for whiskey of it’s kind in the United States. Wicker personally blends every lot of the flagship  ten year old, and develops new product.  

Consulting Distiller for George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon in Alexandria Virginia,  beginning in March of 2016, after an invitation to work and visit by Steve Bashore. She has  written protocol and improved quality and yield in an eighteenth century setting. She wrote the  first Bourbon mash bill, based on historic records. Wicker has worked on Rye Whiskey, Peach  Brandy and the first Rum project there. 

Whisky Magazine “Icons of Whisky” Master Distiller/Master Blender, “Highly Commended” 2019,  second highest ranking in the US by Whisky Magazine.  

Wicker has three grown children, two grandsons and a couple of whiskey loving son in laws,  and resides in Brooklyn, New York and Bardstown, Kentucky.

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