Nearly a decade ago, Renee and Brian Bemis set out from their St. Charles, Illinois, home in search of a location for their dream of starting a craft distillery.

The couple settled along Baraboo’s Water Street based on its serene location along the Baraboo River and the quality of the local water supply.

Water often is called the “soulplace” in distilling, and is the source of the name Driftless Glen, which opened to the public in 2015.

“We love Baraboo, but there is more to it than that. It’s the water that made us settle on this location,” Renee Bemis said. “Bourbon and the spirits we custom craft are very affected by the water used; it is the soul. The Driftless area just has unbelievable water.”

Renee Bemis said the region’s sandy soil filters the water and makes it perfect for crafting everything from bourbon and brandy to vodka and gin.

The nearby rick houses rise from the banks of the Baraboo River and house the distillery’s aging stock.

“The early morning fog is the perfect humidity for our barrels,” Renee Bemis said.

The Driftless Glen Distillery also houses a restaurant.

Chef Dave Fronczek said the unique qualities of the local water affect the distillery’s creations and the food selections are intended to reflect that.

“We use our spirits in quite a few of our dishes and are always changing the menu,” he said. “Right now we have a signature item in high quality, ground-up tenderloin elk sliders.”

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Driftless Glen Chef Dave Fronczek

Driftless Glen Chef Dave Fronczek caramelizes onions for the restaurant's signature elk sliders.

The restaurant is attached directly to the distillery and restaurant manager Scott Dobbs said customers enjoy its unique menu.

The restaurant focuses on locally sourced food whenever possible. The meat for the elk sliders is provided by a farm near Reedsburg.

“It’s great to use produce and meat when you know exactly how it’s been raised and where, plus it’s great for the local economy,” Dobbs said.

Chicago resident Kelly Jones and her husband said they found the elk sliders to be unique.

“We want to try to make these at home sometime, they are so delicious and lean.” she said.

Jones said the couple toured the distillery and tried the dipping oils sold in the retail store before deciding to stay for a meal.

The signature elk sliders are made with caramelized onions and Nueske’s bacon. Nueske’s has been in business since the 1930s and the Wittenburg business has made a name for itself with its Applewood-smoked meats.

The sliders also contain a caramelized creole remoulade that is tart and not as sweet as French aioli-mayonnaise based sauces.

“Our creole remoulade is tart plus we add a bit of cheddar and Jack cheese to it,” Fronczek said.

The combination is served on a sister roll, which is sweet like a Hawaiian roll, but with a heavier texture.

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Signature Fare

“That touch of sweetness just sets the elk sliders off,” Fronczek said.

Co-owner Renee Bemis said patrons won’t want to skip dessert.

She recommends the dessert trio for $9.95. It includes a slice of New York style cheesecake, Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownie topped with Sassy Cow vanilla ice cream and a salted caramel sauce plus a cup of handcrafted peanut butter mousse.

“We think we offer quite a bit under one roof,” Renee Bemis said. “You can tour the distillery or taste our fine vinegar and oil selection and spirits. You can have a hand-crafted drink at our bar, sit window-side and watch the river flowing, have an appetizer or just stop for a dessert and coffee.”

In addition to the large dining room, the restaurant also has a glassed area at the end of the dining room for smaller group gatherings. A private room with red leather chairs for that can accommodate up to 12 people is available at no extra charge.