Jeff Hadden grew tired of just thinking about turning his hobby into a full-time gig.
So last year, with a business plan and a back-of-the-napkin sketch for his product in hand, he made the leap.
Now, Hadden has opened Patriarch Distillers, where he distills, processes and warehouses bourbon whiskey and vodka.
The distillery, located near 120th Street and Giles Road close to the Interstate 80 interchange, is among the growing number of alcohol makers who call La Vista home.
Just down the street from Patriarch is Lucky Bucket Brewing Company, which last fall added liquors through its distillery, called Cut Spike Distillery, to its already well-known list of beers.
Last month the La Vista City Council approved liquor licenses for the Papillion-based Nebraska Brewing Company, which is expanding into a facility near 108th and Harrison Streets for additional production and packaging, plus a tasting room and retail space.
“With us being a hop, skip and jump away from each other, it's going to be kind of nice for people to do all in a day,” Hadden said.
Choosing to stay in Sarpy County when deciding on a second location was an easy choice, said Kim Kavulak, who started Nebraska Brewing Company with her husband six years ago.
“We've had such great success and been really embraced by Sarpy County,” she said. “We felt very strongly we wanted to stay in Sarpy County.”
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig said businesses that choose his city enjoy close Interstate access, and he's pleased to see a growing number of alcohol makers cropping up.
“We definitely do have a little niche,” he said. “I just think it's good to have them as homegrown businesses.”
Nebraska microdistilleries got a boost in 2007 after Gov. Dave Heineman signed a law allowing distillers to sell the hard liquors they made directly to patrons.
Previously, state law allowed for distilleries in the state, but didn't allow them to sell directly to customers.
In 2010, Iowa adopted a similar law allowing visitors to buy liquor directly from distilleries.
The Nebraska law, which also said the liquor can be sold at off-site retail liquor outlets if the distiller goes through a wholesaler, was modeled after the state's microbrewery laws.
“It kind of opened the door for small business,” said Jason Payne, owner of Lucky Bucket and Cut Spike. “This biggest benefit is we can sell our product on-site. People can get a tour, they can come up and sample the whiskey, sample the vodka and take a bottle home with them.”
Like breweries, distilleries are gaining popularity in the state, and alcohol makers are excited about their potential.
Hadden is aiming to have his lines of vodka and bourbon whiskey ready for purchase this month.
By spring, the small tasting room meant primarily for events will be open, he said.
Hadden's vodka is distilled six times, while his bourbon whiskey goes through a six-year aging process, at a minimum.
Both are labeled under a brand called Soldier Valley and are sold in glass bottles shaped like an Army canteen, which is meant to honor veterans.
Hadden, who served in the National Guard, is also planning to give back to military-related organizations, and will attach a dog tag to each bottle that will list the charity that will receive some portion of proceeds.
Like other craft distillers, Hadden isn't trying to replace or compete with big-name liquor makers such as Bacardi or Jack Daniels.
Hadden, a native of the Elkhorn area who now lives in Gretna with his family, is more interested in showing people how the liquor is made — and that it can be done in Nebraska.
“I think this is going to be kind of a destination, an experience,” he said.