New Seward distillery hopes to bring a new twist to an old drink

Danny Petersen has been wanting to make whiskey for a while now. 

"This started several years ago. I was actually visiting some friends and they gave me a taste of real moonshine," Petersen said. "I remember thinking how horrible it tasted. That was kind of a call to action, because one of them said, ‘Can you do better?’ I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do better.’" 

Petersen started making his own drink, mixing up new flavors – and even started setting up an operation on his family farm. 

Then, disaster struck. 

"There was a Mother’s Day Tornado that hit and wiped out our entire farming operation and took all the buildings and equipment that I had accumulated," Petersen said. 

Back at square one, Petersen hooked up with his lifelong buddy, Bill Krejci, and that’s when Barely Legal Distilling took off. 

On a quest to create bold, unique flavors, the duo wrangled in an economic development loan from the city of Seward and poured in over $100,000 of their own money. 

Now, they have the space to make it happen, in the form of an old bank building near downtown. 

With more than 3,000 square feet, they’ve got the room to grow their fledgling business into an economic shot in the arm for Seward County – drawing crowds and hiring employees. 

The two friends are in the final stages of securing permits and Petersen is building much of the equipment they’ll need by hand. 

On top of the distillery operation, Barely Legal Distilling will have a tasting room and merchandise shop.

And, about that name? 

In part, they say it goes back to the Prohibition days, when moonshining was big business. 

The other part comes from their company motto, which is that the product tastes "So good… it can’t be legal." 

So, why do two self-described "old men" up and start a whiskey business? 

"I guess we’re risk takers," Krejci sad. 

"We’re willing to take the risk, we’re excited to take that risk. And if you don’t try something, you could regret it. And we’re getting too old to – no regrets." 

Petersen and Krejci are shooting for a June 1st opening day, though they say it could happen before or after.