Visit to CJ Spirits in Kane, Pa

Visit to CJ Spirits in Kane, Pa

Sometimes the long drive between two Pennsylvania distilleries can take you on an unexpected route. I wound my way through northwest Pennsylvania between Conneaut Lake and Kane on very isolated (and sometimes dirt) roadways past Pennsylvania Dutch settlements. I’m from the eastern part of the state where Lancaster and the surrounding countryside is home to many PA Dutch towns and villages. I was taken by surprise to see young ladies and children walking their bikes up steep hills with their packages only to ride them down the other side on these western roads. Views of farmsteads and front yards filled with families meeting for picnics and brimmed hat and bonnet wearing parents pushing small children in strollers up long winding roads made for a slow trip. I...

The New Relationship Between Farmer and Distiller

The New Relationship Between Farmer and Distiller

The modern distilling boom is creating a unique opportunity for farmers and businesses involved in grain production. In Pennsylvania, distilling is growing by leaps and bounds, but the raw material for making whiskey is grain and many distillers just don’t know much about it. They know they want rye for rye whiskey, for instance, but where are they supposed to get it? What is the difference between Danko and Aroostok? Is it non-GMO? Do I buy it directly from a farmer or a grain merchant? It’s not just the distillers, either. The farmers are also beginning to see a demand for small grains, but don’t quite know how to approach distillers. I’ve been learning a lot about  just how much of Pennsylvania’s distilling tradition has been lost. Pennsylvania was once a huge...

Autumn and Five Saints Distilling

Autumn and Five Saints Distilling

I’ve been out visiting distilleries throughout the summer, but I have no intention of stopping now that autumn is here. The cooler temperatures remind us that whiskey and spirits are warming and satisfying this time of year. It isn’t just good for the whiskey drinkers, it’s also a productive time of year for farmers and distillers. Rye, winter wheat, and barley are go into the ground in September. Small grains, which are necessities in the creation of whiskey, need the short growth spurt in late September and October to establish themselves and anchor the soil (reducing erosion) before the frost causes the plants to go dormant. (They will return in full force in the spring for harvest in the summer.) The distillers are welcoming the lower temperatures that help...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #16- Stoll and Wolfe Distillery, Lititz, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #16- Stoll and Wolfe Distillery, Lititz, Pa

Every once in a while, you get to see a circle being completed. The last distillery to close its doors in Pennsylvania was Michter’s Distillery in Schaefferstown in 1990. The closing of this distillery marked the end of an era. The Michter’s brand name was sold to a company in Kentucky (Chatham Imports) and the brick and mortar distillery was left to decompose. The last distiller to work on site in Shaefferstown was a man named Dick Stoll. Now, in his eighties, Mr. Stoll and his youthful, energetic partner, Erik Wolfe are determined to bring back that which was lost. Their new Stoll & Wolfe distillery will incorporate the old with the new by employing the talents and experience of Mr. Stoll with the a modern vision of Pennsylvania distilling. Lititz, Pa is...

The Cost of Prohibition for Pennsylvania

The Cost of Prohibition for Pennsylvania

While it is slowly becoming common knowledge that Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American whiskey, I’m often asked, ”Why is Pennsylvania only now showing signs of distilling life again?” The truth lies in the duration and aftermath of Prohibition. In 1899, there were close to 965 distilleries in the country with about 400 of them located in Pa. By 1914, that number had been reduced to 434, and by Prohibition, there were only 27-33 left. (ref.- http://www.bottlebooks.com/american%20medicinal%20spirits%20company/american_medicinal_spirits_compa.htm) Consolidation and the shuttering of so many distilleries left the distilling industry on the brink of collapse. The reality was that the political will and capital that remained in support of distilling would begin...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #15- Red Brick Craft Distillery, Philadelphia, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #15- Red Brick Craft Distillery, Philadelphia, Pa

  I had the good fortune to meet Zachary Cohen and Brian Forrest in March of last year at the American Whiskey Convention at Citizens Bank Park. They had not bottled any spirits as of yet, but they had been hard at work for more than 6 months getting Red Brick Craft Distillery up and running in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Zach worked with Deer Creek Malt House to prepare an educational display for the event that showed the amount of grain that went into a shot and a bottle of whiskey. Even without spirits to pour at the event, he certainly made an impression. He feels strongly about supporting local farmers and grain producers, so we had plenty to talk about. Zach leased the property on Martha Street in Kensington in October of 2014. What once...

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #14- Midstate Distillery, Harrisburg, Pa

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #14- Midstate Distillery, Harrisburg, Pa

This past winter, when I drove out to Harrisburg for the 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show, I passed a brand new distillery that was just opening its doors to the public.  Midstate Distillery opened on January 9th, 2016 to coordinate with the first day of the grand event.  It’s been 2 years in the making, but they are now a part of the rapidly growing Pennsylvania distilling scene. Brian Myers and Dan Healy are part owners and brothers-in-law. They bought the building, which used to be the Smith Paint building, to house the first distillery in Harrisburg since Prohibition. Brian’s manufacturing and business experience and Dan’s chemistry background pair well. They were enthusiastic home-brewers, but found after visiting distilleries in Colorado, that their...

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #13- Disobedient Spirits, Homer City, Pa

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #13- Disobedient Spirits, Homer City, Pa

 “Disobey Responsibly.” Driving through western Pennsylvania gives you a feel for why distilleries still have an emotional connection to the Whiskey Rebellion. It’s rural. It can feel bit isolated from the big cities and the towns have a strong loyalty to their local businesses. Disobedient Spirits is located in the small town of Homer City, Pennsylvania. Driving into the town, you can’t help but notice its national pride in the local military because every telephone pole boasts a different image of an American veteran soldier from the area. The downtown of Homer City is quiet, but the distillery is not. Immediately on entering the distillery through the vestibule, the large tasting room opens up to your right. There are large plate glass windows that face the...