Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #11- Ridge Runner Distillery, Chalk Hill, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #11- Ridge Runner Distillery, Chalk Hill, Pa

About an hour and a half southeast of Pittsburgh is the small town of Chalkhill, Pa, home to Ridge Runner Distillery. The Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania was the seat of the Whiskey Rebellion. Ridge Runner Distillery not only shares property with Christian W. Clay Winery, they share family ties. Christian Klay, distiller at Ridge Runner, was raised working the winery. His mother, Sharon, is a proud and energetic woman that built up her farm (Fayette Springs Farm) and vineyard around her passion for the property and the land that she fell in love with. She boasts 14,000 vines and when she does source grapes, they are only from within the state. Even after going away to college to study political science and computer science, it seems that Christian’s...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #10- Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery, Pittsburgh, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #10- Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery, Pittsburgh, Pa

Her Jamaican rum And when she did come, I asked her for some.            -Bob Dylan, lyrics from 4th Time Around Usually, my interest lies in American whiskey. But before there was whiskey in America, there was rum. The American Revolution’s roots are drenched in it. Rum was the drink of colonial America. It was considered a necessity by early colonists, so when the British heavily taxed molasses (the Molasses Act of 1733) and sugar cane (the Sugar Act of 1764), the colonists were furious. Rum was used as currency in trades with the Native Americans and was used as exchange in the triangle trade/slave trade (rum exchanged for slaves in Africa, slaves exchanged for labor in the Caribbean for use in sugar cane production, sugar cane shipped to be made into rum, and...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #9- Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #9- Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh, Pa

No trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Wigle Distillery in the strip district. It is pronounced “Wiggle”, by the way, based on the way that descendants of the Wigle family say it. Though the man after which the brand is named probably would’ve introduced himself as Philip “Vigle” (with a “V” and a hard “I”) with his German accent. Philip Wigle was one of ten men (of the 24 indicted) that were brought up on federal charges of treason after the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was brought to an end. He and one other (John Mitchell) were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. George Washington pardoned them in the end, but his name will be remembered now on labels of whiskey over two centuries later. (Wigle Whiskey’s labels show the “g” in Wigle...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #8- DR Distillery in Slippery Rock, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #8- DR Distillery in Slippery Rock, Pa

Next stop across the state is DR Distillery in Slippery Rock, Pa. This was a bit off the beaten path and took me out into the countryside. I didn’t get in until a bit later in the evening, but, thankfully, the owner, Dawn Carson, keeps evening hours and had the bar open for drinks and the distillery open for tours! When I pulled into the driveway, I saw Dawn sitting out on the country porch of the distillery with a close family friend that rode in his Harley Davidson for a visit. They greeted me with smiles, and Dawn gave me a little background on her farm and distillery. She informed me that her cows and bulls roam freely on the property and don’t stray far. After glancing around fruitlessly waiting for one to appear from behind the distillery and snapping some...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #4- Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #4- Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown, Pa

North of Philadelphia is suburban Montgomery County, which is the third most populous county in the state after Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties.  Though Montgomery County wasn’t established until 1784 from lands once belonging to Philadelphia County, many of its towns and much of its history go back much further than that.  Pottstown, originally Pottsgrove, was laid out in the early 1750’s and grew into an industrial borough along the Schuylkill River specializing in steel, iron, agriculture and milling.  The land the town was built upon was land deeded to William Penn, but, before that, it was land that was occupied and utilized by the Lenape Indians.  The Manatawny Creek, which runs through Pottstown, means “the place where we meet to drink” in Lenape. ...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #3- Triple Sun Spirits in Emmaus, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #3- Triple Sun Spirits in Emmaus, Pa

Some micro-distilleries are more micro than others. Triple Sun Spirits in Emmaus is a recent addition to the Pennsylvania distilling scene that opened on April 22nd. The owner, Kristofer Kwant, a local Lehigh valley resident, found his passion for distilling after many years of home-brewing. He traveled throughout the US to learn more about the process of distillation from others in the field, but his travels to the Caribbean crafted his passion for rum. I was lucky enough to catch Kris in the afternoon before he opened his tasting room to the public. The tour he gave was beautifully informative and he made no effort to dumb anything down, which I found refreshing. The tours are free! His distillery is small and tidy and located right near the railroad tracks in...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #2- County Seat Spirits in Allentown, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #2- County Seat Spirits in Allentown, Pa

It was a beautiful day to drive into Allentown, Pennsylvania last Saturday.  The owners of County Seat Spirits, Anthony Brichta and John Howe, were busy entertaining their visitors and I popped in to say “Hello.” I was amazed at how much energy there was in the industrial building that is the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center.  Upon entering, you can hear the buzz from Hijinx Brewing Co. on the right and the Colony Meadery on the left.  I couldn’t help but pop my head into both to see those bustling tasting rooms where dozens of people were chatting and sipping samples.  I made my way up and to the left through the building’s hallway to find County Seat’s tasting room full of ladies in matching t-shirts drinking cocktails.  John Howe greeted me with a smile and...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #1- Social Still in Bethlehem, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #1- Social Still in Bethlehem, Pa

The next few months of my summer will be spent touring Pennsylvanian distilleries. Pennsylvania is one of the fastest growing distilling states in the country, which is exciting for me. A growth in the number of PA distilleries means a shift in our state’s history with distilled spirits. It means opportunity for grain farming in our fertile state and attention paid to our water sources. It means a “new” industry with connections to and effects on local economies. This isn’t just good for creativity in the distilling of craft spirits, it is good for our cities, small towns and counties. The first distillery I popped into was Social Still in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They are located on the south side of Bethlehem where the blue collar steel workers once lived...