Pre-Prohibition Distillers of Pennsylvania

I have spent the last few years researching and cataloging information on nearly 200 distilleries that produced rye whiskey across Pennsylvania before 1920. The information about Pennsylvania’s distilling history along with the traditions that established Pennsylvania as the leader in American rye whiskey production has been lost to generations of Pennsylvanians, not to mention the many new whiskey drinkers just learning about our country’s distilling heritage. I am making my best effort to reopen the history book of Pennsylvania rye whiskey and bring these distilleries back into the conversation. Bourbon is a whiskey that began its introduction to American drinkers in the early 1800s, joining the rye whiskey that had already been sitting comfortably...

MGP Ingredients- The Distillery Prohibition Did Not Destroy

MGP Ingredients- The Distillery Prohibition Did Not Destroy

If you’re tasting a lot of whiskeys and considering where they come from, you’ll have already become familiar with MGP (Midwest Grain Products) Ingredients.  In most cases, you’ll have read an article about how hundreds of whiskeys on the market today are, in fact, distilled at MGP and that many of those companies are not honest about their whiskeys’ provenance.  In some cases, people cannot believe that a company that sells extracted starches, textured plant proteins and cleaning products could also make such great whiskey. I’m here to tell you, this is as American as apple pie. (Apple pie is originally European, too, by the way…We imported its recipe the same way we imported our distilling traditions.) To be clear, MGP Ingredients (also referred to by...

The 2nd Annual American Whiskey Convention!

The 2nd Annual American Whiskey Convention!

“By Whiskey Lovers, For Whiskey Lovers” The 2nd Annual American Whiskey Convention is a Grand Tasting at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA on March 24th   Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Feb 7, 2017 — Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American Whiskey. As the first days of spring arrive, Philadelphia will host the largest all-American whiskey event in the country! Philadelphia’s whiskey aficionados will have access to a grand tasting with over 150 bourbons, ryes, wheat and malt whiskeys from some of the finest distilleries in the country. The 2nd Annual American Whiskey Convention takes place on Friday, March 24th in the Hall of Fame Club of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa. “We’ve created an event to highlight America’s whiskey renaissance and...

The Pennsylvania Spirits Convention on March 23, 2017!

The Pennsylvania Spirits Convention on March 23, 2017!

The Pennsylvania Spirits revolution is in full swing. Pennsylvania is coming into its own again as a distilling state producing world renowned spirits. Combine that with some of the best bartenders in the country making their own signature cocktails from these PA spirits and you have the Pennsylvania Spirits Convention. The Pennsylvania Spirits Convention is the first and largest event of its kind.  It pays respect not only to Pennsylvania’s legendary distilling past, but also to its future.  Every spirit at the event is made in Pennsylvania. Guests will be amazed at the quality and selection that is arising from the Pennsylvania talented distillers. This grand event comes to Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park on March 23rd. It will be host over 110 craft spirits,...

Philadelphia Distilling- Before the Big Move

Philadelphia Distilling- Before the Big Move

Though many Philadelphians are aware of this, Philadelphia Distilling is moving.  They have been happily nestled in an industrial park on McNulty Rd. in the Byberry neighborhood of Philadelphia since 2005, and now they will be moving their base of operations to a more central location- the Fillmore.  This newly opened music venue is very visible from I-95. The new headquarters will have a tasting room, event space, retail shop, an 80-seat restaurant, 80-seat outdoor patio and cocktail bar.  My interest is not yet in the new location yet, because the roots of the distillery’s history are in Byberry…and the business is still located there…for the time being. I stopped by their McNulty Rd. location last month to pay some respect to the first Pennsylvania distillery...

Conneaut Cellars Distillery in the Northwest of PA

Conneaut Cellars Distillery in the Northwest of PA

About an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh is the busy tourist destination town of Conneaut (Con-ee- ought) Lake.  The lake is full of sailboats and the roads are full of trucks with trailers in tow and SUV’s full of families.  I pulled into Conneaut Lake on Sunday morning looking for a good distillery. Conneaut Cellars Winery was already busy offering wine tastings to tourists when I stopped in looking for Joal Wolf.  Joal is the son of Alan and Phyllis Wolf, the original owners and proprietors of the winery, and learned his wine craft from his father.  Joal’s father, Dr. Alan Wolf, learned a great deal about wine in the 50’s while he was stationed in Germany as an American state department representative.  Those skills were refined back in the U.S. in the...

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...

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...