Allentown, Pennsylvania is home to County Seat Spirits. Anthony Brichta, a native of Allentown, (which is the county seat of Lehigh County) began the business in the autumn of 2014 with his uncle, John Rowe. One of the things that I respect about this little distillery is its connection to its roots and the history of the surrounding area. Each spirit they produce is named after a local landmark or, in the case of their wheated bourbon, local history. County Seat pays homage to the true story of how the Liberty Bell came to stay in Allentown for a brief period of time.
In 1777, George Washington suffered defeat to the British and was forced to leave Philadelphia undefended. (He would winter in Valley Forge, which allowed for the 9 month occupation of British forces in Philadelphia.) The Assembly of Pennsylvania feared the possibility of a British takeover of the city, and, in an effort to preserve the copper and brass that the British would surely melt down for ammunition, ordered the removal of 11 large, valuable public bells from the city. It took about a week to transport those 11 bells, including our national treasure, the Liberty Bell, by wagon to Allentown, where they were stored under the floor boards of the Zion High German Reformed Church. There they remained, safe and hidden, until the end of the British occupation of Philadelphia.
County Seat Spirits is the 1st distillery to exist in Lehigh County since Prohibition. Founder Anthony Brichta’s idea to establish his company was formed when he visited another small distillery with a friend in Brooklyn (King’s County Distillery). New York and Pennsylvania have different laws on establishing a distillery, so Brichta’s experience as lawyer came in handy when attempting to implement his idea back home. He set up shop in an economic development center and business incubator in an area of Allentown that was primed for revitalization. The old Mack Truck plant turned incubator where they are now located is also home to Hijinx Brewery and the Colony Meadery as well as other small businesses.
The heavily wheated bourbon is crafted from local grain sourced from producers like Deer Creek Malthouse (in Glen Mills) and another in Lancaster. The stripping still is about 130 gallons and is direct fire heated with natural gas. The finishing still has a copper packed column to get as much interaction with the metal during the final stages of distillation as possible. Aging takes place in a variety of charred oak barrels- 15, 25 and 30 gallon barrels. County Seat isn’t just grain to glass, their grains are recycled right back into the food chain! Spent mash is picked up by a local farmer in Mt. Bethel who feeds the wet grains to his free range chickens! One of these days I hope enjoy a Hidden Copper bourbon tasting paired with a local chicken dinner…Sounds good doesn’t it? You can visit the folks at County Seat Spirits on weekends at 905 Harrison St.,Suite 128,Allentown PA 18103 or call them at 610.628.9502. Cheers!