Craft distilleries in the Philadelphia region are absolutely booming, helping to restore Pennsylvania to its once-prominent place in the national distilling conversation. Until Prohibition wiped out the state’s industry, Pennsylvania housed the country’s densest cluster of homespun and commercial whiskey producers, beginning with some of the country’s earliest settlers.
In 2011, Pennsylvania’s government passed reforms that allowed distillers to offer tours, samples and onsite sales. These new laws opened up the craft to would-be distillers who now proudly produce and sell small-batch spirits in Philadelphia. In a sign of the industry’s maturation, the Philadelphia Distillery Trail keeps a running tally and map of the select regional makers, to promote visitation and sampling.
Here’s a look at some of the region’s distilling pioneers:
- Federal Distilling – The clear nectar of the gods is the specialty at this Kensington must-visit. A tribute to the rich history of Philadelphia, Federal’s signature Stateside Urbancraft Vodka is the main attraction. Tours and tastings take place Friday through Sunday. 1700 N. Hancock Street, statesidevodka.com
- La Colombe Distillery – Past the fresh-baked breads and fragrant coffees at La Colombe’s flagship Fishtown cafe, a glassed-in distillery houses a 450-liter antique copper still where the coffee roaster distills its Different Drum Pennsylvania Rum. The sipping rum infused with coffee is sold onsite by the glass and by the bottle; during weekday happy hours, all draft beers, rum drinks and cocktails sell for half-price. 1335 Frankford Avenue, (267) 479-1600, lacolombe.com
- Naoj & Mot – Launched as a distraction for a mother grieving her deceased son, this South Philly distillery has been producing the Pollyodd line of Italian liqueurs since 2012. Though the distillery itself is closed to the public, Joan Verratti, the state’s first licensed female distiller, runs a vibrant tasting room where she pours five natural cream-based and five water-based spirits like Limoncello using locally sourced ingredients. 1908 East Passyunk Avenue, (215) 271-1161, pollyodd.com
- New Liberty Distillery – Last year, this sought-after Kensington distillery earned one silver and two bronze medals for its whiskey varieties from the American Craft Spirits Association. Saturdays and Sundays mean free tours of New Liberty’s rustic space—circa 1906 horse stables—after which guests can head upstairs to the third-floor bar and lounge for a tasting, an expertly prepared whiskey cocktail—or both. Crane Arts, 1431 N. Cadwallader Street, (800) 996-0595, newlibertydistillery.com
- Philadelphia Distilling – An old Fishtown factory houses Philly’s first post-Prohibition distillery, which employs hand-hammered copper stills and Hall-Woodford wooden fermentation vessels to create batches of Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Blue Coat Barrel Finished Gin, Vieux Carré Absinthe, Penn 1681 Vodka and THE BAY Seasoned Vodka (seasoned with traditional Chesapeake Bay seasonings). The distillery offers a full bar and restaurant with an outdoor patio, tasting room—named to Philadelphia magazine’s 2017 “Best of Philly” list—and retail store. 25 East Allen Street, (215) 671-0346, philadelphiadistilling.com
- Red Brick Craft Distillery – Founded with a successful crowd-funding campaign, this Kensington distillery produces two small-batch whiskeys and Simple Shine, a clear sugar wash rum. Tours and tastings take place by reservation on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. 2628 Martha Street, (267) 603-3790, redbrickcraftdistillery.com
- Rowhouse Spirits – A small shed on the property of Philadelphia Brewing Company (PBC)—not, as the name would suggest, a rowhome—is where former PBC brewer owner Dean Browne perfects his craft. Rowhouse makes very small batch gin (lauded by Philadelphia magazine as “Best of Philly” in 2016), traditionally Scandinavian Nordic Akvavit, Poitín Irish-style moonshine made from 100% barley malts and Bear Trap herbal liqueur, which tastes like anise and is made from 19 fresh organic botanicals. Tours of the 1,200-square-foot space take place Thursday through Saturday. 2440 Frankford Avenue, (267) 825-7332, rowhousespirits.us
- W.P. Palmer Distilling Co. – This Manayunk distillery takes a historical approach to its sole spirit: gin. Handcrafted in a copper-pot still, Palmer’s Liberty Gin uses a traditional 18th-century Dutch recipe that calls for rich botanicals, citrus and spices. 376 Shurs Lane, Building A, (215) 588-5108, palmerdistilling.com
- Hewn Spirits – This small batch Bucks County operation sources grains locally, distills them in a handmade copper pot still and ages them in old, reclaimed rare-wood barrels. Among Hewn’s products: Shipmate Rum, Dark Hollow Pennsylvania Bourbon, Red Barn Rye Whiskey, Reclamation American Single Malt Whiskey and New Moon Moonshine. Distillery tours and tastings take place some Fridays and Saturdays in Pipersville, next door to the Bucks County Brewery; the Peddler’s Village bar and tasting room are open daily. 31 Appletree Lane, Pipersville, (215) 766-7711; Routes 202 & 263, Store #42, Lahaska, hewnspirits.com
- Mountain Laurel Spirits – Named after owner Herman Mihalich’s father’s favored fashion accessory, Dad’s Hat rye whiskeys carry a strong sense of history. Mihalich employs a recipe that harkens to the 18th-century days when Pennsylvania farmers used their surplus rye grain to distill the homemade whiskey that later turned the state into the world’s chief producer of this type of spirit. Most Saturday afternoons, visitors can get a lesson in the modern and historical production methods from Mihalich or business partner John Cooper, and then sample the final product. Reservations required. 925 Canal Street, Building #4, Bristol, (215) 781-8300, dadshatrye.com
- Bluebird Distilling – Historical records suggest that Bluebird Distilling is Chester County’s first post-Prohibition distillery. Bluebird uses all natural ingredients to produce its broad selection of products, including white whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, plus four-grain bourbon and rye—five of which medaled at 2017 American Craft Spirits Awards. That ethos extends to the self-proclaimed “urban steampunk” saloon, where bartenders mix cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices and ingredients made from scratch. Bluebird recently opened a sleek satellite tasting room in Center City. 100 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, (610) 933-7827; 27 S. 17th Street, bluebirddistilling.com
- Manatawny Still Works – On banks of the Manatawny Creek—in the language of native American Lenape, “manatawny” means “the place we meet to drink”—this Pottstown distiller makes Odd Fellows No. 214 Gin, J. Potts Whiskey and other small-batch whiskeys, T. Rutter Rum and Three Bitches Wheat Vodka. An antique-filled tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday for cocktails and spirit flights (adding a food truck on Fridays and live music on Saturday evenings); tours take place on weekends. A new Manatawny tasting room opened in summer 2017 along South Philly’s East Passyunk Avenue. 320 Circle of Progress Drive, #104, Pottstown, (484) 624-8271; 1603 E. Passyunk Avenue, (267) 519-2917, manatawnystillworks.com
- Faber Distilling Co. – In the heart of Quakertown, Faber Distilling Co. produces straightforward, easy-drinking vodka, rum and gin with tried-and-true techniques: “Five time distilled, filtered over 40 feet of activated charcoal, zero additives,” the makers like to say. Unlike any other Pennsylvania distillery, Faber delivers directly to bars and restaurants—something, the company says, no other Pennsylvania distillery has done since Prohibition. 2300 Trumbauersville Road, Quakertown, (215) 268-6071, fabereasydrinking.com
- Five Saints Distilling and International Spirits – Named after his father and the four men who served as father figures to founder John George after his own dad passed away, Five Saints Distilling and International Spirits opened its doors in autumn 2015 in the Historic Humane Engine #1 Firehouse. Doubling as both a firehouse museum and distillery that specializes in premium spirits, including gin, vodka, whiskey (including bourbon) and orangecello, Five Saints offers tours, tastings, retail and events. 129 E. Main Street, Norristown, fivesaintsdistilling.com
- Boardroom Spirits Distillery – Headquartered in Lansdale, this sustainable, family-owned craft-distillery uses local ingredients in Its line of award winning unaged spirits that include rum, gin, eau de vie brandy, triple sec, vegetable-based specialty spirits as well as vodka and real ingredient flavored vodka with brandy and whiskey in the near future. Visitors can enjoy Boardroom’s cocktail lounge Thursday through Sunday and book free tours through their website. Local food trucks help tasters hold their liquor on “Foodie Fridays.” 575 W. 3rd Street, Lansdale, (267) 642-9961, boardroomspirits.com575 W. 3rd Street, Lansdale, (267) 642-9961, boardroomspirits.com
- Cooper River Distillers – Kentucky-bred owner James Yoakum comes from a place that produces many micro-distillers: home brewing, a pastime Yoakum enjoyed for years before deciding to open Camden, New Jersey’s first-ever legal distillery. Distilling Petty’s Island Rum, Copper & Vine Garden State Brandy and Cooper River Bourbon and Rye Whiskey out of a handmade copper still in a garage, Yoakum opens to the public every Friday, 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday, 1 to 8 p.m. and during special events to show visitors around and sell them bottles and hand-crafted cocktails. 34 N. 4th Street, Camden, NJ, (856) 295-1273, cooperriverdistillers.com
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