These days, everything from clothes to cat toys is mass-produced. Whole markets can be dominated by three or four producers serving the majority of consumers. Whatever your thoughts on economics are aside, this tends to make things impersonal, and just a bit… boring.
Lately, though, little pockets of rebellion have popped up in various industries, offering comparatively fewer options, but doing them right. In the alcohol industry, these pockets are the micro and nano craft breweries, regional wineries and small distilleries. Central PA is a hotspot for this small booze revolution – and state regulators and legislators have noticed. For example, the PLCB enacted a regulation over the weekend allowing craft breweries to sell their own wares on premises without needing to attain a brewpub or liquor license.
But restrictions haven’t just loosened for breweries – PA has also showed small distilleries a little love in recent years. In early 2012, the PA Liquor Board started offering limited distillery licenses for distilleries that produce less than 100,000 gallons annually.
In Central PA, this has turned independent alcohol production into a growth industry that has yet to show any sign of losing momentum. In recent days, two local distilleries have made big announcements.
Thistle Finch Distillery in Lancaster is now seeking a part-time distiller. For a limited distillery that sells small batches of just three products, that’s huge news (and for some lucky barrel-filler-to-be out there, it’s a dream job). The listing even cautions that there’s a “strong possibility” hours for this new distiller could increase to full-time at some point later on in 2015, suggesting the minds behind Thistle Finch are anticipating an even bigger boom in demand.
Meanwhile, York-based Old Republic Distillery is branching out in another way. ORD currently produces two moonshines, two vodkas, and two liquers, including cult favorite Love Potion… but that lineup’s due for some new regulars. At least according to this recent Facebook post:
General manager Wayne Crites says that’s not the only incoming addition. “A lot of people are asking for whiskey,” he notes, and ORD is prepared to deliver.
Armchair quarterbacks – or armchair distillers, as it were – can wonder about the boom in limited distilleries and other small businesses like breweries all they like. Crites has observed ORD pick up speed from inside the industry, and he thinks he knows why: as a company, they draw from the community around them. ORD doesn’t just seek customer commentary – they seek out local sources, too.
“We put a lot more love and a lot more care into the ingredients and getting it right,” he explains. “A lot of people like the fact that we’re local… 95% of our ingredients are all local.”