Philadelphia distilleries began to flourish about a decade ago when the state passed reforms that enabled distilleries to set up tasting rooms and offer tours. Since then, more than a dozen distilleries have opened in the region.
Many of those distilleries have incorporated a spirit of philanthropy into their business models to help good causes—and, as it happens, make us feel even better about tossing back a cocktail or three. Those are the local distilleries we’re spotlighting here today.
Several distilleries in Philadelphia made news early in the pandemic when they ceased making spirits in favor of hand sanitizer. On top of that, the Philly distilleries below are raising funds for youth in under-served communities, animal shelters, local artisans and much more.
Here’s to raising a glass to the Philadelphia distilleries that are filling your cocktail glass of choice with locally made spirits while also offering support to those in our community who need it.
7 GREAT DISTILLERIES IN PHILADELPHIA THAT GIVE BACK
Brothers Bryan and Matthew Quigley started distilling vodka in a corner of their parents’ basement. From these beginnings they eventually created a full-fledged distillery known for its award-winning vodka. Stateside Vodka is now the top-selling craft spirit distributed in Pennsylvania.
The brothers started with a technique they learned on Google and a repurposed beer keg they bought on eBay that they welded to high school lab equipment. When their father found their subterranean production facility, he kicked them out. That set the brothers on a more serious path, including a distillery fellowship at Michigan State University and a gig at a famous Polish vodka distillery. In 2013 they returned stateside (get it?) and two years later started producing Stateside Vodka.
Stateside Vodka is gluten-free, kosher, mineral-enhanced, cold-filtered and distilled seven times. It has no sugar and no carbs. Stateside also produces four flavors of Vodka Soda made with real juice and Surfside Iced Tea with vodka and Stateside Black Label Bourbon. The distillery has a bottle shop and an attached cocktail bar.
Where to buy: At Stateside’s bottle shop and bar, on the website for pick up or in-state delivery, or use the Booze Finder on the Stateside website website to find Stateside products at bars, restaurants, liquor and package stores within 100 miles of where you are.
Doing good: Stateside supports nonprofits by creating custom labels and then donating a portion of the sales. Its popular Pride Label (which will return this June) raised money for the Human Rights Campaign. A custom Pink Label benefited the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and over the summer of 2021, a portion of the proceeds from its bourbon went to the Michael James Jackson Foundation, which funds education and career advancement of indigenous people and people of color in the brewing and distilling industries. Stateside also regularly creates donation baskets for local nonprofits and made hand sanitizer for the Upper Dublin Police Department during the pandemic.
And, in the equivalent of a philanthropic three-point shot, the distillery traded Ben Simmons jerseys for $25 Stateside gift cards. The jerseys were donated to shelters in Brooklyn.
The South Kensington building that now houses New Liberty Distillery was formerly a stable, and much of the architecture—and even the horse stalls—have been preserved. But where there once were horses, there is now a custom-made till and barrels of whiskey aging, as well as a bar, new tasting room and bottle shop. The distillery procures local grains from a farm just 25 miles away, and uses them to make Kinsey Whiskey, Bloody Butcher Bourbon and other craft whiskeys.
Where to buy: Visit the bottle shop at New Liberty, get same-day delivery (in select zip codes), or have it shipped in-state. Also available in local state stores.
Doing good: Over the holidays, New Liberty Distillery teamed up with New Orleans Saint (and former Eagle) Malcolm Jenkins (a two-time Super Bowl winner) to raise money for youth in underserved communities. The distillery was the spirit sponsor of Jenkins’ virtual holiday party, which was a fundraiser for his eponymous foundation. With funds raised at this event and others, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation has donated $175,000 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
In addition, New Liberty supports local artists by inviting them to participate in its monthly First Friday events, which feature live music and food and drink specials. Keep up with upcoming events here.
This family-owned distillery in Lansdale is best known for its vodka, gin, bourbon and ready-to-drink bottled cocktails. What may not be as well known is that the spirits are made with real ingredients—no artificial flavors or additives. To live up to its motto of “clean spirits made with clean energy,” Boardroom is committed to using sustainable manufacturing practices that minimize its footprint. Solar panels on the facility’s rooftop generate so much energy that the distillery gives some back to the community. In addition, Boardroom Spirits is passionate about reducing waste. It recycles and composts its waste and has a bottle buy-back program to encourage customers to do the same.
Where to buy: When you shop on boardroomspirits.com, pick up, delivery and in-state shipping are available. Use the tool on the distillery’s website to check availability at Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores throughout the region.
Doing good: The day Boardroom Spirits launched Fire Bear, a cinnamon honey whiskey, it donated a portion of the proceeds to Dog Town Rescue and the launch of Ship’s Cat Rum, a nautical- and cat-themed spirit, benefited Stray Cat Blues, of Colmar, PA. The distiller continues to do fundraisers for the two organizations.
Plus, Boardroom frequently hosts events in its tasting room for local nonprofits, including recent events for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund.
The 6-year-old distillery regularly partners with organizations benefiting veterans and first responders including the Robert Irvine Foundation, as well as organizations that protect animals and the environment. For donation requests, click here.
When Jared Adkins read that local spirit laws were easing for the first time since Prohibition, it inspired him to make a career change. The recent college grad did some studying, got a little help from his dad and a friend, and used the corporate manufacturing and engineering skills he’d developed at his first job to open Bluebird Distilling. He transformed an abandoned building in Phoenixville into a distillery of small-batch whiskies with an attached cocktail bar.
Bluebird uses a state-of-the-art hybrid copper still to produce limited-release wheat whiskey, four-grain bourbon, rye whiskey, white rye whiskey and other craft spirits such as Juniperus gin, vodka, sugarcane rum, and dark rum.
Where to buy: Bluebird spirits are sold at restaurants and liquor stores throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Illinois. You can also find them at Fine Wine & Spirits stores.
Doing good: In 2019, just four years after opening, Bluebird was named one of the top five brandy distilleries in the country by USA Today. But shortly after earning this national accolade, the pandemic hit. Bluebird put all spirits production on pause and produced hand sanitizer, which was sold at cost to hospitals, doctors’ offices and at-risk communities in Phoenixville and throughout the Philadelphia area.
More recently, Bluebird partnered with MilkBoy Philadelphia to raise money for the Morris Animal Refuge. The event was held on what would have been the 100th birthday of Actress Betty White, an animal lover and animal rights activist. Bluebird donated 100 percent of the proceeds of its sales of Bluebird vodka martinis at the event to the animal shelter.
Five portraits hang above the bar at Five Saints Distilling. They are likenesses of owner John R. George’s father, three of his uncles and a family friend. George’s father passed away when he was young and the other four men acted as father figures. He thinks of them as saints for their patience and guidance throughout his youth. Now they oversee his award-winning Norristown-based micro-distillery, which produces small-batch, hand-crafted spirits including vodka, white whiskey, savory Tuscan-style gin, blood orange liqueur, raspberry-lavender absinthe and a maple bourbon butter pecan flavored rum. The distillery is housed in a former firehouse dating back to 1888. Tours of the distillery include a history of the heroic fire company that preceded it.
Where to Buy: The spirits are available on Five Saints’ website for shipping in-state. Pay a flat shipping rate of $10 no matter how much you order. Also available at the distillery, at farmer’s markets and at state stores.
Doing Good: Like the five “saints” who guided George, the distillery is committed to family, community and quality. Early in the pandemic, Five Saints made hand sanitizer for first responders, which had special meaning for George because of the building’s original use. It was donated to local fire and police departments, and local hospitals. For the past seven years, the distiller has supported a local food drive honoring Lt. Patty Simons, a Norristown police officer who died of breast cancer, serving on the committee, providing a venue for meetings, food and toy drop offs, and more.
The distillery held a fundraiser to help with the medical and funeral expenses of Abby Jo Weiss, a joyful Five Saints mixologist who passed away and a portion of the proceeds from the Blood Orange Lemon Drop Martini is donated to her family.
Five Saints has made donations of product, tour and tasting certificates, and/or funds to many local organizations including Laurel House, The Village, the Victim Services Center of Montgomery County, The Pathway School, the Zachary Wallace Fund, the Norristown Hospitality Center for people experiencing poverty and homelessness, Theatre Horizon, Centre Theater, Methacton Community Theater, Methacton High School football and the Norristown Chamber of Commerce.
Philadelphia Distilling set out to create spirits for the American palate. To do so it spent a year refurbishing the former Ajax Metal Company warehouse, installing custom-designed, hand-hammered copper pot stills, and adding wood fermentation vessels from the Philadelphia-based Hall-Woodford. When it opened in 2005 Philadelphia Distilling became the first craft distillery in Pennsylvania since Prohibition.
That meticulous attention to detail started paying off when its Bluecoat American dry gin started winning awards. The American version of a London dry gin is softer and rounder than traditional dry gins with organic botanicals, American-grown citrus and a soft juniper presence. In addition to Bluecoat gin and its variations, Philadelphia Distilling makes Vigo Amaro, Vieux Carré Supérieure, The Bay Seasoned Vodka and Penn 1681 Rye Vodka.
In 2017, Philadelphia Distilling moved into a 13,000-square-foot facility in Fishtown, which is home to the production facility, tasting room, craft cocktail bar, bottle shop, private event space and an outdoor patio. Tours of the production facility are available and include tastings.
Where to buy: Shop at the on-site bottle shop, online or at your local liquor store. Local delivery, pick up and in-state shipping are available. The online store offers spirits, cocktail kits, bar equipment, glassware and more. There are lots of discounts available online at bluecoatgin.store.
Doing good: A team from Philadelphia Distilling participates in the American Cancer Society’s annual bike ride from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, ranking as one of the highest-earning teams and supporting the after-party. Philadelphia Distilling is also a supporter of the Fishtown Neighborhood Association and a participant in its community events, such as the Fishtown Freeze. The distiller regularly partners with local businesses and nonprofits needing a venue, and provides baskets for silent auctions. Recent recipients have included For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation, Drexel University Kline School of Law’s Public Interest Experience, the Stray Cat Relief Fund and We Love Philly, which empowers local students.
The distillery even invites local restaurateurs to use its state-of-the-art bar for educational purposes, research and development and working interviews.
When Art in the Age opened it was an artists’ collective and about 10 years later, when the pandemic hit, it returned to its roots by finding a way to support artists and small local vendors. Art in the Age isn’t a proper distillery, per say, but it is a test site for sister distillery Tamworth Distilling, and it’s the only place in town where you can taste Tamworth’s newest spirits (which are bottled at the aforementioned New Liberty Distillery in South Kensington). Cocktail workshops are conducted in the tasting room, and the storefront itself is a shopping destination that attracts home bartenders and professionals looking for craft spirits, esoteric-flavored bitters, cocktail books and bar tools.
Where to buy: In-store, curbside, online (spirits can only be shipped in-state. Bar products can be shipped nationwide), delivery.
Doing good: When the pandemic hit, Art in the Age invited local vendors and artists to display their wares at a series of pop-up shops in the lobby and outside on 3rd Street in Old City. The goal was to drum up interest in local businesses, including Harriett’s Bookshop, Cultivated Bohemians, Persimmon Coffee, Moonraker Coffee Roasters, Sweet Jane Vintage, French Kiss Vintage, Abraham Candles and Ginja Snap. Most recently, Art in the Age has hosted pop-ups with Madeline’s Mobile Flower Shop, Cactus Cart and KP’s Fine Meats. Pop-ups are announced on its Instagram page, @artintheage.
Irene Levy Baker is the author of 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. For more information about the books visit 100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com. Looking for fun things to do and places to eat? Need gifts? Get signed copies of books on the website. Readers of this newspaper can use promo code CITIZEN for a discount.
Header photo of New Liberty Distillery by J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia