Bucks whiskey revival's Wharton roots

Pennsylvania's too wet to grow a lot of hops. But everything else that goes into rye whiskey (and beer, for that matter) is available locally in commercial quantities. Local is market-able, these days; so Herman Mihalich, son of an oldtime-fedora-wearing Pittsburgh-area barkeep, and his partner John Cooper say they're using grown-in-Pa. rye grain and malt in locally-made bottles at their Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey distillery, in oak casks, at their new Canal St. distillery in Bristol, Bucks County, five miles up the Delaware from the Philadelphia Pure Rye Whiskey Distilling Co. stills that went dry when legal consumption of American alcohol was voted out in 1920.

A handful of Pennsylvania's old Lancaster County and Berlin-area distilleries made it through Prohibition, but commercial production of "spicy, smooth" Pennsylvania rye had evaporated, according to Mihalich, whose dad made enough slaking ex-steelworkers' thirsts to set his son's steps through a corporate career and eventually to Penn's Wharton School, where he met Cooper.

They're currently offering moonshiny White Rye and a selection of three-months barrel-aged whiskeys. Two-year-old Straight Rye rolls out next year. Plus Dad's Hat gives plant tours.

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