Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rust Belt Chic: Whiskey Rebellion

Over the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The conversation around the fire turned to moonshine. Apparently, the up and coming country generation is rediscovering its distillery heritage. Rust Belt culture is cool.

If you were to drive America's Whiskey Trail, you would spend part of your trip in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Distilling spirits is one way to foster a deep connection with the region. The trend is taking root in Pittsburgh:

Wigle Whiskey celebrates a grand opening this Friday, offering the public a chance to taste the first Pittsburgh-distilled spirit since prohibition.

Eric Meyer, co-owner of Wigle Whiskey, says the celebration will include a three-in-one tour: a walk through the production space and the entire whiskey process, from grain to bottle; a history of the Whiskey Rebellion, as told through the distillery’s namesake Philip Wigle; and a tasting room primer on how to drink whiskey.

The unshaven face of Wigle, Eric has hailed the micro-alcohol flag from all corners of the world--including working for a microbrewery in Kyrgyzstan and imbibing at many microdistilleries while working in the Pacific Northwest. In summer 2010, Eric heeded the call to start his own micro-operation and spent 6 weeks traveling back by train to his hometown Pittsburgh, visiting distilleries on his way. He arrived home in July 2010 and has had a bottle in his hand ever since.

One more quoted passage, from an interview with Meyer:

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
I grew up here, left, lived in a bunch of other cities, realized none of them were as unique as Pittsburgh, and moved back.

Part of what makes Pittsburgh unique is the whiskey tradition. It's an attractive quality that not only calls expatriates home, but brings in newcomers. The power of place is a great Rust Belt asset, one that has been ignored for too long. Outside the Rust Belt, there are just a bunch of other cities.

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