Rowhouse Spirits is a tiny artisan distillery licensed in Pennsylvania as a Limited Distillery – which means we can sell direct to retail consumers as well as to licensed bars and restaurants within the state of Pennsylvania. As of 2014, PA updated the code regulating Limited Distilleries so we can also ship bottled spirits directly to retail consumers within Pennsylvania. Although we are not required to do so, Limited Distilleries may also elect to sell via the PLCB state store system.
Rowhouse Spirits produces very small batch Gin and other herbal spirits and will be setting aside malt, corn, and rye based spirits in barrels to make whiskey that will be offered at a later date.
And, the rest of the story:
Some average Sunday, around eight years ago, I sat at the bar in Philadelphia’s Southwark restaurant talking to Kip. For those of you who don’t know, Kip is the owner/bartender of Southwark, and under Kip’s vision along with the appeal of food created by his wife Sheri, Southwark really ushered in the revival of a quality cocktail experience in Philadelphia. It’s a place my wife, Traci, and I enjoyed regularly. Kip and I were talking about my early “plans” (dreams may be more accurate), to open a small local distillery. Patience has never been a virtue of mine, but it took until half way through 2013 before that conversation started to become real and Rowhouse Spirits started to evolve.
I’ve been fortunate; I’ve been able to travel quite a bit and during those trips, make some interesting friends. It was through these travel companions that I was acquainted with the role that spirits have and still do fulfill within tradition and culture. These stories and traditions were new to me, but they always felt like experiences that would have been attached to some branch of my culturally crooked family tree. Stories like the one told by my Belgian friend, Daniel, about a roving distiller who would visit French farms to distill their cider into young brandy that would be set aside in barrels to age into the Calvados we were enjoying after our meal. I can’t imagine the US federal government ever being approving of a mobile distillery, but that story of the roving distiller has influenced many of my decisions along the way – such as the size of my still or the types of spirits we will produce. Just because I can’t roam around with my still doesn’t mean I can’t partner with local wineries, breweries, and farmers to produce unique and seasonal spirits. The other thing my friends reminded me of was the cultural importance spirits for cultures who embrace them. Think of the importance of Snaps to Swedes or of Whisky to Scots and Irish, as demonstrated over a meal with friends and family. It was this sort of connection that I wanted to convey through Rowhouse Spirits.
And some timing…
In 2010, Pennsylvania created act 113 which permitted the PLCB to issue Limited Distillery licenses. The signing of act 113 into law made the opening and operation of a small distillery in Pennsylvania possible by lowering startup burdens and allowing the direct interaction with both licensed customers, like bars and restaurants, as well as retail consumers. Then came the event that I’ll call “the cliff”; after 10 years working in the same software job, I was laid off. That layoff gave me an opportunity for something big to change in my life and so, I jumped. Around the same time, my friends at Philadelphia Brewing Co had acquired the property adjacent to their brewery – a quick lease later and Rowhouse Spirits had a home. It took until early 2014 before Rowhouse Spirits received approval for Pennsylvania and Federal government permits but now, here we have it – a distillery in East Kensington, Philadelphia.
Thanks for your interest in Rowhouse Spirits!
Dean Browne – Master Distiller