Alcohol in Allentown. Is that the main thing going on there? You might think so, if you’ve been following recent posts here from our American Futures series. In the past couple of weeks, I've written here about HiJinx, a craft-beer company, and The Colony Meadery, a, um, meadery.
And now I want to take you further along the alcohol-proof spectrum to tell you about a startup company in this region that's going to distill hard liquor.
Yes, I'm aware that you might also be thinking that I'm a little too interested in alcohol. Maybe. But there's an even better reason this is now the third alcohol-related item coming out of our reporting trip to Allentown. On our first afternoon there, we ended up at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, a business incubator of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, that happens to have three alcohol-related companies in its current mix of nine startups. So it's not just me!
Anthony Brichta is an Allentown product. He went to high school there, earned a B.A./M.A. at Lehigh University in four years and then a law degree at Duke, heading from Durham to Manhattan in the early fall of 2008 to start a job at a New York law firm. He moved into his New York apartment the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. He spent many weeks doing very little at the law firm that had hired him; the work had simply dried up. So, Brichta wasn’t all that surprised when he finally got laid off in July of 2009. He tried to stay on in New York City, but was unable to find work there. He finally ended up at a law firm in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where he is a practicing attorney.
In October of 2012, he was back in New York for the surprise birthday party of a good friend from his college days. The party included a tour of a distillery in Brooklyn called King’s County Distillery. Started in 2010 by two guys about his age, it only has a small amount of equipment (five 24-liter stainless steel stills), is the smallest commercial distillery in the country, and is the first operating whiskey distillery to open in New York City since Prohibition.