Drink Local – Appalachian Breweries and Distilleries Making Their Mark

Need something to wash down your Appalachian-raised burger and fries? There are an increasing number of locally-produced beers, wines and liquors to quench that thirst. Local food might be getting the lion’s share of media attention, but local “adult beverages” are becoming a force in their own right. Dancing Tree Distillery is a new, craft vodka distiller located in Meigs County, Ohio. And not only is it locally-produced, it sources the vast majority of its ingredients locally too. A recent article from the Ohio University’s newspaper, the Post, describes the impact:

Larry Cowdery, owner of Cowdery Farms [source of Dancing Tree’s corn], said he is a big supporter of the distillery’s commitment to supporting the local food economy.What (Sauber) is doing with his products is great,” Cowdery said. “By incorporating local ingredients into the products, not only does (he) make them high quality, but he is helping me and other farmers continue to make a living. I can’t thank him enough for that.”

Many area restaurants and liquor stores sell Dancing Tree, and tourists will soon be able to stop in at the distillery for a taste. Craft brewing and distilling is a growing niche market in Appalachia. There are more than 25 local breweries in Central Appalachia (and that’s not including the official “Beer City USA” of Asheville, NC), with many more in the works.

Liquor distilleries are popping up throughout the region as well, and (legal) moonshine is beginning to making its own mark – Short Mountain Distillery in east Tennessee employs 12 people and sells across the state. And as Dancing Tree shows, the ingredients in beer, wine and liquor can be sourced locally as well.
The impacts of local beer and spirits go beyond the restaurant and the grocery store – beer tourism is becoming a big trend. Asheville hosts a very popular Beer Week, and Ohio and Virginia both have local beer months. Colorado’s craft beer industry employs 4200 people, and Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail brought in an estimated $18.7 billion to local communities between 2007 and 2012. These are economic opportunities for Appalachia as well – if we build the local demand, entrepreneurial support and infrastructure needed to develop them.
And now let’s move on to the important question: what’s your favorite local drink?