Aug. 6—SALISBURY, Pa. — Over the past few years, Tall Pines Distillery has expanded its product line, added an outdoor bar and built a sprawling pavilion and patio designed to host hundreds on busy weekends.
Now, co-owners Keith and Lisa Welch are turning their attention indoors — and to efforts to expand their brand into new territories. Plans are underway to triple production capacity at the Salisbury micro-distillery.
"Right now, we're producing about 600 gallons of mash per week," Keith Welch said, but by mid-October, the Welches plan on expanding the space to allow them to produce several thousand tons.
During a tour offered to members of the Somerset County Farm Bureau, Keith Welch announced his company is also working to open a satellite distillery in Lancaster and a moonshine-themed bar inside a Marriott Renaissance hotel in Washington, D.C., by 2023.
"Five years ago, I never could've thought we'd be growing at this pace," he said. "We're in a fast-growing industry, but a lot of micro-distilleries fail. They close down all the time."
In Keith Welch's view, the key to success is the company's insistence on making moonshine and other spirits — including a maple rye — as close as possible to the way the region's residents did more than a century ago, and doing so with fresh, local ingredients.
That includes using corn milled in Rockwood, fresh peaches from the other side of the mountain in Bedford County, and other Pennsylvania- grown grains. Even extracts used in Tall Pines' recipes are natural, Welch told farm bureau members Friday.
Welch said he continues looking for ways to add locally made ingredients to Tall Pines Distillery's collection of spirits, including dairy products for an upcoming cream bourbon.
Somerset County Farm Bureau President Dennis Hutchison said efforts such as what is happening at Tall Pines are "changing the face of agriculture in Somerset County."
The Welches may not be out in their fields harvesting corn, but they are supporting the industry regardless, he said. Even mash left over from distilling is being sold to local farms for livestock.
Given the increased complexity involved in competing in a world market for farmland products, there's both a need and a tremendous benefit to taking local products — whether milk, meat or grains — and creating something new from it that is also sold locally, Berlin-area farmer Glenn Stoltzfus said.
Lancaster County's farm-fueled tourism industry is a shining example of that, he added.
With enough draws such as Tall Pines, Somerset County can start to replicate Lancaster County's model, Stoltzfus said.
"It's getting harder every day to be a small farmer," he said, adding that "selling local" can be a big help.
"When you're keeping products local," he said, "it cuts out a lot of the transportation costs ... cuts out the middle man."
Welch said he plans on growing Tall Pines in Salisbury even as he expands elsewhere.
The distillery has its products in 70 of Pennsylvania's Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores and a growing list of locations in Maryland. A satellite location has already opened in Pineville, Missouri, Welch said.