Personal Day Hard Seltzer and Goodlander Cocktail Brewery launch just in time for summer celebrations
PPrepared cocktails and soft drinks have been on the rise for a few years now and are fairly easy to acquire for a backyard barbecue, a boat trip, or a beach trip. There is no shortage of national brands and a growing number of regional restaurants, craft cocktail bars and brasseries offer cocktails on tap or in bottles; Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has spawned a new generation of bottled and take-out cocktails. But a cocktail brewery aimed at neighborhood pubs? A hard seltzer produced and canned in Pittsburgh that’s rightfully delicious? This is what I’m here for and, if you drink, I think you should be too.
Personal Hard Seltzer Day
âWe’re jam-packed here,â says Tim Russell, founder and distiller of Allegheny Distilling, better known as the producer of Maggie’s Farm Rum.
As well as winning another stack of awards for its famous rum, including a transport two months ago where Maggie’s Farm was named Best Rum (Overall), a Double Gold Medal and Best in Class (Rum blanc) for its Hidden Harbor White Rum (as well as more spirits awards in other categories) in the prestigious San Francisco International Spirits Competition, Russell and his company recently launched a spin-off brand – Personal Day Hard Seltzer. âIt’s like an alter ego. Our Ziggy Stardust to our David Bowie, âsays Russell.
If you’re already a fan of hard seltzer, you’re in for a treat. If you’re new or have been hesitant to try this category of drink, Personal Day might be the prompt you need to get there. Allegheny Distilling currently offers four flavors, and all are exemplary: Lemon is slightly refreshing; Lime, my favorite, jumps to the nose and hits with a tangy lime flavor; Grapefruit (a close second favorite) is full bodied and easy to drink; Pineapple, the most popular flavor to date, brings out some of the fruit’s sour notes.
âEven if the seltzer water market becomes saturated, we thought we could do something special in Pittsburgh. Because we’re a distillery, we could do something different than what a brewery could do and make a really clean product, âsays Russell.
Hard salt is, basically, sparkling water infused with alcohol and flavor. But there are different ways to do it. Mainstream brands such as White Claw and Truly, as well as brewery offerings, use fermented sugarcane juice or fermented malt syrup as their base, allowing them to sell the product wherever it is legal to sell. some beer. Personal Day instead uses a base of what is essentially vodka. This means a cleaner flavor, without the lingering aftertaste common to most brands of hard seltzer (but it also limits distribution to places where spirits can be sold). “Fermentation of five percent sugarcane juice [ABV] will leave behind fermentation byproducts that accompany the process, âsays Russell.
The funny thing is, as big as the product can (and should) be for the distillery, Personal Day Seltzer is a happy accident.
Allegheny Distilling sold its bottled supply of Maggie’s Farm rum at the start of home orders due to a shortage of inventory when the Commonwealth closed its Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores, but allowed local distilleries to remain open. Russell didn’t want to dive into barrel aging rum, so he ordered bulk rum from the Virgin Islands as a way to have something to sell. He bottled it under another label, Forbes, so as not to confuse it with his own brand.
The distillery sold the first package and Russell ordered a second. When the liquor stores reopened, sales returned to normal and Russell and his team considered what to do with the leftover spirits. By passing it through the copper stills in the distillery, they could purify it into vodka. But they didn’t want to sell pure vodka; it is not their brand.
âThe hard seltzer stuff is still going around. I did not understand. But, I think maybe it’s because I’m in my thirties and can’t drink session beer like I did before, maybe there’s something to that, âse Russell remembers.
The distillery team then spent a few months trying to formulate long-life fruit essences that start with real fruit juice and incorporate no added sugar into the final product. âIt’s hard to find these formulas,â says Russell.
It works. What started as a hand-packaged juice operation on a small canning line inside the distillery is poised to become a full-fledged operation in a separate production facility. And, as of this weekend, Personal Day Hard Seltzer is on sale at 25 PLCB Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, as well as the Strip District Distillery.
3212a Smallman Street, Strip neighborhood; 412 / 709-6480, instagram.com/personaldayseltzer
Goodlander Cocktail Brewery
Wes Shonk thinks he’s on to something new with his new business, Goodlander Cocktail Brewery.
“What if I made cocktail kegs for the local pubs?” Places that are very busy and don’t have time for, or specialize in, mixed drinks. Sparkling cocktails are hard to come by consistently. But these are popular and friendly drinks, âsays Shonk.
To this end, Shonk bundles sixtels (5.6 gallon drums) of highball cocktails, as well as a small selection of sparkling non-alcoholic drinks for distribution. He says his challenge is to give freshly brewed drinks a taste, even if they’ve been in storage for days or even weeks. âWhen it says ‘ginger’ in a cocktail, it must taste like freshly squeezed ginger today and in a week’s time as well,â says Shonk.
The Goodlander process begins with spirits such as vodka and gin, which are purchased in bulk. Shonk then works with Lex Haynesworth and Jay DeNat to mix highball-style cocktails using techniques such as brewing super lime juice – a low-waste, high-tasting recipe popularized by tiki bartenders – to maximize the taste. In this case, the lime is zested and it sits in citric acid and malic acid, which extracts essential oils from the lime. Then fresh lime juice is added and everything is strained. âIt ends up tasting like the brightest lime juice ever,â says Shonk.
The barrels are kept cold, which keeps them cooler than a canned or bottled cocktail that will sit on a shelf at room temperature. Keeping the drums in back pressure with CO2 helps prevent bad tastes that might otherwise come from oxidation. Shonk hasn’t been opened long enough to keep up with long-term testing, but, he says, kegs that have been kept cold for a few weeks still taste as fresh as the day they were made.
It focuses on popular, easy-to-drink cocktails to start with. Goodlander currently offers four two-serving cocktails for purchase at the Brewery (which is technically licensed as a distillery) and has just started selling sixtles to bars including The Bulldog Pub in Morningside and The Summit in Mt. Washington. . All are meant to be served over ice, but otherwise all you have to do is pull the tap or pour it into a glass and it’s ready to serve.
They are delicious cocktails, very much in line with Shonk’s vision. Both soft drinks are full of flavor, aromatic and easy to sip. I love the addition of bitters to Tom Collins; it complements the flavor of the classic cocktail. Goodlander’s mojito is minty and robust; it tastes like fun on a hot day. Ginger sings in the Moscow Mule because of the blend of fresh ginger juice and the best Jamaican ginger beer from Natrona Bottling Co. Finally, Eastside, made with gin, lime, cucumber and mint, is a refreshing garden party.
Longtime Pittsburgh bartender – Shonk started working in high-end cocktails in 2008 and helped create the cocktail programs at Hidden Harbor, Wigle Whiskey and Butcher and the Rye – turned to early breweries craft such as East End Brewing Co. as a model for its craft brewery cocktail production. In recent years these businesses may have flourished in our new neighborhood pubs, but when East End was founded in 2004, it was all about selling beer kegs to bars and growlers to take away to customers. âIt’s the same business model, but instead of beer kegs, I sell cocktail kegs,â he says.
Shonk says he plans to introduce seasonal options, such as the Pimm’s Cup, and start playing around with different levels of carbonation for cocktails once the operation kicks off. It is also aiming to distribute to more bars soon. âIt starts off disjointed and small. But we have a great product and a plan, and I think it will be successful, âhe says.
6614 Hamilton Avenue, Larmimer; 412 / 363-6614, goodlandercocktails.com