That’s the spirit: Construction underway at Stoll & Wolfe distillery; expected to open in late May

By on March 22, 2017

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There’s an old saying that warns about “not reinventing the wheel.”

However, that’s kind of what’s happening with the owners of Stoll & Wolfe, 35 N. Cedar St., who spoke to the Lititz Record Express Tuesday morning.

“We’re in the process of bringing this space, which was a feed mill, up to code for modern craft distillery,” said Erik Wolfe who with his wife Avianna Wolfe has collaborated with Richard and Elaine Stoll on the project to install the hardware to make hand produced whiskies.

A nearly 1,200-square-foot section of the building will make up a bar tasting room and a glassed-in stilling area where patrons can see the whiskey-making process and barrel storage.

However, right now the building is basically an empty shell.

“We’re going to use as much of the old wood as we can,” he said. “Our intent is to repurpose that into the building to save some of the original character.”

Expected to open in late May, Stoll & Wolfe will produce spirits using a small pot still, the same way 82-year-old Richard Stoll had learned using a similar 12-inch diameter still.

“The big producers in Kentucky would laugh at us; we’re sort of like a toy compared to what those folks are using,” Erik said.

Still, the smaller batch products give the producers more control over the final product using a column that feeds the pot still.

“They’ll spill more in a one day than we’ll produce in one year,” he said.

Stoll & Wolfe expects to make about eight barrels a week.

“There’s no automation here. For us, we’re actually standing there manning the pumps,” he said. “As of now there’s nobody operating anything who’s not a Stoll or a Wolfe. It’s all family run and operated.

“And that’s mostly by necessity at this point,” Avianna said with a chuckle.

The Wolfes continued the tour “Willie Wonka style” as Erik painted a picture of what’s to come while gesturing and pointing.

“In here is where we will put our still, our mash cooker, our fermenters,” said Eric while walking with Avianna from what will be the loading dock at the back end of the property. “The whiskey makes its initial pass through the column, flows out into the thumper, which is the pot still that basically cleans it up and gets more contact with the copper and flows out into the tail box.”

The “exciting thing” about that, he says is it will all be visible to people in the tasting room.

The process will produce rye whiskey, apple brandy and bourbon right on location at 35 N. Cedar St. The business will also benefit from recent Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board rules that now allow the distillery to offer Pennsylvania-produced craft beer and wine.

That is just a bonus to a distilling operation that will truly be historic. The platform for the thumper and tail box connected to the 18 foot still will rest on bricks obtained from the former Rome Distillery.

“The historical society had actually sold some commemorative bricks from it a few years back,” he said. “We were actually able to obtain two skid loads of brick that were left.”

Rye whiskey and apple Brandy were produced in Lititz in the 1700s, Erik said. Rye whiskey production will make its return to Lititz where it was produced continuously from 1700s right up until Prohibition.”

“As the whiskey is flowing out, the physical past of Lititz distilling will quite literally be supporting the future of every drop that flows through,” Erik said.

Avianna noted that a portion of the roof would be removed temporarily to crane in the still.

The historic property once was home to Eby’s Mill and even once housed a Bomberger’s store.

Though the operation has been stalled in Lititz due to code and licensing issues, Stoll & Wolfe, have been blending whiskey and bottling it in Lancaster beginning last year.

The operation will return Dick Stoll behind a still for the first time in this area since he’d produced bourbon as the master distiller of the Historic Michter’s in Schaefferstown, Erik said. Stoll, who is credited with distilling A.H. Hirsch, one of the most sought-after bourbons ever produced, will use a familiar fermenter as well.

Avianna displayed pictures of the barrel fermenters to be used that are made of reclaimed Cyprus wood used at Michter’s.

“There’s no more old growth Cyprus, it’s all been cut down,” she said. “But there are logs pulled out of swamps down south in Mississippi,” she said.

Cypress, which has “a natural anti-microbial property,” said Erik, is the only wood suitable to hold ingredients of water, corn, barley, and rye to be fermented on site at Stoll & Wolfe.

Erik compared the process to that of making pottery which has essentially remained the same throughout history.

“The (distilling process) of removing alcohol and water through separate boiling temperatures remains the same, the equipment we’re dealing with is modern but not automated, so we’ll be running everything by hand,” he said.

The final product will result in 90 to 100 proof alcohol that will be available in the tasting room that will feature a 40-seat bar and offer cocktails made Stoll & Wolfe whiskey and apple brandy spirits.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity not only to return Dick Stoll to distilling Pennsylvania whiskey and carrying on a local 250-plus year old tradition, but also offering a modern gathering place for others who seek to celebrate local tradition and smaller producers,” Erik said.

For more information about Stoll & Wolfe go to stollandwolfe.com, or facebook.com/StollandWolfeWhiskey

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

 

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