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High Spirits in Harrisburg: Midstate Distillery's Exuberant Approach to Liquor

By Paul Rowe

After thriving together as business partners at a granite countertop business, Dan Healy and Brian Myers put their heads together and decided to develop a business plan that they were truly passionate about. After two years of development Healy and Meyers opened Midstate Distillery, a vibrant and collaborative experience offering tastings, tours, and events to the Harrisburg faithful.

Owner Dan Healy savors Midstate Distillery's status as Harrisburg's first distillery, and is pleased with the overwhelming support that locals have shown his company.

"We were driven by the uniqueness of this field and have sustained our energy because of the enthusiasm our customers," Healy said. "They always want to know what's coming next and have really enjoyed watching us grow."

It's easy to see why these folks feel so energized. Walking through the door of the tasting room and cocktail lounge, customers are immediately faced with a fun and unique atmosphere in a transformed warehouse with a tasting room sharing its space with the production area. Patrons feel a sense of intimate connection, as if they are a part of the distillation process itself.

"For far too long, spirits have simply been something picked up in the local state store, with no real connection to the production," Healy said. "Now people can learn just how their spirits are being made."

This deep level of engagement spreads a contagious, uplifting energy throughout Harrisburg. As people share what they have learned about the distillation process with others, people begin to become just as fascinated by distillation as Healy was 10 years ago. In fact, Healy is still fascinated.

"Every time I make one of our spirits, or experiment with a new product, I am blown away by the amount of craft and knowledge needed for it," Healy said. "Why does this batch have a slightly different finish than the batch before it? What did I do differently or what about my environment has caused a change? Will this combination of raw ingredients give me the flavor profile I'm hoping for? Each day presents new challenges and responsibilities. That excitement and responsibility is what I enjoy most."

The most exciting aspect of the process is the finished product: the drink itself. Midstate Distillery's inclusion of locally grown raw ingredients in their spirits contributes a hint of what Healy called a flavor profile, one that customers, whether consciously or not, are familiar with, and continually come back for.

Among the distillery's locally sourced handcrafted beverages is the Iron & Ice Vodka, named to honor the Walnut Street Bridge in Harrisburg that was partially destroyed after the blizzard of 1996. The existing section of the bridge, much like the vodka named after it, is a staple for city pedestrians.

The cocktails here are the stuff of tried and true Pennsylvania legend. From the alluring combo of the Prohibition's Shakey Jake's White Rum, pineapple, grenadine, and moonshine soaked cherry, to the Iron & Ice Vodka, green tea, honey, and fresh lemon of the sweet green tea, these extremely smooth spirits are proven to mix well in just about any cocktail.

Healy's favorite is a new drink called the Basil Smash: fresh lemon and basil muddled together with a bit of honey simple syrup and some Pennsyltucky Moonshine, topped with seltzer.

The fresh exuberance one feels over a great drink is hard to come by. Lucky for Harrisburg residents, and thanks to Midstate Distillery, this feeling isn't likely going away any time soon.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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