A Walton family with a passion for spirits is set to open Delaware County’s first farm distillery this fall.
Kerrs Creek Distillery, run by Matthew and Jessica White and Jessica’s parents, Bob and Loretta Beckmann, received its New York State Liquor Authority permit earlier this month. Pending federal approval of its label designs, Matthew White said today, the company’s first batches of vodka and a corn whiskey they are calling mooonshine will be available to taste in a couple of months.
The business, which is housed in a converted farm building at 2450 County Highway 23, was born of a hobby making beer and wine at home and deep roots in Walton, said White, who was born and raised there. He and Jessica were high school sweethearts–and classmates with one of the folks behind another new Walton beverage company, Awestruck Ciders. The Whites and Beckmanns also own and operate a wholesale meat company, Beckmann’s Provisions, but saw an opportunity to turn their taste for high-quality spirits and their support of agriculture into a second family business.
“We were interested in the artisan aspect of it,” White said. “We’re going for small batches, and we can take our time and go slowly, and make a quality product.”
If all goes according to plan, the first two products will be ready for sharing at farmers’ markets and special tasting events in September or October, White said. The eventual plan is to open a tasting room at the distillery next year.
The Whites and Beckmanns join a growing field of distillers who call the Catskills home. While Kerrs Creek is the first in Delaware County to be licensed as a New York State Farm Distillery, it is the second distillery in Walton, joining Delaware Phoenix Distillery. There, Cheryl Lins makes absinthe and whiskey using locally grown ingredients such as corn and wormwood, but under a different license class. Also in Delaware County, Union Grove Distillery is under construction in Arkville, set to open by the end of the year. Schoharie County has two relatively new farm distilleries: the 1-year-old Kymar Farm Winery and Distillery in Charlotteville, and Barber’s Farm in Middleburgh which gained approval for its 1857 Spirits potato vodka earlier this year. Sullivan and Ulster counties host eight farm distilleries between them, including three established spirits-makers: Bethel’s Catskill Distilling Co., Roscoe’s Prohibition Distillery and Gardiner’s Tuthilltown Spirits.
Statewide, there are 77 farm distilleries currently licensed, and seven more with applications pending, according to State Liquor Authority data.
Kerrs Creek’s ingredients come from a variety of agricultural suppliers, including a heavy emphasis on organic providers such as Lakeview Organic Grains in the Finger Lakes region.
“The nice thing about being where we are in New York State is there are so many resources here,” White said, noting that being located within New York City’s watershed also guarantees the distillery a high-quality water supply.
The availability of ingredients and changes in legislation that cut red tape and start-up costs for farm-based distilleries that use New York State-grown ingredients created great incentives for the team behind Kerrs Creek.
“Farm distilling licensing made it a lot more affordable to try this. You could get yourself up and running and actually make a profit,” White said. “People have realized you can make money by going local.”