by Emily Kovach
COOPER RIVER DISTILLERS
James Yoakum was working in real estate, bored and searching for a change. A Kentucky native and an avid homebrewer, he had a flash of inspiration. “I’m an entrepreneurial guy, so anything I play with, I think of as a business,” he says. “When I saw how few small distilleries there were, it made me think, ‘All my friends drink whiskey—why aren’t people making that locally?’”
Yoakum opened Cooper River Distillers in downtown Camden in June 2014—only the second legalized distillery in New Jersey since prohibition. He began with rum, which is a much quicker process than whiskey and rye, which need time to age.
In addition to his core line of products, Yoakum loves to experiment. “We play with new things all the time, with whatever we can get our hands on. And using locally sourced or connected stuff is important to us,” he says. One of the most successful outcomes has been their Single Run Series Whiskey, some of which was made with distilled IPA from the Kensington-based Saint Benjamin Brewing Company.
The distillery now produces up to 250 bottles of product per week, much of which goes right into barrels. Their products are available in a few dozen bars in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and they are planning to expand into the region slowly. The distillery and tasting room is now a lively addition to Camden’s downtown, with a dedicated group of regulars at Friday tastings. “Camden has unique history and character,” Yoakum says. “Some people have a negative image of it, but at least people remember it.”
2SP BREWING COMPANY
Tucked away in an office park in Aston, Pa., is 2SP Brewing Company’s new craft brewery and tasting room. Open since August, 2SP was born from Two Stones Pub, a local chain of gastropubs in Delaware. Founder Michael Stiglitz says that, above all, their mission is about excellence: “We’re not going to release anything less than top quality—it’s not cheap and it’s not quick, but that’s really our goal.” While IPAs are their best sellers, they remain committed to a balanced portfolio, including an impressive barrel aging program.
Stiglitz partnered with longtime friend and Delaware County native Bob Barrar—an accomplished brewer with an impressive number of brewing medals and awards—to open this 20,000- square-foot facility in Aston, a dream that was years in the making. “Delaware County [is] where Bob was born and raised,” says Stiglitz. “It was important to us to stay local to his hometown.”
The local pride runs deep at 2SP: One of their mainstay beers is Delco Lager, which they claim is made with “Hops + Wudder + Bob.” A visit to the tasting room is an easy drive from the city, and 2SP’s beers can be found in a number of Philly bars and restaurants, such as Local 44, City Tap House and the Cambridge. On the outskirts of a craft beer-obsessed city, 2SP is already developing
SØLE ARTISAN ALES
As a teenager, Joe Percoco was infatuated with beer, but not in the party-hardy way you might think. “I was just obsessed with flavor,” he says. A homebrewer at age 17 and a professional brewer by 18, Percoco had an early introduction into what he now sees as his calling. In 2012, at age 22, he went on a transformational pilgrimage to Belgium, and showed up on the doorsteps of legendary breweries, such as Cantillon, asking how he could help.
“What I took from that trip was this methodology of farmhouse brewing and countryside flavor, dominant sustainability and farming as an agricultural art form: something that was governed by nature, land and seasonality,” he says. Upon his return, Percoco got the itch to set out on his own quest. Building a brewery is extremely expensive, so he chose to be a “gypsy brewer,” bringing ingredients to an established brewery to rent their equipment; he currently brews at Susquehanna Brewing Company in Pittston.
Joe and his wife Laura, co-owners at Søle, have two core offerings thus far: Clink!, an easy-drinking double dry-hopped ale, and Green Life, a beautifully complex IPA. Soon, they will release Artistry & Alchemy, an imperial maple stout. Søle has 400 wholesale accounts between Scranton and Philly, and big future plans. In summer 2016, they will open a 3,000-square-foot production facility in Emmaus, Pa., dedicated to barrel aging, wild yeast fermentation, local ingredients and seasonality.