Give local business a shot

November 6th, 2017

By Terri Richardson | The Journal Gazette

Not far from downtown Fort Wayne is a place that is soon to become a city destination spot for residents and tourists who love a good bourbon or whiskey.

Three Rivers Distilling Co., 224 E. Wallace St., just off Clinton Street in a 1940s building that was originally built for Holsum Bakery, is already expanding after nearly two years in business. It is adding a 7,000-square-foot tasting room that the owners hope will be open and serving customers by Thanksgiving, says Aaron Pence, vice president of sales and marketing.

Pence gives visitors a tour of the business as a construction crew works on the new area. He adds that although the tasting room is under construction, people could walk into the craft distillery now and buy a bottle of bourbon, vodka, gin or rum thanks to a change in state law that allows Three Rivers Distilling to serve its creations after only 18 months in business, instead of three years.

Walking in the front entrance, visitors are greeted by a lounge area, equipped with leather sofas, tables and industrial décor. In a lower portion of the area sit shiny, silver finishing stills that give customers a view of Three Rivers' distilling process.

On this day, bourbon is pouring from one of the silver stills. The liquid is being tasted by master distiller Patrick Tanesky, as well as monitored using a computer program to make sure that it is at the right percent.

While it usually takes some time to age bourbon, Pence says they have figured out how to advance the process. It's the fluctuation in temperatures that helps bourbon age, so the crafters built a winter and summer room that can heat up the alcohol or cool it down.

The company also built its own fermentation tanks that are on site. 

In the soon-to-be complete tasting room, there is an outside patio area that will have a covered dining area, a tasting bar and a gaming area. The tasting room inside will have a cater kitchen that will serve small food offerings such as cheeses and small salads.

And of course, customers will get to try Three Rivers Distilling's products such as Harvester Vodka, Three Rivers Early Bourbon, Summit City Gin, River City Rum and 122, an un-aged corn whiskey. All of the alcohol is named to give a tribute to Fort Wayne and its history, including 122, which is a shout out to the 122nd Fighter Wing – all the way down to its label that features the mascot black snake.

Three Rivers Distilling is the first legal distillery in northeast Indiana since Prohibition. And while that makes it unique on its own, the company also works to use all Indiana products in making its alcohol, Pence says. They get their grain from Lebanon, and their 5-gallon wooden barrels used to age the rum and bourbon are made by a local cooper.

It's all the vision of the founders, Travis Kraick and Stephen Blevins, who met while serving in the 122nd Fighter Wing, Pence says.

It has worked. Pence says the company is one of the fastest growing in the state and is now in 200 locations in Indiana and 50 in Kentucky. The alcohol, which includes a coffee liqueur made using Fort Wayne's Utopian Coffee, can be found in local restaurants and stores.

The workers bottle everything by hand. They can complete about 100 bottles in an hour, Pence says.

It's just one more personal touch that Three Rivers Distilling hopes sets them apart from others.

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