Going Green: Local Distillery Earns Environmental Distinction
Kevin Lloyd watches as whiskey barrels that look like they might burst at the rivets are loaded into Big Spring Spirits’ warehouse in Bellefonte: 141 in total.
Lloyd, co-owner and the distillery’s production manager, says they’ll have to use an offsite facility to store barrels eventually. For now, the red brick building that was originally part of the Pennsylvania Match Company, does a fine job of storing batches, housing the equipment to make it, and providing space for a classy tasting room complete with a long bar, comfy chairs, and a swordfish on the wall.
“It really speaks to reuse, recycle, repurpose,” Lloyd says of the building. “It’s ideal for us. It’s right on the park on one side. It has a big garage door loading dock on the other end. It’s just this really cool building with all this character and so on.”
The site has been the staging ground for Big Spring Spirits, in its third year of operation, to develop a handful of new whiskeys and a host of other spirits in an environmentally friendly fashion. Last fall, the distillery earned a Gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is one of two distilleries in the country to receive the certification.
Although Big Spring Spirits took on larger initial costs to outfit its equipment to meet LEED standards, the savings in energy costs the distillery has projected are worth it.
“All of this plays into the idea of environmental footprint,” Lloyd says. “There is the payoff as I mentioned, but in addition it’s the right thing to do. As a citizen of the world, I think we should all do what we can to minimize our footprint, and this is the one thing we can do.”
It’s helped the company market its products in a sea of competition.
“Going up against multinational companies, you can think of a handful of those,” Lloyd says. “Some of the higher-end customers—local bars and restaurants—and consumers are interested in local products. If you cater to this idea of farm-to-table or local stuff, then that’s where we fit in pretty well.”
Big Spring Spirits is also a back-to-the-farm outfit. Unused grains get sent back to local farmers to feed livestock.
“It matters to a lot of our customers.”
So will the distillery’s new offerings this fall. Lloyd says Big Spring Spirits will release at least three new whiskeys—a bourbon, wheat, and rye—and hinted at others.
There are also the white spirits, which came along first since the whiskeys were aging in barrels and weren't ready for release.
“That’s two years of a lot of capital being tied up just sitting around,” Lloyd says. “We needed a revenue source to cover that couple of years so we started to look at what we could do in that time as we’re waiting for our whiskey to be released.”
Enter a complete selection of vodka, gin, rum, and white whiskeys. All made clean. There are also the special batches like the whiskey in a barrel signed by all the 2016 graduating class of Penn State’s MBA program. The students bought a batch of whiskey from Big Spring Spirits, which will be opened when they graduate. They’ll go to the distillery, help bottle it, and get to walk away with a keepsake!
“My old business was analytical chemistry,” Lloyd says. “We would get things, we would test them, the final product may be paper, it might’ve been just an electronic file that we would send to somebody. So every day was pretty much the same as the day before in terms of the physical surroundings in the laboratory. Here, we’re actually making a product.”
“You’re making something that you like, and you’re putting it out there for others to try and get their opinion on. To make a physical product is much different from what I’ve done before, and it’s very satisfying to do that.”