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Red Brick Distillery builds their business out of barrels


A Startup Turns 1

by Emily Kovach

Red Brick Distillery opened in October 2015 in a 900-square-foot warehouse in Kensington. The tiny operation currently makes four products: single malt whiskey, barrel strength whiskey, sugar wash rum and pineapple rum. Grid chatted with founder and distiller Brian Forrest about Red Brick’s first year in the business. 

How did you and co-founder Zach Cohen start up this company?
We met five years ago when I was a contractor working on his house. We realized we were both into homebrewing, so we hung out and made whiskey as a fun project, which turned out so well that we felt we could make a business out of it.

Then we perfected the recipe, and that took us a few years. During that time, there was planning, budgeting and acquiring permits. 

Why Kensington for your HQ? 
Kensington is very friendly to startups and creatives. Plus, I’ve lived here for 11 years and my house is five minutes away. That makes things easier because I’m putting in 50 to 70 hours a week. 

We are off the beaten path, so we save money on rent. But we need more neighborhood traffic. We’re open on the weekends for tours and tasting and we get a lot of tourists… we’re a destination.

What’s your style?
Fresh and local—we make our whiskey from 85 percent Pennsylvania-grown barley. We do everything in house. The whole process is a million steps that affect the outcome, so it’s vital to have control.

We play around with flavors. We have something new coming out called From the Woods. It’s similar to a birch beer recipe: fermented brown sugar and honey steeped in black birch twig, aged in once-used whiskey barrels. I’d love to do something with local apples and fresh cider. Once you start thinking about it, the ideas are endless! 

Find Red Brick products at their distillery at 2628 Martha St., the East Passyunk Fountain, Dickinson Square Park, Rittenhouse and Swarthmore farmers markets, and at local bars like Martha and Barcade.

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