Pittsburgh, from 'steel city' to 'whiskey town'

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Published April 03, 2012

| FoxNews.com

If you've ever been to a wine tasting, you know what to expect: swirling fragrant, fermented grape juice around in a glass, sniffing the aroma and drinking in the complexity and character of the vintage with each sip.

Owners of Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh are hoping that whiskey enthusiasts will apply many of those same methods as they try the company's clear rye whiskey and other whiskey products at its newly opened distillery in the Strip District of the Steel City.

Whiskey tastings are now legal in the state after a law passed last December allowed small distilleries to sell and serve directly to the public. Before, distilleries had to sell to the state, which would in turn sell to state-run stores, restaurants and bars.

Eric Meyer, who co-owns and operates Wigle Whiskey with his family, tells Fox News he hopes the new law will help them entice new customers and create more business.

"We are trying to get people to try whiskey that have never tried in before, and this law and this distillery allows us to give samplings. A lot of people who don't want to buy a whole bottle of whiskey but want to try it maybe, and if they like it then they can buy the bottle here."

Dan Connors visited Wigle Whiskey this week during a whiskey tasting.

"You can almost become a connoisseur and share it with your friends," Connors said. "You know, you are in on a secret before everyone else is, which is fun."  

The Meyer family opened Wigle Whiskey this year to the public, naming their small distillery after 18th century whiskey maker Philip Wigle, who is said to have burned down the home of a federal tax collector in the 1790s. Wigle was credited with helping lead the tax protest known as Whiskey Rebellion during George Washington's presidency.

The new family business employs several Meyer family members and helps bring a bit of Pennsylvania history back to life says Eric Meyer.

"Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh used to be the whiskey capital of the whole country," he said. "We were Kentucky before Kentucky. If you were drinking whiskey in the 1700s, it was almost certainly coming from Western Pennsylvania."

Whiskey tastings at Wigle Whiskey have brought in hundreds of people every week, a trend that these small distilleries hope will turn the Steel City into the Napa Valley of whiskey in the Northeast.

Craft whiskey making is also expected to bring an economic boon to area rye farmers.

Nigel Tudor, who grows the grain in nearby Avella, hopes to reap the benefits of this new craft industry.

"If they make more whiskey, they're going to need more rye. If they need more rye and I have more land, I'll plant more rye," Tudor said.

Similar laws have passed in New York, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia, which means there could soon be a whole new crop of whiskey tasters who may need some tips on how to safely become a whiskey aficionado.

Knowledge Hudson who was spotted in the Wigle Whiskey tasting room says, "take it slow. take your time. Sip. Those are my three pieces of advice."

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http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/04/03/pittsburgh-from-steel-city-to-whiskey-town/